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First Among Sequels

If at first, you do succeed… Try, try and try again!

Hollywood has for long nurtured the concept of franchises/series, recognising their immense revenue potential.  Every major studio has invested considerable financial and marketing muscle to create globally recognised properties/assets that, once established, can be exploited many times over – James Bond, Star Wars, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Mission: Impossible, Die Hard, Harry Potter, Twilight, Shrek, Toy Story, Ice Age, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, X Men, Transformers, Star Trek, The Fast And The Furious, The Lord of the Rings, Rocky, Rambo and more.

Our industry has been late in latching on to the franchise/sequel gravy train, bar a strayNagina/Nigahen and perhaps the Akshay Kumar ‘Khiladi’ series. Which is surprising given that our filmmakers are so often accused of playing safe by repeating formulaic successes rather than experimenting with original fare. And what else is a franchise or a sequel but a successful, tried-and-tested formula?

However, in the last decade, the floodgates have opened for franchises and series and our industry seems to be in a hurry to make up for lost time.

Last year, we had Dabangg 2 and Housefull 2 both entering the ` 100-crore club, demonstrating the box-office appeal of big-ticket franchises/sequels. And in the recent past, Koi… Mil Gaya, Dhoom, Golmaal, Munnabhai MBBS, Don, Murder, Raaz, Jannat, Jism, Kya Kool Hain Hum, Dhamaal and 1920, amongst others, have successfully built on the success of the original film to deliver profitable sequels.

No wonder, then, that one can think of almost a score sequels/prequels/part-nexts at various stages of production, scripting or contemplation. And at least ten sequels are slated for release this year, starting off with next week’s release, Race 2. That will be followed by Murder 3 (Feb 15), Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (March 8), Shootout At Wadala (May 1), Aashiqui 2 (May 10), Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 (June 7), Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Again (August 8), Ragini MMS 2 (October 11), Krrish 3 (Diwali) and Dhoom 3 (Christmas).

Critics have slammed this trend as a sign of creative bankruptcy in the industry. In my personal opinion, it’s smart business to reap the benefits of the brand recognition and goodwill that a well-cultivated and successful franchise offers. Especially so at a time when filmmakers have to pump in literally millions attempting to establish their products – the star cast, the genre, the plot and more –  in the mindspace of the potential audience.

The trick, obviously, is to ensure that each addition to the series, while riding on the brand value of its predecessor/s, further enhances the franchise’s appeal and loyalty. It is also important to know when a good thing has run its course and gracefully retire/end a franchise.

The anti-franchise brigade need not fret over those who lazily milk the cash cow without nurturing it or those who try and extend its natural shelf life. A wonderful mechanism exists to show such folks their place and weed them out. It’s called the box office!

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