Sequels were once sure-shot money spinners but filmmakers can no longer take their success for granted
Shifting sands can be very dangerous but, like it or not, with the Indian audience fast maturing and evolving, the film industry cannot help but find itself in a state of flux. Caught in this transition are sequels, which have become quite a fad in the Hindi film industry.
But, filmmakers are realising that the formula for success here too has changed. Almost by default, sequels once benefitted from the success of the original film, even when they were not organic extensions or a natural progression of the story. In other words, they rode on the brand value of the original instalment and the connection it had established with the audience.
It’s been a while since the Hindi film industry discovered the business potential of sequels, and had been leveraging this formula ever since. Sometimes, filmmakers have taken it too far and even cast entirely new story lines, merely to profit off the original.
But that doesn’t work any more. Much like critics, enlightened movie-goers are now judging films, sequels included, purely by their content. Being a sequel even to a blockbuster no longer guarantees footfalls at cinema halls. If the content is not up to the mark, movie-goers have no qualms rejecting the film.
Here are some examples. The last quarter of 2016 saw many sequels like Kya Super Kool Hai Hum 3, Great Grand Masti, Rock On 2, Tum Bin 2, Force 2 and Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh but, sadly, none of them hit the bull’s eye at the box-office. And, mind you, these were sequels to hit films and franchises.
However, in January 2017, Jolly LLB 2 was a roaring success at the ticket window, and why not? The film, a sequel, was rich in content. The verdict is clear – movie-goers are becoming receptive to good stories and are willing to invest their time and money in content-oriented films.
Coming up in the next few months are a host of sequels making their way to box-office counters. This week, we saw the release of Commando 2, while next week will see Dharma Productions’ Badrinath Ki Dulhania featuring Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan, and Friday Filmworks Naam Shabana, a prequel to the 2015 film Baby with Taapsee Pannu and Akshay Kumar (special appearance). After the first quarter, we will see sequels like Amitabh Bachchan’s Sarkar 3, Bahubali: The Conclusion and Atithi In London, among many others.
This week, we asked trade insiders the big question: Why are sequels losing steam and what can be done to reverse the trend? Over to them:
So many producers ask us to make sequel on titles like Khiladi, Baazigar or Baadshah but we won’t make it just for the sake of it. Firstly we should have strong script which can match up the part one like Race 2 could match the film Race and so you should have strong script and then you start making the sequel. Even for Machine’s sequel we have started working on the script because we have great content for it but still we will see the response for Machine before moving ahead.
Sequels, remakes and reboots are the in thing these days but we must always remember that brand alone doesn’t make a film successful. A good sequel should be a good film. Being part of a larger franchise isn’t enough. Even Hollywood, which has been making sequels longer than us, have seen diminishing returns for poor narrative franchises. However where the storyline has been solid, the brand coupled with a good film experience means supernormal returns.
Indians have a deep love for cinema and over a period of time, movie-buffs have matured from mindless movie to movies backed by strong content. Although sequels are much welcomed in the industry but often they don’t find a niche among the audience, unless the content is provoking. Sequels often sail to garner eyeballs, but Jolly LLB has been an exception, a strong sequel backed by a stellar cast, crisp story and great script. We hope such successful movie open up the market for well-constructs sequels to emerge.
Films with good content have always ruled the hearts of the masses as well as classes. But most certainly if a movie is the part of a successful franchise, be it a sequel or prequel, the business prospects in the opening weekend of that film are better than others and it continues if the content lives up to expectations of the fans.
For example – a couple of days back, John Wick Chapter 2 has also proved that it’s officially a much bigger hit than its immediate predecessor and we are expecting the same from upcoming sequels- Logan, The Fate of the Furious, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in Hollywood and in Bollywood – Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Baahubali – The Conclusion, 2.0, Golmaal Again and Tiger Zinda Hai are some of our best sequel bets in 2017.
Few films like Phillauri, Carnival Motion Pictures and 200 Not Out’s Sachin, Sanjay Dutt’s Biopic, Imtiaz Ali’s next, Padmavati, Secret Superstar and Tubelight in Hindi; Jindua, Manjey Bistrey and Super Singh in Punjabi; Katamarayudu, Duvvada Jagannadham and Guru in Telugu; Kaatru Veliyidai, Sabaash Naidu and Lucifer in Malayalam and many other regional films would also pull in crowds in their own categories because of the variety offered.
We live in a world of perception but that does not mean you can make a sequel to any film and assume it will work. First, the story should appeal to the audience. The ‘sequel’ tag can sell a film to the audience only in the initial phase. After that, content is king. In Hollywood, the Terminator and Back To The Future sequels were even better than the original films, thanks to their content. Titles and posters can push only to a certain extent. We should also be aware that consumers’ habits change every six months and hence filmmakers should plan accordingly. Bahubali: The Conclusion has a great chance to do well as the content of the film appears far superior to the original film. Now, the audience watches films based purely on their content, regardless of whether or not they are sequels.
Content is the key to the success of every sequel. The audience watches a sequel because the previous film had good content. The first instalment builds confidence in movie-goers as they feel connected to the sequel due to the prequels. For instance, Bahubali: The Beginning had great content and I feel Bahubali: The Conclusion will be one of the best sequels in terms of content and being better than the previous part. We must realise that the audience has evolved and we can no longer make films for the heck of it. We have to consider content.
Whether a sequel or a new title, a movie needs to create buzz right from its first look. In fact, expectations from sequels are very high as they have to raise a benchmark that has already been set. The advantage is that sequels are easy to market and if the content is right, it doesn’t take much to raise the bar.
Up until now, successful sequels have given us something new, either vis-à-vis actors or storyline. Dhoom, Golmaal, Aashiqui and Jolly LLB made some changes in their cast and therefore created a buzz, whereas we’ve seen mega stars in sequel that have been rejected by the audience.
Having said that, with an increase in multiplexes and megaplexes, there is an audience for good content, so if a story is presented well and it generates the right buzz, it is a winning formula. Without a doubt, content is king. Filmmakers can no longer cash in on their film being a sequel without also delivering good content for the sequel to be loved by the audience.