Sequels aren’t new to Tamil cinema. Beginning with Kamal Haasan’s Japanil Kalyanaraman in 1985, the Tamil film industry has witnessed several follow-ups that attempted to recreate the magic of their predecessors. Ironically, Japanil Kalyanaraman also became a testament to the recurring issue with sequels, failing to produce the impact that the original film—Kalyanaraman—did. Several recent sequels have met with the same fate despite being follow-ups to some extremely lucrative films.
Arguably, 2017 and 2018 have been the biggest years for Tamil cinema in terms of the number of sequels released and announced. Last year saw the release of Si 3, Chennaiyil Oru Naal 2, Velaiyilla Pattadhari 2, and Thiruttu Payale 2, while 2018 has had Vishwaroopam 2, Tamizh Padam 2, Kalakalappu 2, Saamy Square, Sandakozhi 2, and Goli Soda 2.
Despite multiple releases, only a handful have turned out to be profitable such as Kalakalappu 2 and Tamizh Padam 2.
But, the skewed success ratio doesn’t seem to have diminished the fondness Tamil cinema has developed for franchises. Production houses and directors continue to announce sequels. There’s Indian 2, Thevar Magan 2, Mundasupatti 2, Charlie Chaplin 2, Maari 2, Kanchana 3, Indru Netru Naalai 2 and several more in the pipeline.
As the stakes in filmmaking continue to rise, sequels or franchise films are seen as a low-risk option, says CS Amudhan, whose Tamizh Padam 2 was one of the rare few that managed to build on the original’s success. “The idea is that if you get the same people on board, it should work again.” He adds that the success of the first instalment gives financial impetus to the follow-up project.
Writer-producer-distributor G Dhananjayan believes the instant connection a sequel creates with the audience is one of the biggest perks a franchise offers. “When you start a new project, it takes time to create an impression. However, with a sequel, there is instant buzz. You don’t have to start from ground zero.”
Dhananjayan also recognises that sequels only become successes if the filmmaker manages to bring the project out of the shadow of its predecessor. The reason several sequels become disappointments, he says, is that they do not have unique stories that push the boundaries of the original.
Amudhan too believes the sequel has to go beyond what the first part has already done. “In our case, Tamizh Padam was the first proper spoof to be made in the country. But for the sequel, we had to expand our scope.” Having exhausted Indian cinema the first time, Amudhan says they chose to include English films, pop culture, and political references, to surprise the audience.
Another reason for the failure of several star-vehicle sequels is the higher costs incurred. Distributor Tirupur Subramaniam says, “The prices quoted for these films have increased 7-8 times but the revenue hasn’t grown by the same measure. The salaries have increased, but collections haven’t.”
Nevertheless, star-worship and fan bases continue to be reasons for producers to keep making sequels, says a leading producer of a recent Tamil franchise film, requesting anonymity. However, he’s also cognisant of the need for a convincing story. “Earlier, the presence of a star and a known director ensured good numbers at the box office. But that’s not the case anymore. The audience expects unique films.”
Percolation of internet across various demographic groups has ensured that centre differences are ironed out, he adds. “One can’t categorise projects as ‘B and C centre films’ anymore. The collection in the cities is similar to what a film grosses in the suburbs. Everyone has a smartphone and people are exposed to quality content.”
Taking Malayalam cinema’s example, he says the strong calls for good content is the healthiest trend for an industry’s growth. “Tamil Nadu is at the threshold of change right now,” he adds.