Do a double take

Do a double take

Is it a case of Bollywood going on an overdrive with sequels or are there no original stories left to explore? Rajiv Vijayakar has some answers

Love Aaj Kal

Hindi cinema can be broadly divided into three eras — one, when sequels were just not made and certainly did not ‘work’ if they were (like Nigahen to Nagina), two, when most sequels began to work (a short span of maybe five years) and finally the current times when sequels are in overdrive, as they assure a certain minimum security for a brand when economics have hit the roof.

The normal sequel has either the continuation of the story (as in the Dabangg franchise, Koi…Mil Gaya to Krrish to Krrish 3, Race to Race 2Mardaani to Mardaani 2) or the same characters placed in a different location or story (the Munna Bhai, Golmaal, Masti and Dhamaal series). The rest of them (and they comprise the majority) are a “series” with a certain kind of common ground, as with Housefull, Raaz, Murder, Hate Story, Dhoom and so on. Together, all of them can be called “franchises”. The first quarter of 2020 has already begun with five such “series”— Street Dancer 3-D, Love Aaj Kal, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Baaghi 3 and Angrezi Medium. The first two were disasters, the third film has not been accepted pan-India, and Baaghi 3 has opened well, but may not prove a long-distance runner. The sole promise, as of now, resides in Angrezi Medium, a sequel to the 2017 Hindi Medium.

Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor in Street Dancer-3D
Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor in Street Dancer 3-D

Unplanned ingenuity?

Most sequels, even series, are unplanned, taking off only after the first film works. Depending on the talent and intention of the filmmakers, the follow-up films are made ingeniously (as in strikingly innovative within fixed parameters) or just mechanically (to simply cash in).

Says noted trade analyst Vinod Mirani, “In a series, there is no connection whatsoever between the films, except in the feel.” And Street Dancer 3-D had nothing whatsoever in common with ABCD 2, despite the same lead cast of Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor and Prabhudheva, the same director (Remo D’Souza), composers (Sachin-Jigar), storyline (of a dance competition abroad) and even 3-D.

ABCD 2 (2015) was itself a follow-up to the 2013 ABCD—Anybody Can Dance, and did better than its predecessor, though it simply did not match the grit and grip of the earlier movie. Due to technicalities, like rights being owned by someone else,
T-Series decided on almost the same set-up and had signed up Katrina Kaif as a leading lady opposite ABCD 2 hero Varun Dhawan. Soon, Katrina walked out of the project citing date issues as she reportedly found the final script unsatisfactory. Shraddha stepped in at this point.

In a recent interview, about not being initially called for Street Dancer 3-D, she remarked, “I think that this is a question that can be asked to the producers and directors, like I am back after one film in Baaghi 3.” This clearly implied that she had expected to be in since the beginning and that Street Dancer 3-D was a continuation of the ABCD series. At the other extreme was Love Aaj Kal, where the title was the same as the older film in what can be called, only thinly, a franchise. For this, writer-director Imtiaz Ali even bought the rights of the title from the original producers of his own 2009 hit directorial. The two films even had a similar plotline, and the same composer (Pritam) and lyricist (Irshad Kamil) as they were both designed as musicals. While it is an axiom in recent Hindi cinema that filmmakers fall back on the sequel of their last hit if they have had multiple flops since, Imtiaz Ali “explains” why he repeated the exact title. In a recent interview, he stated, “The title gave birth to this story. It was an extension of the thought that love changes, yet remains the same over decades, which is why I wanted to call it Love Aaj Kal again and not Part 2.” The story this time, he went on, is not a sequel or an extension of the older film. He termed it “fresh, except for the concept, wherein two stories interact with and influence each other.” However, the people rejected this “idea” completely.

Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan
Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan

What works?

Coming to Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, its theme — of a gay relationship—was never acceptable pan-India, especially in the North, where the story is based. The last instalment, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, that dealt with erectile dysfunction worked to an extent in 2017. As Vinod points out, “Homosexuality is still not accepted widely, and only high-society types frequenting multiplexes in metros found any identification with … Zyada Saavdhan.”

Baaghi 3 had been announced at the trailer launch of Baaghi 2 in 2018, and Tiger Shroff revealed that they did not even have a story idea at that time. “It was just the confidence the producer had in Baaghi 2 then.” And while that film was a super-hit, the third instalment may get decent footfalls but is unlikely to recover its huger investment. The smartly-cut trailer has belied the content that was illogical and dated. In all this mess, the one hope is Angrezi Medium, in which the middle-class father will do just anything to fulfil his daughter’s dream of studying abroad. Again, the trailer looks very promising — a blend of emotions and entertainment (the two foremost needs of the audience as value-for-money). An interesting cast and a smart director — Homi Adajania — give it a sharp edge over its previous part, Hindi Medium, which was an expose of the biases in the educational system. So let’s hope that Angrezi Medium lays down the right grounds for the five more sequels to come in 2020.


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