Is Bollywood losing the plot over franchises?

Raaz: Reboot is the latest to let down the legacy of a popular franchise, like Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 and Great Grand Masti, earlier this year

A still from the recently released Emraan Hashmi-starrer ‘Raaz Reboot’.
A still from the recently released Emraan Hashmi-starrer ‘Raaz Reboot’.

New Delhi: Last Friday’s release, Raaz: Reboot, the fourth instalment of Vishesh Films’s horror film series Raaz, made Rs.18.09 crore in its opening weekend. Audience response to the Emraan Hashmi-starrer, trade experts agree, has been tepid especially considering that the previous films in the series, Raaz (2002), Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009) and Raaz 3 (2012) netted Rs.20.43 crore, Rs.29.8 crore and Rs.70.07 crore at the box-office, respectively.

The horror flick is not alone in letting down the legacy of a popular franchise. Earlier in the year, franchise films like Kya Kool Hain Hum 3, Great Grand Masti, Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive and 1920: London couldn’t set the cash registers ringing either, only managing box office collections of Rs.30.25 crore, Rs.13.59 crore, Rs.1.76 crore and Rs.15.42 crore, respectively.

It’s not a failure of the franchise model itself which benefits naturally from a built-in audience and fan base and the likelihood of the film turning out to be good increases, said Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures.

“It’s always easier to work around and attract people with known subjects, be it a book, play or something that has seen success at the box office. So I don’t think the franchise model itself is going out of business or losing favour with audiences,” Gianchandani said.

He cited the Dhoom, ABCD and Munnabhai series as examples of successful projects that have carried on the goodwill and curiosity of their respective franchises.

“Some recent films may not have resonated with audiences or have had new elements to offer instead of rehashing what has already been successful in the first part,” he pointed out.

The problem though, may be slightly deeper and have to do with the understanding of a sequel or franchise itself.

“I think the first thing we have to see is that in India, I don’t think they have understood the concept of a franchise because these films are not related to each other at all and the audience has understood this,” said film critic Raja Sen.

The point of a sequel or a franchise, Sen said, is that it takes the characters up to a certain level and then gives the same characters and names, a different set of circumstances, a different world to play in and to take the story forward.

“But in this case, just because you have Emraan Hashmi in each of the Raazs and you give it a ridiculous name like Raaz: Reboot, why would the public want to go and watch it? For them, it’s just another film pretending to be Raaz. There is no reason for Raaz or Murder or any of these films to even be called a franchise. So I think the problem is not with sequels or franchises as a whole, but in India we’re not making proper sequels,” Sen added.

Industry experts agree there is much to learn from Hollywood when it comes to creating and sustaining franchises which stems from their experience in the genre.

“In India, we have gone into sequels only in the past six-seven years whereas they have much more expertise in creating IPs and milking them,” Gianchandani said. “Not just through sequels but prequels, resurrections like The Magnificent Seven and Ghostbusters and new concepts like the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films based on the Harry Potter world.”

As Sen puts it, despite filmmakers trying very hard to convince the audience that the new film is the same as the old successful outing, people are very tired and aware that there is no real reason behind them going to watch something that doesn’t promise anything new. With the exception of something like Dhoom, which in the spirit of a proper franchise, has the same two characters and dynamic and different adventures happening to them. In that case, there is a connection and that connection is rewarded—every Dhoom has gotten bigger, is marketed bigger, and works better.

“You can’t just milk a franchise for the sake of it,” agreed Gianchandani. “There are certain stories that don’t lend themselves to a franchise and filmmakers and studios have to be careful. There has to be a powerful and meaningful reason to take the characters and story forward. Only the thought of a franchise is not sufficient.”

All figures in this story have been sourced from movie websites Bollywood Hungama, IBOS Network and Box Office India.

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