Film franchises seem to be Bollywood's new cash machine

Bollywood filmmakers' latest formula, albeit hackneyed, is to keep churning out film after film with the same basic plot to keep raking in moolah at the box office

The present-day blockbuster economy seems to be increasingly centered around branding, as a lot of importance is laid on developing films that have a built-in fan base. To put it simply, we are talking about the emergence of the franchise culture — a tried and tested formula in Hollywood. These days, major Hindi film projects are conceived with a franchise potential in mind. At times, before a film can hit theatres, its sequel is already in the works. And talking in terms of sheer numbers, it has indeed worked for Bollywood, right from 'Dhoom' and 'Masti' to 'Golmaal' and 'Raaz'. The latest to join the club is 'Hate Story'. The third instalment of the erotic thriller brand has crossed the Rs 40-crore mark in just a week, which is far more than what the first two films could collect in their lifetime run — 'Hate Story' starring Paoli Dam made Rs 15 crore, while part deux featuring Surveen Chawla, Jay Bhanushali and Sushant Singh earned Rs 28 crore. So, are franchises a guaranteed way of setting the box office coffers ringing?

Karan Singh Grover, Zareen Khan and Sharman Joshi in Hate Story 3
Karan Singh Grover, Zareen Khan and Sharman Joshi in 'Hate Story 3'

Vikram Bhatt, director of 'Raaz' (2002) and 'Raaz 3' (2012), who penned the first and third instalment of 'Hate Story', explains how and why a franchise is planned. "It is always a conscious effort to create a franchise. I have engineered the 'Hate Story' franchise and there were plans to make it successful even before the release of the first film in 2012. But, the (sequel) dream comes true only if the first film does well," says the filmmaker.

Picking the right subject is key to sustaining a franchise, he adds: "In 'Hate Story', I had tried to keep the erotica-thriller element intact. Each time the storyline was different yet engaging, but the erotica quotient was high. Another important element is making sure that the budget of the films are chalked out smartly to garner good results at the box office."

Mukesh Bhatt, who has produced several successful franchises including Murder, Jannat and Raaz, believes that it is the genre that makes the franchises successful. "Our franchises range from thriller and horror to romance. Once people like the first part, they look forward to a part two of the same genre and that’s why all our franchises have been successful. As a producer, I also believe that the return on investment for franchises has been higher."

Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta in Jannat 2 (2012)
Emraan Hashmi and Esha Gupta in 'Jannat 2' (2012)

But, creating a successful franchise is no mean feat, points out director Anees Bazmee, who helmed 'Welcome' (2007) and the recently released 'Welcome Back'. "Building a successful franchise is more difficult than developing a fresh concept. The audience always expects the spin-offs to be more entertaining than the prequels, so there is constant pressure of delivering a better film. One has to be patient to create better content," he says.

From left: Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Paresh Rawal and Nana Patekar in Welcome Nack, which released in September
From left: Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Paresh Rawal and Nana Patekar in 'Welcome Back', which released in September

Bazmee elaborates how 'Welcome Back' proved to be a good gamble. "I knew Majnu (played by Anil Kapoor) and Uday Shetty (played by Nana Patekar) became popular with the masses. So, I had to keep the humour quotient high for both characters while introducing a few extra elements. So, an emotional connect between Majnu and Uday was shown in part two," he explicates.

Sajid Khan, who tasted success with his Housefull series and has now handed over the directorial mantle to Sajid-Farhad for the third part, says, "A part two, usually, is liked or does better than or equivalent business as part one, if it was liked very much and had strong recall value. If part two does well, then part three is made, which is even more difficult because it has two better prequels to match up to."

Kainaat Arora, Vivek Oberoi and Karishma Tanna in Grand Masti (2013)
Kainaat Arora, Vivek Oberoi and Karishma Tanna in 'Grand Masti' (2013)

Actor Vivek Oberoi, who has been part of a successful franchise like Masti, mentions that it is difficult to maintain the brand value, because taking a successful franchise ahead comes with a lot of pressure. "It's a challenge to play the same character and still be able to make the audience experience a sense of novelty. Further, considering that the character has been appreciated by the audience brings a lot more responsibility on you to deliver a familiar role which is better than the previous. Trying to make things bigger and better with the next instalment, in a way, is easier since people look forward to it, but it is definitely challenging to maintain the value of the brand," he adds.

With that statement, Vivek compels one to think of the Milan Luthria-directed 'Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara!' (2013), which did not receive as much appreciation as 'Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai' (2010). Industry experts believe that correct casting often plays an important role in determining the fate of a sequel. "People were trying to see Ajay Devgn in Akshay Kumar in 'Once Upon...' part two. It is not that the same star cast has to be repeated, but the actor in a sequel should be able to do justice to the designed character.

The 'Dhoom' series became a huge hit even when the anti-heroes of the films were replaced. John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan were well accepted," says trade expert Taran Adarsh.

He adds that proper release dates should be planned for sequels to rake in more money than their previous releases.

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