Bollywood explores Universes and Franchises!

Bollywood explores Universes and Franchises!
By: TOI Entertainment Posted On: June 11, 2024 View: 8

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has captivated viewers with its interconnected storylines, recurring characters, and crossover events. Bollywood has been following suit, drawing inspiration from this model by revisiting, reimagining, and remixing its own characters and narratives. Filmmakers are delving into a realm of interconnected universes spanning diverse genres.ETimes explores the challenges, complexities, and growing trend of filmmakers embracing the franchise format in Indian cinema.
Meet the universes - Spies, Horror and Cop drama!
While Yash Raj Films has championed the Spy Universe with Tiger, Pathaan and War… Rohit Shetty is marching ahead with his cop squad of Singham, Simbaa and Sooryavanshi. Maddock Films hit the jackpot with Stree and toed the line of horrors with Roohi, Bhediya and Munjya.


“Jumping into each other's world It's a good idea, that's what the Spy Universe and the Cop Universe is doing, adding characters, adding faces. But at the same time you need a good story too, because it is important to introduce the characters in a very organic process. There are endless possibilities but you have to keep the main essence of the story alive,” says Amar Kaushik, the brains behind the supernatural universe.
Math is in the method
Bhool Bhulaiyaa, No Entry, Welcome… the king of comedy franchises, Anees Bazmee says that creating a universe, a franchise out of characters involves a lot of math and careful crafting of stories. He says, “Making universes happens a little mathematically, and art is not mathematical. But still you need some measure, how much art are you keeping in it and how much mathematics are you adding to it. If I am watching a Shah Rukh Khan film, and get to see Salman Khan for 15 minutes, then I will be the happiest as an audience. So you need to highlight it in the correct setting, for the correct time and woo the audience.”
And this math has to reflect in the writing, “Writing becomes even more difficult because you have to show what people like and what they don't like. It has to be calculative and at the same time, it has to be written from the heart too. When the story flows freely, the audience feel invested and there are good returns for the emotions.” Despite being a hitmakers, Anees Bazmee reveals he is tensed about his next offering ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3’, wherein he has roped in the leading lady from the first film, seemingly for recall value!

Luck by chance!
Rohit Shetty’s cop universe is one the biggest franchises and has a record of not featuring a single flop! But did you know he never thought of creating a universe out of it?
Shibashish Sarkar, Group CEO - Reliance Entertainment, reveals, “Recall value is very important for a producer as well as from an audience perspective. Did you know Bollywood's global box office successes always have some franchise films in the top 10? So for a producer, if there is an established product, which has already created a level of knack, then definitely the audience will like to come back and see what happens. But at the same time, we have also seen many franchises die a natural death, because beyond a point, you cannot extend the story."
With Singham, we did not start thinking of it as a cop universe. But after the second Singam happened, I think sometime around 2014, Rohit created Simba and then brought Ajay as Singam in the film. By that time, I think the thought processes had started of trying to look at it as a universe. And it increased further with Sooryavanshi and now Singam again, we have another two characters being introduced. We are getting into the younger lot, so that literally the franchise goes on forward. After Singam Again, there will be a call for Simbaa 2 or Sooryavanshi 2, we could explore a complete film around those characters. So, that credit goes to a writer, director, and primarily Rohit and his team.”
Supernatural Universe

Echoing similar sentiments, Amar Kaushik adds, “We never thought of making the universe, that too from a specific genre. Our universe was created gradually. More than a story It's about the character’s recall value and our characters come from myth. Your responsibility increases when you overlap characters because then you have to craft them in a certain manner. The audience’s expectations increase but it is fun.”
A tricky casting call
Mukesh Chhabra, Bollywood’s go-to casting director, reveals how the makers not just play with the interconnectedness of stories but also with the face value of stars. “There have been instances when the old characters are brought back like Vidya Balan in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3, for her recall value with the audience. Also sometimes, hit pairs of the past are seen reunited which helps again for the franchisee,” says Mukesh. Casting is like a character in itself in universes, “The makers have to keep in mind the popularity of the characters with the audience when casting the sequel or the franchise. And the story of the film also should be attractive enough to take the story and characters forward.”
And finally, how many are too many?
While we have Housefull 5 in the pipeline, Dhoom series stopped its run at 3 and Rohit Shetty has some grand plans with his cop universe and refuses to slow down anytime soon. So many is too many? Where to put the stop on the universe? Is the audience being forced to commit to memory for the sake of minting big?
Blockbuster Franchises

“Indian film producers have desperately jumped on to the universe bandwagon in order to exploit the familiarity of a project, extending franchises past their sell-by date even when the films may not be connected in anything besides their names, but they should take heed from the way Hollywood audiences seem to have tired of the Universe model and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have lost its grip on the audience. There is definitely some novelty and crossover value between interconnected films, and Salman Khan's cameo was certainly the best part of Pathaan, but Shah Rukh's appearance didn't do anything for Tiger 3. 'Sirf naam hi kaafi hai'? Not really,” critiques industry expert and script writer Raja Sen.
Countering it, Amar Kaushik adds, “I believe the films can be unlimited as long as the character pleases the audience. You can't give numbers to a franchise or universe.”

Discovering the Dark Side: Horror Comedy vs. True Terror with Munjya cast Mona Singh, Sharvari Wagh and Abhay Verma

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