As directors multiply a single plot and stretch it into seemingly interminable series of films, we look back at the first and, in their time, only ones of their kind.
The earliest sequels in Hindi cinema
Mumbai - 20 Jan 2016 15:44 IST
Sequels are defined as films that contain plots, narratives, storylines that continue or develop further in the next film. Dabbang, Murder, Hate Story, Golmaal have all morphed into blockbuster sequels and 'threequels' making it the most popular formula in the Indian film industry. But it would be unfair to lay the blame on Indian films when Fast and the Furious moves into its sixth stage of evolution. For those attributing this to a cultural change among audiences, or lethargy among filmmakers, the trend of sequels is not modern in its origin. Or at least, it was not invented in the 21st century.
One of the earliest examples of a sequel film dates back to 1935. Mohan Sinha made his directorial debut in 1935 with 'Fashionable India' a moral taleabout the changing mores and fashions of an increasingly westernised country. Synopses on the internet describe the film as being a 'musical spectacular' with special tricks in photography and effects. The film starred Pushpa and RD Shukla in leading roles, and the famous villain making his debut under the credit OK Dhar. Mohan Sinha followed it up with a sequel, a first of its sort, 'Romantic India'. Where the previous film ended with Jeevan or OK Dhar as credited, the sequel focused on the idea of feudal pleasures against the idea of a romantic life in America. It had everything that would appeal to a modern audience of the time - pilots, a rebellious, educated princess, and an adventure aboard a zeppelin. Jeevan lives out the dream role as the adventurous pilot, long before his stereotyped presence on Indian film screens as the leery villain.
Although the glass ceiling of sequels had been broached, directors never experimented with the format for a while. The next film that was to be turned into a sequel was Vijay Anand's thrilling Jewel Thief. The sequel took 3 decades in the making and was so radically different, not better, from its original that its cinematic genealogy hung by the slim threads of Dev Anand and Ashok Kumar. It took another decade and a half before Hindi cinema could come up with one of its most successful and memorable sequels. Sridevi's arrival as the dancing snake queen was spectacular. Cast opposite Rishi Kapoor, Sridevi was all mystery and magic. Her climactic dance 'Main teri dushman' opposite the menacing eyes of Amrish Puri remains the most memorable dance performance this side of Waheeda Rehman's intoxicating snake dance in Guide. For anyone familiar with the story of snakes in India, rebirths are mandatory. This led to the sequel Nigahen, this time with an angry Sunny Deol opposite Sridevi. The film was one of the most successful sequels of its time.
One debate that dates back to the first sequels is the ability of the writer to manufacture new plots and characters for a film. Since then, critics have remarked that sequels are nothing but products of a tired imagination. However, it is important to note that sequels are commonly used as a revenue churner for the filmmaker or the production house. When a production house is in the green, it can risk the development of new stories, riskier films without worrying about their damage on the revenue. In its leaner time, a production house would choose to replicate, or try to replicate, the success achieved with a previous plot or character. Although there are occasions when sequels have emerged as the more successful venture, critically and commercially. In either case, the sequel remains the most underused weapon in the filmmaker's arsenal.