Unearthed potential in Kollywood
Naan Avanillai  

It was yesterday that I came across the first promotional still of Naan Avanillai 2 in an English newspaper. Jeevan was flanked by five ladies and he seemed to be enjoying every moment of it. Quite reminiscent of Naan Avanillai (2007) which was a hit of sorts. So, we are having a sequel to a hit. In other film industries, this would not be much of a news. But, it is in Tamil because strangely Kollywood has never got into the habit of making sequels or series. Of course, there have been rare exceptions, but the general unwritten rule seems to be that Kollywood is not interested in sequels or series.

Why is it so strange? That is because almost every big film industry of the world has realized the trade advantages of sequels and made a lot of progress by this means. Sequels (they are made only for hit movies) or series (of a hugely popular franchise) have been easy money spinners for many a film industry. How else can one explain Hollywood’s unending interest in keeping even its oldest sequels and franchises alive at present? It is not nostalgia

or sentiments that are behind the fact that an Indiana Jones script still finds Hollywood studios that are willing to spend millions. Same holds true for the James Bond (perhaps the most popular and long standing franchise in the world) which has stood for nearly 50 years and seen 6 actors playing the secret agent who has the license to kill. Terminator still finds willing producers (i.e. even after Arnold quit acting for politics), Die Hard cannot still be ruled out. Sylvester Stallone’s age did not prevent him from returning to be Rocky Balboa in 2006, nearly 30 years after he started playing the character and a year later we also had him return as Rambo. So much for the old and lasting franchises of Hollywood. Now we have the new age franchises that are holding sway.

Harry Potter is one of the biggest brands in world cinema and literature. Too sad that there is only one more film left to release. How can one forget the Lord of the Rings trilogy that mesmerized us over a period of time? Then of course there are the new age superheroes that include Spiderman, Batman, the Fantastic Four, etc… The old world Pirates of Caribbean, the Rush Hour and Shanghai series, Ocean’s Eleven and its numerical successors, and the animated series such as Ice Age, Shrek etc… The list is endless. Hollywood keeps reeling off sequels and franchises like daily bread and butter.

It is a smart and sure shot business tactic. To start with, everyone knows what to expect from a sequel or a new part of a series, there are no false expectations. The publicity and visibility factors are easily taken care of. The audiences’ familiarity with the character and his/her exploits makes publicity an almost automatic process, there is no need of really a great effort. And the biggest factor is that most of the people who liked the previous installment are sure to walk in to theaters to catch up with the new one. Failure of a previous installment would put the current one into trouble. And, the Hollywood bosses seem to know exactly when the steam has run out of a franchise. That is why there was no more Matrix after the third one. Pirates of Caribbean too was put to rest for similar reasons. Now there is a bit of a noise about a possible fourth one coming up which means that they were lying low and biding time for the audience to forget the downer that the previous installment was, leaving only the witty images of Captain Jack Sparrow.

There is no doubt that well planned sequels and franchises can be sure shot money spinners for any industry. Even in India, there are industries that have used this to some extent. Bollywood has had a few smartly executed sequels and franchises. Sarkar and Sarkar Raj may not have exactly been blockbusters but they did manage to do well considering the genre that they belonged to. Munna Bhai was on song in both the movies that he featured and Ajay Devgan seems to be making it a habit of doing Golmal movies along with Rohith Shetty.

Malayalam too has had its share of trysts with franchises which includes the 3 decade spanning Sethurama Iyer CBI series with Mammootty in the lead. Then there was the comic CID pairing of Mohanlal and Sreenivasan in the 80s and 90s which gave three blockbusters. And there has also been the recent trend of bringing back to life the popular characters from past superhits, like Sagar alias Jacky. There is also the hugely liked Harihar Nagar franchise which was revived recently.

In Tamil, apart from the above mentioned Naan Avanillai, one can only recall Jappanil Kalyanaraman as a sequel. There was talk about a sequel to Pulan Visaaranai but that doesn’t seem to be happening. There might be ones that have been missed but it can be said without doubt that the potential of sequels and franchises is underutilized in Tamil cinema. As a form of cinema that can maximize returns if executed fairly well enough, they ought to be popularized soon. Let’s hope that the change happens soon.

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