x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bollywood puts the sequel to good use

Taking a cue from Hollywood, Bollywood produces an impressive collection of Part Twos.

Don 2 will see Shah Rukh Khan reprise the role of the criminal underworld boss.
Don 2 will see Shah Rukh Khan reprise the role of the criminal underworld boss.

The next month will see the release of Bheja Fry 2, Double Dhamaal and Murder 2 as the much talked about "Year of the Bollywood sequel" begins in earnest. With more than a dozen titles either about to be released or in production, Bollywood has caught the Hollywood disease of not leaving well enough alone.

For a demonstration of why sequels are attractive for movie makers, look no further than The Hangover Part II. When it was released at the end of May, the critics were vicious, but audiences flocked to the follow-up to the 2009 hit. Now Mumbai movie moguls are increasingly looking to cash in on the power of the return. Over the past decade a number of sequels have emerged, and now they are about to reach a crescendo.

Dr Rajinda Dudrah, senior lecturer in film and media studies at the University of Manchester, explains: "Bollywood has never really ventured into the sequels territory until of late. The odd film in the late 1980s does exist, like Nagina 2 - the avenging woman snake film - but this was rare. It's partly to do with the history of the ad hoc and independent nature of commercial Indian filmmaking up until the 1990s. Now we have an increased professional set-up with production houses pursuing strict business models wherever they can and the sequel, following on from a very successful first film, makes financial sense. Films such as Munnabhai (2003) and Dhoom (2004) were followed with equally successful sequels and the Bollywood audience seemed to warm to the idea of the franchise."

In the past, these sequels have struggled to reappear with the same director and crew intact from the original film. Pair Hera Pheri retained the actors, but the leading ladies and the director were all replaced. Dhoom 2 retained the services of Abhishek Bachan and Uday Chopra but not much else.

Hollywood faced a similar problem, before the franchise movie became a staple and actors were given roles only if they were willing to sign multi-picture deals. It's one of the many remarkable features of the Harry Potter franchise that audiences have grown up with Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint always inhabiting Harry, Hermione and Ron. Yet as the Twilight series has shown, this has become the norm. And the British actor Tom Hiddlestone revealed that he had to agree to a five-picture deal before he was allowed to take on the role of Loki in Thor.

So it's probably a sign of things to come in Bollywood that Double Dhamaal has retained the cast and director of the original 2007 hit Dhamaal (Bedlam!). Arshad Warsi, Reteish Deshmukh, Jaaved Jaaferi and Aashish Chowdhry all return to play the roles of best friends and small-time crooks who venture to Goa in search of a treasure trove. Sanjay Dutt reprises his role, too, but this time the honest police officer has ditched his job and is now seemingly living and chasing the fast life. Director Indra Kuma returns as well and it was he who persuaded Chowdhry to return to the screen after a two-year absence.

Chances are that Double Dhamaal will be one of the biggest blockbuster hits of the summer. It's the perfect marriage of family fun, familiar characters and comedy, and the hype surrounding the return of Chowdhry is deafening.

Not all sequels this summer can boast the same cast. Rajat Kapoor is the glaring omission from the forthcoming sequel of Bheja Fry, a hit in 2007. Kapoor played the music mogul who suffers at the hands of a bumbling tax inspector in the original. The sequel has Vinaj Pathak return as the tax inspector who dreams of becoming a superstar singer.

The original was based on the French comedy smash hit Le Dîner de Cons (The Dinner Game), which spawned this Bollywood remake as well as the Hollywood 2010 remake Dinner for Schmucks. The film's global iterations are an example of how a good story can resonate around the world, and yet Bollywood is the first to make a sequel to the comedy.

Nonetheless, sequels come with baggage. They still have the veneer of being formulaic and a cheap way of fleecing audiences. But there is no denying that in Bollywood, just as in Hollywood, sequels are commercially successful.

Bruce Willis once told me during an interview about Die Hard 4.0, "We made Die Hard 2 and no one really knew how to make sequels then. It was in its infancy." The formula has now been perfected, and Bollywood, too, has gone through the same learning curve, hence the glut of forthcoming films.

Now as Anu Rangacher, a programmer at the Mumbai Film Festival, recounts, it's not just Bheja Fry 2, Double Dhamaal and Murder 2 that have got India buzzing. "Sequels that are releasing in 2011 are Partner 2, Salman Khan's Wanted 2 and Race 2, directed by Abbas Mustan. Nonetheless this year, the big buzz is around Shah Rukh Khan's Don [out in December]. Looking to next year, even more popular than Don is Dhoom [Amir Khan is in it] and the excitement is growing for that already. Also, the other sequel in the making is Munnabhai Chale America."

The third part of the Munnabhai series was shelved when director Rajkumar Hirani thought the concept too similar to the hit My Name Is Khan. However, the director admits that the clamour by fans for the franchise to return has forced his hand and after extensive rewrites the production is back on.

It seems that no character is safe from being brought back to the screen. The 2004 hit Murder, inspired by the Saw and Hostel franchises, sees the return next month of the serial-killer action thriller after a seven-year absence. No doubt if the sequel does well, the franchise will aim to run as long as it can. The Saw films had their seventh incarnation last year.

The three films in the Golmaal series, which came out in 2006, 2008 and last year, were all extremely popular. Now the director Rohit Shetty has plans to do part four, telling the Hindustan Times: "If I have created a brand, why should I be apologetic about making money on it? You reap what you sow."

Now any time a film is a hit in Bollywood, just as it is in Hollywood, it's likely that a sequel will be announced, or at the very least a script will be in the pipeline. Last year, Salman Khan had a hit with Dabangg, in which he played a corrupt cop. After winning a host of awards, the producer Arbaaz Khan announced a sequel is in the works.

The most anticipated sequel of the year, Don 2 is scheduled to be released on December 23. The 2006 film that featured Shah Rukh Khan was itself a remake of the 1978 film starring Amitabh Bachchan. The film was a huge commercial and critical success, screening at the Berlin Film Festival, where Shah Rukh Khan has a phenomenal fan base. The sequel will see the actor reprise the role of the criminal underworld boss. It will be a fitting end to a year in which the ability to create a franchise has become just as important in Bollywood as it is in Hollywood.