On the Pongal day in Tamil Nadu, the poster of Indian 2, the proposed sequel to the hugely successful Indian, was released amidst fanfare.
Ominously, on the same day, Three different Tamil television channels had three different movies: VIP-2, Saamy-2, Sandakozhi-2. All sequels to popular movies of the same names. And all pale pastiches of their respective originals. All scarring the happy experience from their progenitors.
Not just these. None of the many sequels in Tamil in recent times have had any great success. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam-2, which he with typical enigmatism described as both a sequel and a prequel, flopped spectacularly at the box-office. The film itself was neither one thing nor another.
Rajnikanth of course had 2.0, which was a follow up to the Endhiran. 2.0 turned out to be a big grosser, but it lacked the spark and spunk of the original. Its appeal lay mostly in techno wizardry and 3-D special effects.
This being the case, why are sequels made with alarming regularity in Tamil? “It is all because of dearth of stories,” says M Bharat Kumar, a journalist who has been covering Kollywood for over a decade now. “Sequels in Tamil cinema, which have become a thing in the last 10 years only, are reflection of the lack of novelty here.”
Almost all actors have had at least one sequel. Rajni, Kamal, Ajith, Suriya, Dhanush, Vishal, Vikram, all come readily to mind.
Hollywood is also into this sequel-industry. “It is all well thought out there,” says R Padamaja, a professor of humanities in Madras University. “They have a franchise model. The idea of a possible sequel is built into the movie in the first place. So extrapolation becomes easy and seems natural.”
Also, as Bharat Kumar points out, “in Hollywood most franchise movies are story-based. Whereas in Tamil Nadu, it is hero-centric. That is a problem.” Take the example of Mission Impossible series or even the James Bond franchise. There is continuity. And there is also novelty. It is a blend of both. “They replicate what worked in the original while taking care to replace the replaceable things.”
A popular director says a movie is made for particular audience in a particular period of time. Its sequel, with similar feel, arrives at another time frame when sensibilities are changed. “Most directors don’t take this into account. So sequels get trapped in a time warp, and hence end up looking like a farce.”
Most story extensions don’t look organic, and there are too many compromises in the screenplay that spoil the experience. For example, in Vishwaroopam-2, there was little in terms of encounters between the hero and the arch-villains, especially between Kamal and Rahul Bose (the thing that provided all the dramatic excitement in the original.) Apparently, they couldn’t get Rahul for the shoot, and hence they had to make do with some discarded scenes shot during the original.
“Everything is ad hoc in sequels, and it shows up in the product,” says the director.
In an industry nobody is sure what the success formula is it is natural to try and reprise what had succeeded in the first place. But sometimes they also try and rework what had not actually run. Such is the desperation. Dhanush’s Maari and Maari-2 is an example of this. Maari was at best a middling movie. But they got Maari-2 made more in hope than anything else. In the event, it tanked spectacularly.
But the thing is, now Maari does not look all that bad a movie. Probably that is the whole idea of sequels — to make the original better in retrospective comparison.