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Encore, Anyone?

Bollywood is about to unleash another quiver of sequels. But do we really know what makes a sequel or a franchise work?

Bollywood has always had a blow hot-blow cold relationship with sequels. While the industry keeps serving up sequels and adding instalments to popular franchises, it’s been hard to predict whether or not they will work at the box office.

Five years ago, we saw many second and third instalments doing well in quick succession, after which there was a lull. But with the mother of all films, Baahubali: The Conclusion, sending box office collections sky high in 2017, it generated a debate on what makes sequels click.

What followed was a slew of sequels, such as Jolly LLB 2, Judwaa 2, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Golmaal Again!!! and Tiger Zinda Hai, which did well at the ticket counter. That success followed Baaghi 2 this year too but after that, we have not seen a single sequel or franchise do well. While the larger-than-life Race 3 underwhelmed, others like Vishwaroop 2, Saheb Biwi Gangster 3 and Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi did not fly with the audience either. It is against this backdrop that we have another round of sequels/franchises up for release –  2.0, Student Of The Year 2, Sadak 2, Baaghi 3, Housefull 4 and Krrish 4.

The all-important question is – why have sequels stopped bringing in the big bucks at the ticket counter? Is it because of a shift in audience’s preferences? Is it the film? Is it is the actors? We asked prominent filmmakers and distributors to weigh in with their views.

Boney Kapoor, Producer

The producer has to continue the franchise with the right intention. Making a franchise or a sequel is not just about putting a project together. The reason why franchises, sequels and prequels did not do well this year is because they sounded good on paper, but enough love and attention was not invested in the films in actuality. And that is the biggest letdown. Any project made with sincerity and absolute focus is bound to do well, whether it is a sequel or a franchise. It all depends upon who the people behind the projects are. There is no thumb rule that if one does not do well, the other sequels or franchises that are coming up will not do well either. 

I have a few films that I am working on. But I will not start those until I am convinced, and I have the right setup. Just because I have a film that has a lot of value, I will not start it. The cast has to be right and so does the content. The intention is to make sure that content is better than that of the earlier films, even if it takes time. Sometimes we do not get the right cast, the right subject. Sometimes, we cannot go beyond the first person. 

Mukesh Bhatt, Producer

Sequels and franchises did not work at the box office this year because their content was bad. It is as simple as that. If you have bad content, then no matter what your star power is, the movie will not work. The audience is intelligent now. It is high time you stopped looking down on the audience. You must look up to your audience.

Some films have become franchises because the earlier parts had good content. We tend to forget that. A lot of franchises have become successful films. They were successful because they were good films. Producers should understand that it is always content that they should look at. Baaghi 2 worked because it had good content. But, tomorrow, if we make Baaghi 3 with rubbish content, then it will be a disaster.

Just because you have a franchise, it does not mean you should misuse it. You have to raise the bar and give the audience a much better movie-going experience because the last time you delivered, you raised their expectations. Now you have to deliver again.

For the upcoming sequels/franchises, if the content is good, if the intent is pure, the films will work. If it is not pure, it will not work. Content is the most important element; it has never been any other way. If you have good content with the power of a franchise, your business will increase three-fold. It’s like you have a good story and you back it with good stars, then your business increases three-fold. Like Raazi had very good content but if Raazi did not have Alia Bhatt and had a newcomer instead, the film may not have flopped but it would not have become as big as it did. Since it had a popular star like Alia Bhatt, it added five-fold value. That’s what a star does to good content and that is what a franchise does to good content.

A franchise is as good as casting a star in the film. But, ultimately, the content has to be very strong. Only then the star or the franchise will thrive. The script is actually the beginning and end of it all. Why has Stree become a hit? Because the content is fresh, which the audience is enjoying. The makers have not dished out the same old stuff or repeated anything. That is an indicator as to why films like Hindi Medium, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Newton have become successes. They have no star cast or franchise, but the content is powerful. So-called stars and franchises are merely the cherry on top. If the cake is bad, the cherry will not help.

Ramesh Taurani, Producer

Whether you are making a sequel or a franchise, the movie itself has to be very good. If that particular movie is not correct, it will not earn much only by giving it a name. If the script is not good and if it does not click with the audience, then even if it is a sequel or a franchise, it will not get that success. It might get a decent opening if the trailer or its prequel is exciting, but it will have a long run at the box office only if the story and the script is good and the audience likes it. The upcoming films that are sequels or franchises whose trailers have been released are looking good and according to me, they should do well at the box office. But again, it depends on the films; if they are good they will definitely work. Personally, I am looking forward to 2.0 by Shankar. 

Nikkhil Advani, Director-Producer

I think the advantage that a franchise has is that it is somewhat similar territory when it comes to the larger picture. However, it still needs to surprise, entertain and connect with audiences. In fact, it needs to be bigger and better in all these aspects. Once the initial euphoria of the brand has been experienced, the film, the story, need to stand on their own merit.

Dinesh Vijan, Director-Producer

I think we have had a fantastic year. We had Raazi, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and, now, Stree. These high-content films are being consumed by the masses. The fact is that a good or an average film will not do good business today. People want value for money and they want to watch a really, really good film. When a franchise film doesn’t work, it’s like any other film not working. The franchise only has the advantage of a start because people are familiar with it. Ultimately, the film speaks on a Monday and that’s what we’re seeing. A franchise benefits from increased awareness but, eventually, it is the script and content that matter. I expect the upcoming sequels of 2018 and 2019 to do much better.

A sequel cannot be an afterthought. When you write the first film, you should write it in a way that lends itself to a franchise. The last two moments in Stree set up the sequel. It has to be integrated in the first film. You cannot write a separate story and give it the same title as the earlier films in the ‘franchise’. The story has to be written in a way that the film has the ability to be franchised. That is why Shraddha’s (Kapoor) character was pitched the way it was. 

Remo D’Souza, Choreographer-Director

I do not know what went wrong with all these sequels and franchises. One reason is, you need to have a great script to take a franchise forward. Maybe we did not have great scripts. People connect to a franchise or a sequel only if it is connected to the previous instalments. It should not be drastically different from the previous parts. There has to be a common element.

We had a stellar cast, the action and the songs were in place. Frankly, I do not know what went wrong with this franchise (Race 3). As far as I know, any franchise needs a great script to take it forward and all the upcoming sequels and franchises look great. I think they will all do well because the casting is right and I am sure the makers will keep build a good franchise. I am eagerly waiting for 2.0 because Shankar is a great director. Franchises are here to stay and will always stay.

Siddharth P Malhotra, Director

I don’t think sequels or franchises have stopped bringing in revenue. In fact, sequels and franchises worldwide are made because of a certain brand value that audiences have been attached to. For example, when you see Dhoom 3, it was the best sequel of all the three, numbers-wise at least, when we look at box office performance. It’s the film that does or doesn’t do well. The franchise or the sequel or the prequel, whatever you would like to call it, just brings in a certain amount of likeability or recall value for the audience. If you change the reason why the film was liked in the first place, then it will backfire. If you go to watch Dhoom, you know that there will be chases, there will be a robber and a cop. Now if you replace the chases with something else altogether, then audiences will say that this is not what we came to watch. When you make a franchise or a sequel, the audience comes with certain expectations of that film. You will have to take that expectation and either double it or give people at least equal to what they are expecting. You can’t give them just another film. All the upcoming sequels or franchises will depend on the story of the film. For Student Of The Year 2, all the fans of Tiger Shroff and Karan Johar will come to watch the film. But for any film, whether Student Of The Year 2, 2.0 or Total Dhamaal, if the film does not connect emotionally with the audience, it will not sustain at the box office. Dhamaal was a film that made you laugh throughout, but if Total Dhamaal does not have the same comedic intensity, the film will not do well. Today the audience is responding to a good film and to an okay film too. For example, nobody expected Hichki, the one I made, to do so well. But the film spoke for itself. Same goes for AndhaDhun. If a sequel or a franchise releases, we all will go to watch the film in the first week, but if the film doesn’t give us what we want, we will not suggest someone else goes to watch it. That will result in loss of revenue.

Mudassar Aziz, Director-writer

It all depends on what one wants from a sequel. I don’t not know about franchises, because I have never made one ever. I have always maintained that a genuine sequel is very different from a franchise film. A franchise film does not have to take the story forward and does not have to be associated with the same characters. A sequel film is very different. It genuinely incorporates actors or characters who were a part of the prequel, and maybe involves somebody else or perhaps nobody else. The story is taken forward from the prequel. For a franchise film, I am in no position to comment on how it should be made and what is the intention behind it. A filmmaker who has made such a film will be able to tell you more. As a filmmaker of a sequel film, you have to be honest enough and ask yourself if there is something left in the story that you told earlier in order to tell it again, take it forward and add to it. If the answer is an honest yes, then you should go ahead and make the film. People’s expectation from sequels, franchises or just about any film is something that a filmmaker will never be able to control. For example, the idea of Hangover is lust. The same characters with the same set of makers and the same studio went ahead and made Hangover 2. Since the audience expected a lot from it, they ended up not liking it. The director still felt that he wanted to complete his trilogy and so he made Hangover 3. And people ended up liking it all over again. The idea is to be honest about why we are making a sequel. My gut feeling is that the director saw it as a trilogy. People liked the first and the third part. They did not like the second so much. But that is the audience’s prerogative. I don’t know much about films that are usually made using the same title, the same thought or the same actors, and hence I cannot talk about them. It is not like I do not enjoy their films. As an audience member, I love them. But I do not think I am creatively adept enough to make a comment about them, because that is a specialized craft. The audience’s reaction to different parts of a film is always going to the audience’s prerogative. To make them or not is going to be the maker’s prerogative. The intention of the film is all that matters. Tomorrow if Rameshji (Taurani) decides to team up with Abbas bhai and Mustan bhai again and they decide to make a Race 4 and they want to connect it to Saif (Ali Khan) and Bipasha’s (Basu) original story that has nothing to do with part 3, who are we to stop them? And who are we to expect that Race 4 will become a huge hit? What we need to see is the intention of the filmmaker. Yes, we can contest whether the sequel did better than the prequel or the other way round. But those will be box office deliberations and assumptions. You will never really find an honest answer to it. If we talk about upcoming franchise films such as 2.0, then I have to say that Shankar sir is a magician. I am very sure this is a sequel. I have seen the teaser that I feel is connected to the fact that Chitti needs to be resurrected and he needs to be brought back to fight another evil force. That is something that I understand, because I make films like that. It has to be connected to something from the past, a character you have loved or a situation you have loved. I am very hopeful about that one. Total Dhamaal is a franchise film that Indra Kumar makes really well. As filmmakers, we hope all the films do well. If we talk about expectations from sequels and whether these live up to those expectations, then it should be done in two segments - what is the audiences’ perception of those sequels and what is the box office outcome? If you go with this for each sequel, then you may find that there is a certain categorical difference in how the audience views it. Some of the biggest fans of the franchise of Race were disappointed with the fact that the story of 4 had nothing to do with the original film. My film had to do with the original Happy Bhag Jayegi and a lot of people expected that the sequel would do twice as well as the prequel, which didn’t happen. So we don’t really have a clue. But we cannot question the intention of the filmmakers.

Sethumadhavan Napan, COO/Producer - DAR Motion Pictures

Sequels/franchises associated with any film do not necessarily guarantee sure shot success. First of all, what is important is to note whether the original film was commercially successful, critically acclaimed or both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. If it satisfies at least one of the above three parameters, then it is worth considering a sequel. If the film in question never made money and/or did not receive a warm welcome from the audience/critics, then why make a sequel/franchise? A lot of the sequels/franchise films of late did not work because either the original film was not well received and hence there was no readymade audience waiting for the new film, or the concept/screenplay of the new film had issues, which is why the content itself did not work. Whenever these factors are taken care of, you do find success, as in the case of Baaghi 2, Fukrey Returns or Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2. Of the forthcoming lot of sequels, there is some promise being seen in case of films like 2.0, Total Dhamaal and Student Of The Year 2. But eventually the content has to be effective to ensure success.

Gaurav Ruparel, Distributor

Baaghi 2 worked at the box office because the film had young stars, Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani. Other sequels or franchises have senior actors. Kamal Haasan does not command the market value he once did. Stree swallowed all the Deols, and if you’re talking about Race 3, Bobby Deol was highlighted in that film. It took a good opening but, after watching the film, people thought this is ‘just a Bobby Deol film’.

A sequel is a good plan to run a movie and I can tell you that Student Of The Year 2, which is releasing next year, will be a hit film. Along with a good sequel, the star cast should also be good. If the second part of a film like Yamla Pagla Deewana performed badly, then why would you want to make a third part? Ditto for Vishwaroop… as the first film did not work. It tried to run on its title, there was no demand for this film. The movie Stree has the potential for a sequel because of its climax. People are curious to know what will happen in the second part. For 2.0, it has a huge buzz around it that it will easily earn `200 crore. I think there is a limited market for Rajinikanth, so the opening of the film will be good but the numbers will not sustain.

Gaurrav Gaur, Distributor

I think it is because of their repetitive content that sequels and franchises have not worked. How many people want to see the same story, same cast, and same content, over and over again? There are so many sequels and franchises but very few original films. How much people can tolerate the same thing?

The result of the upcoming films, sequels and franchises included, depends on the day the film releases. Nowadays, the collections of a film are greatly influenced by the day of its release. If it’s a holiday, then people will go watch the film. If a film releases on a normal day, then its earnings will depend on the content and story of the film. I believe that the trend of sequels and franchises that we are seeing for the last four to five years is fading.

Sarang Chandak, Distributor

The reason these sequels failed is that filmmakers wanted to leverage the titles and goodwill attached to previous instalments that were hits but were unable to come up with good content to justify these sequels. They only wanted to cash in on brand value. I don’t think the upcoming sequels or franchises will underperform as the past films did. 2.0 will be good as its director is Shankar, so the audience can expect something new. Student Of The Year 2 has been made by Karan Johar, who is a creative director and a creative producer. Housefull 4 will also do well.

The trend is now dying. The makers should go in for a new brand and new concepts. Right now, they are just cashing in on the goodwill of a popular franchise.

Debashish Dey, Distributor

The simple answer is that the content of the sequels that failed was very weak. This happened in spite of pulling in stars. So, in Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, Sonakshi Sinha was cast as she has a better box office track than Diana Penty. The producer probably thought Sinha would bring audiences to theatres and therefore cast her in the movie. But it didn’t make a difference because the content of the film was weak. Baaghi 2 performed well because of its content and also the kind of publicity it received. But, I would stress that content was the key factor for Baaghi 2. The other sequels were dull because their content was not up to the mark. 

The upcoming films like Student Of The Year 2, Housefull 4 and Total Dhamaal, will each take a good opening because of their cast. But after 3 pm, it is only their content that will determine how well they perform after that. Even Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff will not be able to carry the film if the content is not good. I don’t think the franchise trend is dying because if you give people a good story, something new, the audience will grab it. When you spend `350 for a ticket at a multiplex, you expect something that is worth it. Take Stree, for instance. It left things open at the end. So part two will take a great opening. For a small-budget film, it has notched up fantastic numbers.

Jeetu Khandelwal, Distributor

We call Salman Khan a superhero but Tiger Shroff was not a superhero before Baaghi. It is simple. The audience wants to watch films that suit the actor’s potential and style. You don’t expect Tiger Shroff to do a romantic film.

You need to change the subject of a franchise as per the time. If four movies in the same year are hits and then if one filmmaker out of those thinks of making a sequel after five years, and if it gets success, someone else will also think that let me also make a sequel. But it is not certain that this sequel will do well too. Some films work and some don’t work. 

Ravi Machchar, Distributor

Sequels and franchises in recent times are not consistent in terms of their directors. If the directors who made the original instalments took the franchise forward, the result might have been very different. Sequels are now being made without sufficient justification. Besides, the franchise fad is dying.

Many sequels today are like TV serials. The makers are simply stretching the story without adding fresh elements. Unless there is a great story, a franchise will not work. Also, when you cast actors who are past their shelf life, the franchise will not work. Any franchise with beete huye stars will never work. A great story and new stars will help a franchise work. Race 3 also didn’t work as it should have. For a Salman Khan film, this was a disappointment. 2.0 might work due to the Akshay Kumar-Rajinikanth combination but only for the first three to four days. There’s no saying what might happen after that.

- Padma Iyer, Bhakti Mehta, Bhavi Gathani, Titas Chowdhury

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