Wonder Woman and Bollywood's confusion around spin-offs, sequels, reboots, remakes

Devansh Sharma

Jun,14 2017 16:13 40 IST

Recently, films like Petty Jenkins' superhero flick Wonder Woman and Shivam Nair's action thriller Naam Shabana, have made waves not only because of their author-backed protagonists but also because they introduced the Indian audience to the term 'spin-off'.

A friend, who is an avid Hindi cinema buff, but not quite familiar with international cinema, assumed that spin-off is just one of the action moves that Taapsee Pannu's character in Naam Shabana delivers. Little did he know that the word would come back to haunt him a few days later after the release of Wonder Woman and ahead of the world television premiere of Naam Shabana.

A still from Naam Shabana.

"So you mean Naam Shabana is a prequel of Baby? Is that what a spin-off implies," he asks, while pointing out at the rushes of the film on television.

"Not necessarily. A spin-off revolves around a specific character or a plot point. But a prequel may deal with the larger picture set in a time that precedes the time in which the first film is set. For example, X-Men: First Class is a prequel to X-Men," I explained only to realise that my attentive listener is not informed about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"All this is just spinning off my head. Never mind."

So I go ahead and take another shot. "You know how they do flashbacks in Hindi cinema? So a prequel is a film dedicated entirely to a flashback," I said, as he nodded.

While spin-offs and prequels are rather new to the Hindi cinema terminology, there have always been popular franchises or film series. Though the trend of turning every successful film into a franchise has only started now, Hindi cinema has been churning out franchises since the 1930s.

Homi Wadia is credited with directing the first franchise of Hindi cinema. He made the action film Hunterwali, with the 'Fearless' Nadia in 1935, followed by its sequel Hunterwali Ki Beti in 1943. The next decade, Satyajit Ray came up with the Apu trilogy which received critical acclaim across the globe.

While those were sequels in their truest sense, the same is not the case with the majority of so-called 'sequels' today. A sequel continues the narrative from the point where the first part ended. A perfect example of a sequel is Baahubali 2: The Conclusion which took off right from where Baahubali: The Beginning ended.

One of the poster's of Baahubali 2.

However, films like Golmaal 3, Great Grand Masti or Aashiqui 2 are not sequels though their titles suggest so. They may share a few characters or may be set in the same universe but if they do not carry forward the narrative, they do not qualify to be called sequels.

The most recent example is that of Subhash Kapoor's courtroom drama Jolly LLB 2 that released earlier this year. While it was touted as the sequel to the 2013 National Award-winning film, it was in fact a reboot. A reboot is different from a sequel in terms of having no association with the storyline of the previous part. It may have a few common characteristics but will always start from a fresh page.

Though David Dhawan's upcoming comedy Judwaa 2 has the numeral '2' at the end of its title, it is actually a reboot of the first part since it claims that the narrative is not the same as the first one. However, this reboot should not be confused with a remake as the latter is merely a modern retelling of an old film. Though the two Judwaa films are almost two decades apart, the second part is a reboot and not a remake of the first part, owing to a fresh narrative yet a similar theme.

Remakes, however, can also be retelling of the original film in a different context. For example, Tubelight is a Hindi remake of the Mexican film Little Boy but the characters, setting and backdrop are quite different. However, that does not make Tubelight a reboot, because it is likely to follow a similar story structure.

Salman Khan in Tubelight.

After an hour long discussion with my friend, who was completely baffled by the jargon fired incessantly at him, I began regretting that I indulged in a futile conversation... till he stared out of the window and asked hesitantly, "So Shah Rukh Khan's Don is a remake of Amitabh Bachchan's Don but Don 2 is a reboot of the old Don?"

I take ten seconds to join the dot and nod in agreement. Mission accomplished!