‘Dhoom 3’: Are sequels a safe bet?https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/dhoom-3-are-sequels-a-safe-bet/

‘Dhoom 3’: Are sequels a safe bet?

‘Dhoom 3’ flags a trend in big-budget Hindi films.

‘Dhoom 3’ flags a trend in big-budget Hindi films.

First Krrish 3,now Dhoom 3,sequels seem to be the flavour of the season in Hindi cinema. What is it about sequels? Any producer will tell you that as budgets get bigger,the risks borne by the film producer get larger. The best-known fact in the film industry is that you can spend all the money you want on a film and still not be able to predict how it will fare at the box office. The history of every film industry in the world is full of examples of movies that were expensive for their time and yet turned out to be duds at the box office. The textbook case is Universal Studio’s mega-budget 1995 Kevin Costner-starrer Waterworld,which did poorly in US theatres,despite its big star and futuristic action setting,and had to rely on other streams of revenue to attempt to recover costs.

To fight the spectre of risk that haunts them at every step,filmmakers employ a variety of strategies. Anything that reduces uncertainty in the minds of audiences,like bigger stars,better-known directors or even catchy music reduces the risk that the producer might not recoup his investment. Sequels are a rational strategy,because they signal to the audience that the film they’re about to see will be familiar,with all the things they loved with the previous edition — the characters,style of production and so on. Notice how films have to be successful to have sequels. Would you go to see the sequel of a film that bombed? In recent years,Hindi cinema has seen the rise of the sequel,confirming the towering position that Hindi movie budgets hold in India’s film market mosaic,and their attendant risks. But why are sequels more popular in the Hindi film industry compared to other Indian language film industries?

To answer that,we begin with the fact that India’s many film industries have produced films in about 67 languages,going by the data released by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Except for Belgium,Canada and Nigeria,no other country supports more than one language,and perhaps none quite as many languages as India.

What happens when film production occurs in so many languages within a country? For one,rather than one big monolithic national market for films in a single language,as we see in America,Germany or France,we start seeing a regional mosaic consisting of a number of smaller language markets. And then the size differences between language markets begin to come into play. Intuitively,we can agree with media economists Steven Wildman and Stephen Siwek when they point out that films produced in larger language markets are more expensive,because larger markets can support these films,and those produced in small markets are made on smaller budgets. India’s Hindi speakers make up the largest language group,feeding the Hindi film market and allowing Hindi movies to be made with much larger budgets than,say,Oriya films,which reach a smaller group of speakers.

So what kinds of films get made as budgets get bigger? Going by what media researchers Weiting Lu,D. Waterman and M.Z. Yan found while studying Hollywood films produced over four decades,such films would contain more action and more technology,with dizzying stunts,many hours of slick editing,and extravagant special effects,all of which push budgets up into the wildly expensive category. With smaller budgets,your options would include drama,which would only require talking heads and not take as much time to edit — certainly not as long as quick-paced action — and could do without special effects. Or you could do comedy,which would be pretty much the same as drama in terms of production costs. Of course,as we all know,Indian films can seldom be categorised under one genre,such as “drama”,“action” or “comedy”,since most of them have elements of all three.

With their bigger budgets,Hindi,Telugu,Tamil and Malayalam films have more action elements than Bengali and Marathi films,which are dominated by elements of drama,romance and comedy,as a recent study,which examined the genre tags of Indian films on imdb.com,found. It would be much harder to draw audiences back for sequels based on genres that are not technology heavy,such as drama. Even the drama-heavy Twilight series had plenty of stunts and special effects guaranteed to bring audiences back for more. So as Hindi film budgets get bigger,and the action elements get more spectacular,get ready to see more sequels to all your favourite films.

Sunitha Chitrapu

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The writer teaches at the social communications media department,Sophia Polytechnic

express@expressindia.com