Do we really want a 'Gadar: Ek Prem Katha' sequel?

Gadar Ek Prem Katha

Ideally, any talk about a sequel to a monster blockbuster would be greeted with much fervour, but the enthusiasm to the murmurs of a follow-up to Anil Sharma’s Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) have been less than energetic. When it released in June 2001, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha was either expected to set the box office on fire nor earn great critical acclaim. The reason for limited expectations from Gadar: Ek Prem Katha were because the film released on the same day as the Aamir Khan starrer Lagan (2001) and the former was not as hot a proposition as the latter. Thanks to Sunny Deol’s stronghold over specific markets in terms of distribution circuits in north India, the film, at best, was touted to do well in these pockets and repeat the success of films such as Ziddi (1997) and Arjun Pandit (1999). However, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha ended up grossing over Rs. 200 cr during its initial theatrical release and was not only commercially one of the most successful Indian movies, but it is also the second most watched Hindi film in India as it recorded more than 50 million footfalls.

The rumoured sequel has been in the pipeline for a few years.

Sharma had previously mentioned that he wouldn’t consider a follow-up unless he found a good enough script. People close to Sharma have said that he has been toying with the idea for nearly a decade and a half and is believed to have found the best way to peg the story forward. The original was set in the lead-up to the partition of India where a simple Sikh truck driver, Tara (Deol), falls in love with an aristocratic Muslim woman, Sakina (Ameesha Patel), and the two end up living together in the aftermath of the riots that make Sakina believe that she has lost her family forever. A few years later, Sakina and Tara have a son, Jeet, and Sakina also gets to know that her father, Ashraf Ali (Amrish Puri), survived the riots and is the Mayor of Lahore. Sakina decides to reconnect with her family and her father invites her along with Tara and Jeet to Pakistan but due to some trouble with the paperwork, only Sakina goes to Pakistan. Later she realises that her father had never intended for Tara and Jeet to come to Pakistan and forces her to forget her past life. The rest of the film is about how Tara goes to Pakistan with his son and his buddy, Darmiyaan Singh (Vivek Shauq) and brings Sakina back. The sequel is believed to take the story of Sakina, Tara, and Jeet forward with the “an India-Pakistan angle.”

Although huge gaps between originals and sequels is not an uncommon phenomenon as seen recently with M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (2000) and Glass (2019) that had a 19-year interval, other factors come in play in deciding how the sequel to a much-beloved film might be received. If on the one hand, the 18-year gap between Gadar and its sequel makes it intriguing, on the other hand, how the film business and the audience demography has changed makes it a more significant challenge. For starters, the film’s leads Sunny Deol and Amisha Patel have for long been relegated to the ‘has been’ bracket and also the deaths of Amrish Puri as well as Vivek Shauq, who played pivot roles robs the sequel of two strong characters.

The bigger concern, at least on the face of it, is how both the theme of the film and how the narrative of the original was executed might run the risk of appearing too archaic for the young, urban viewer, which now forms the audience mainstay. There is little doubt that the sequel’s story cannot start with Jeet still being 6 or 7 years old as that would mean both Deol and Patel’s characters would remain the same as Gadar. It might not be the best idea to pass off Deol, 63, as a 30-something Tara from the original. This is also the reason why proposed sequels of a few iconic films that have been talked about for long never really take off. Some years ago there was a great buzz about a sequel of Mr. India, which was supposed to feature Salman Khan as the villain, or the follow-up to Andaz Apna Apna that would reunite both Aamir Khan and Salman Khan as the bumbling ‘Amar-Prem.’ Perhaps the desire to repeat the original not just in spirit but also in letter thwarted the projects. The Mr. India sequel has been called off following the death of Sridevi, and there are talks about Varun Dhawan and Ranveer Singh doing an Andaz Apna Apna sequel.

In the case of Gadar’s sequel, keeping Sunny Deol as the ‘lead’ limits the scope of the sequel in the traditional sense, yet at the same time by not focusing on Deol as Tara somewhere opens up new possibilities. If the story were to jump a few years and keep Jeet’s character as the fulcrum, then the sequel suddenly becomes a whole different prospect. With that in mind, if producers get one of the younger stars out there such as Ranveer Singh or Varun Dhawan to play an adult Jeet, then the narrative can include milestones from India’s history and also the changes witnessed by states such as Punjab that bore the greatest brunt of the partition. Unlike Gadar: Ek Prem Katha that worked due to the emotional connection the film made with audiences, the sequel might have to concentrate more on the rest of the mise-en-scène as the present-day audience would probably not accept just high emotional quotient. Irrespective, the sequel to Gadar: Ek Prem Katha sounds promising and should not suffer the usual trappings of the popular Hindi film format.