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PS2's Success Will Spur Even More Sequels (& The Overuse Of A Formula?)

The film industries based in South India have seen a series of successful sequels in recent years. But a sequel must be merited, and not meant as a cash grab, opines Karthik Keramalu.

PS2's Success Will Spur Even More Sequels (& The Overuse Of A Formula?)

Ponniyin Selvan is among the films whose sequel naturally follows from the original.

  • Team OTTplay

Last Updated: 10.46 AM, May 07, 2023

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SEQUELS are double-edged swords. I wouldn’t put it any other way. They will either be remembered as blistering successes, or pushed to the realms of obscurity. In recent times, there has been a significant rise in sequels in Indian cinema, especially in the South. While some of them have brought in new viewers and expanded their popularity, many of them have been the target of mockery for being utterly unambitious.

For better or worse, when it comes to a two-part narrative, my mind lights up with the gorgeous sets from SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali. You see, Baahubali: The Beginning is incomplete without Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. They have to be discussed and analysed together as they both live under the same roof rather than the same universe. Of course, Baahubali 2 is better than the first part because it is tighter (with regard to the screenplay) and more confident about where it’s going. But it cannot be viewed in isolation. This caveat can also be applied to Prashanth Neel’s KGF movies and Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan: I & II.

Since summers have become synonymous with epics, Ponniyin Selvan: II was bound to keep us engrossed one way or another. Moreover, who wouldn’t be interested in a drama about warring kingdoms from a thousand years ago? Perhaps, the biggest similarity between Rajamouli and Ratnam is their uncanny ability to deliver beyond the expectations held by their fans. But the similarity oddly ends there, as they tell stories differently. If Rajamouli has never failed to craft amazing stunts, Ratnam has never lagged behind in the department of creating – and defusing – resentment between siblings (Agni Natchathiram), friends (Thalapathi), and lovers (Alaipayuthey).

Kamal Haasan's Vikram
Kamal Haasan's Vikram

Although there’s a full-on action episode in the final moments of Ponniyin Selvan: II, it is not the area that Ratnam willingly highlights. The filmmaker seems to give more importance to the scene where Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) confronts his former love Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) in order to unpack his unhealed wounds. In an otherwise briskly paced movie, this is also the only place where the leads take a pause to examine their dilemma.

Karikalan is a warrior who’s frequently praised for his valour, but he still appears as vulnerable as a lost child in front of Nandini because he’s never been able to forget her. Needless to say, this is the battle that he ultimately loses. Alas, unrequited love turns out to be deadlier than anything else. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any expectations while walking into Ponniyin Selvan: II last week, but when I watched the Cholas run from pillar to post without indulging in too much hand-to-hand combat, I was astounded by Ratnam’s inventiveness.

Allu Arjun in and as Pushpa
Allu Arjun in and as Pushpa

I had the same feeling when I caught Drishyam 2 on Amazon Prime Video two years earlier. Even in this Malayalam crime thriller, directed by Jeethu Joseph, the domestic life of Georgekutty (Mohanlal) becomes the focus of the narrative for the most part.

Drishyam, however, can very well survive without its sequel. And I’ll even include Pushpa: The Rise as another stellar example here. I’m thoroughly aware that the eponymous protagonist (played by Allu Arjun) is set to return in Pushpa 2: The Rule, but whatever he does next will more or less act as an extension of his eagerness to wade in murky waters. Haven’t we already witnessed his might in Pushpa?

But this is how most of the sequels are made. They do not always take off right from the climactic portions of their predecessors, as their agendas and selling points will be different. In Telugu, HIT: The Second Case was only tangentially connected to HIT: The First Case. Likewise, there are a few blockbusters that appear to be purely distant cousins, such as Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Vikram in which Kamal Haasan reprises his role from the 1986 movie of the same name. But, in the updated version, his character doesn’t deal with the problems from his past since its story is related to the 2019 Tamil movie Kaithi.

All these movies have won appreciation from numerous pockets of the country and the globe. Nevertheless, for every great sequel, there are at least three terrible ones that you have to stay away from. Saamy Square has no reason really to exist, and neither does Billa II. One can also say that about Sardaar Gabbar Singh and Kick 2 from Telugu cinema. If sequels and cinematic universes are what Indian filmmakers are betting on in the future, I hope they bring a lot of novelty to the cultural table so that it will keep the entertainment space free from mundanity.