Stree 2, Pushpa 2, Indian 2, Singham Again, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3: Why sequels remain the forever flavour of the season

In recent years, particularly post-pandemic, a noticeable trend has emerged in Bollywood: the rise of sequels. In 2022 and 2023, several sequels achieved remarkable success. KGF: Chapter 2, the follow-up to the 2018 hit KGF: Chapter 1, became a pan-India sensation, breaking records and grossing over 1,200 crore worldwide. Similarly, Drishyam 2, a sequel to the 2015 thriller Drishyam, garnered critical acclaim and strong box office returns. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, a spiritual sequel to the 2007 horror-comedy, and Gadar 2, which hit theatres 22 years after the first part, also performed exceptionally well.

Allu Arjun in a still from Pushpa 2
Allu Arjun in a still from Pushpa 2

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A still from Gadar 2
A still from Gadar 2

According to Ormax Media data, franchise films accounted for 17% of the Indian box office in 2019, but by 2023, this figure had risen to 45%. “Yes, the dominance of sequels and franchise films is steadily increasing in the Indian film industry, especially post pandemic. According to Ormax Cinematix’s Most-Awaited Hindi Films list, as of June 15, 2024, the most anticipated Hindi films among regular theatre-goers in India include Stree 2, Pushpa 2: The Rule, Hera Pheri 3, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3, War 2, and Singham Again—all of which are either sequels or a part of a franchise (a super set of sequels).This trend of multiple franchise films ranking among the most anticipated films is also applicable for Tamil and Telugu film industries,” Sanket Kulkarni, Head of Business Development (Theatrical), Ormax Media tells us.

A still from Pushpa 2 song 'Pushpa Pushpa'
A still from Pushpa 2 song ‘Pushpa Pushpa’

The success of sequels and the anticipation for the upcoming ones, at a time when big-ticket movies like Bade Miyaan Chote Miyaan, 83, and Shamshera have tanked at the box office, makes one wonder: what drives filmmakers, distributors, and audiences towards sequels?

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The comfort of familiarity

The answer lies in a combination of familiarity, brand recognition, and the promise of a built-in audience, say industry experts.

Filmmaker Amar Kaushik, who is gearing up for the release of Stree 2, opines that sequels, by their very nature, bring with them a sense of continuity and established connection with characters. This familiarity, he says, reduces the risk for moviegoers, who are more inclined to invest time and money in a story they already trust. Elaborating, Kaushik says, “When a sequel is announced, the audiences feel connected to the movies because they have already loved the first part. The audiences think of such films as their own. Logon ko ek expectation ho jaati sequel se ki jitne maza unhe first part dekhkar aaya tha, they feel ki next part bhi utna hi interesting bana hoga aur paise vasool honge.”

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A still from the 2018 film Stree
A still from the 2018 film Stree

“The anticipation of seeing favourite characters return and the curiosity about their new journeys make sequels a compelling choice,” says Gadar 2 director Anil Sharma. Adding to this, he says, “For the audiences, the allure lies in revisiting familiar worlds and characters they have grown to love, offering a sense of continuity and anticipation.”

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Financial incentives and marketability

The financial aspect of making sequels is a significant driving force behind their proliferation. “When a sequel is made, financing and selling become much easier. Studios and investors are more willing to back a project with a proven track record, just as audiences are more inclined to watch a continuation of a beloved story. These factors make sequels an attractive proposition for everyone involved,” says Sharma, who has helmed films such as The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (2003), Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo (2004), and Apne (2007).

Film exhibitor and Director of Aashirwad Theatres Pvt Ltd, Akshaye Rathi, tells us, “Sequels are a sure shot recipe for success” as filmmakers “build on the popularity of a movie that’s already touched the hearts of the people.”

Deepika Padukone in Singham Again
Deepika Padukone in Singham Again

Sequels v/s standalone films

Are sequels abundant because of a lack of original scripts and the failure of standalone, big-ticket films to draw audiences to theatres? Trade expert Taran Adarsh emphasises, “There’s no dearth of original scripts. Films such as Pathaan and Jawaan have done extremely well.” He adds, “Even biopics like Maidaan’ and Srikanth, which are also original scripts, have done well.” Meanwhile, Rathi cites Laapataa Ladies, Animal, and Munjya, noting that films from different genres are working well at the box office, dismissing the idea that sequels are made because audiences aren’t drawn to original scripts.

Then, what is the secret to the success of sequels?

Addressing why most sequels pre or post-pandemic have been hits, Kaushik, who has also directed movies like Bala (2019) and Bhediya (2022), says, “There’s no set formula for a sequel.” He adds, “The first and foremost thing that you need to make a sequel is to see if you have a story left [from the first part] to tell the audiences. Also, for me, honesty in the script is important. I took 5-6 years to come up with a sequel [of Stree] because I feel not just the audience, even I should feel excited and happy about the story and the graph of the characters. However, to each his own.” He further says, “What I feel all filmmakers, who are making a sequel, should follow is to maintain the essence of the first film and its characters.” Anil Sharma chimes in, “Kirdaar and film ka essence same hona chahiye, jo phele part mein tha, bas.”

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A still of actor varun Dhawan from Bhediya
A still of actor varun Dhawan from Bhediya

A trend here to stay?

The undeniable success of sequels both pre and post-pandemic spotlights their enduring appeal and marketability. Before the pandemic, films Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2015), Fukrey Returns (2017), Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (2017), Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), and Baaghi 2 (2018) not only drew massive audiences but also set new box office records. This trend has continued post-pandemic with sequels like KGF: Chapter 2 (2022), Drishyam 2 (2022), Dream Girl 2 (2023), and Gadar 2 (2023) achieving phenomenal success.

And now, the lineup of upcoming films being dominated by sequels – Stree 2, Singham Again, Indian 2, Raid 2, War 2, Bhediya 2, only demonstrates that sequels are not just a passing trend but a mainstay in the cinematic landscape. “A sequel is a great idea. Over the years we’ve seen how most franchises and sequels have been successful and this trend is only going to continue,” Adarsh concludes.

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