Pretzels and popcorn

How many sequels, threequels and crossovers can we take?

The blockbuster success of Pathaan earlier this year surely owed some of its popularity to a dazzling cameo by Salman Khan. Siddharth Anand’s espionage thriller marked the return of Shah Rukh Khan to box office glory as well as the inauguration of the “YRF Spy Universe”. Producer Yash Raj Films intends to intersect the Tiger films, starring Salman Khan, with War, starring Hrithik Roshan, and the Pathaan character played by Shah Rukh Khan.

The teaser for Tiger 3, which will be released on November 10, declares that its plot is set “following the events” of the second Tiger movie Tiger Zinda Hai, War and Pathaan. That’s a lot of homework for the viewer who only wants to watch Salman Khan play espionage agent Avinash Singh Rathore once again. 

Tiger 3.

There is no telling if the spyverse was on the mind when Ek Tha Tiger – the first YRF film in this genre – came out in 2012. Audience love for the above-mentioned films perhaps makes a crossover inevitable. But how will the makers deal with the fact that give or take a few elements, all the movies share similarities – high-achieving spies who single-handedly thwart enemies, high-octane action, exotic locations? 

If Tiger was a patriot, he is now being called a traitor. Hrithik Roshan’s Kabir, from War, was similarly accused of going rogue. Pathaan briefly pretended to go off the grid in order to get closer to his adversary. What’s next? Tiger and Pathaan versus Kabir? Tiger and Kabir making common cause against Pathaan? Kabir, Pathaan and Tiger in a slo-mo walk against a fourth hero? Once these permutations and combinations have been exhausted, perhaps the films could link up with the Dhoom franchise to keep things interesting.

This kind of pretzel-shaped cinema can be blamed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is at least based on comic books that had already started crossing over characters. The stultifying nature of MCU movies, in which only the costumes and superpowers are different, should give our local crossover champions pause for thought.

A “universe” is a nifty gimmick to extend a movie’s lifespan without working too hard on creating a new world. This type of film gussies up the multi-starrer productions of the past. Rather than making a new, single film with a movie star, it’s easier to throw in a couple more actors for a whistle-worthy  group hug moment.

YRF is hardly alone in thinking of ways to extend the stickiness of popular films. In Tamil cinema, Lokesh Kanagaraj is immodestly working on the “Lokesh Cinematic Universe”, which will tie together his Kaithi, Vikram, and subsequent movies. Kanagaraj has at least bothered to create distinctive characters, unlike Rohit Shetty’s “Cop Universe” which links the similarly themed Singham movies Simmba and Sooryavanshi.

Alongside this universe-building, we have sequels and threequels to movies that don’t always deserve them. As if the never-ending slew of Golmaals, Dhamaals and Fukreys wasn’t bad enough, we are now expected to make notes while watching movies in case they decide to meet up in the future. It’s enough to make you cross-eyed.

A watching guide for a long weekend

Since we can’t escape the film series, here are a few for the weekend that extends until October 2.

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy is one of the most brilliant triptychs in cinema. Each of the films represents a colour in the French flag and loosely explores the values each of these colours represents.

In Blue, a woman played indelibly by Juliette Binoche tries to free herself from the trauma of having lost her husband and daughter in an automobile accident. In the darkly comic White, a man who lost everything, especially the woman he loves, decides to take back his life by hook or by crook. Red has echoes of Kieslowski’s masterpiece The Double Life of Veronique, as connections emerge between two disparate characters. The trilogy is available on MUBI.

Three Colours.

Prime Video has Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, comprising A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Set in the American Wild West, these films feature rugged loners, eccentric locals, innovative widescreen cinematography, and a mood of consistent delirium.

Netflix has Election and Election 2. Both films, by acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To, examine the power dynamics within a powerful triad. If the first film crackles with double-crosses and tension, the sequel is a meditation on what it means to win at great cost.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy is now old enough to be the kind of thing that you have read about but not seen. Coppola’s sprawling account of the Corleone clan, a fictitious Mafia family in New York City, marries crime, politics, family values and moral dilemmas in a manner that has been widely imitated since. While parts one and 2 are on both Prime Video and Netflix, part three – the weakest in the set and only for completists – can be rented from Prime Video. Jio Cinema has The Offer, an entertaining series on the making of The Godfather.

 The Offer.

Reading about the movies

Waheeda Rehman has been bestowed with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. A superb actor and a charming personality, Rehman revealed unknown facets about herself in Nasreen Munni Kabir’s Conversations with Waheeda Rehman, published by Penguin Books India. In the book, Rehman talks about her formative years, her collaboration with Guru Dutt, her experience with Satyajit Ray, and the personal relationships that continue to shape her.

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