The first look of an Imtiaz Ali film is always highly anticipated. In the case of his latest – Love Aaj Kal, more so because there has been a lot of online buzz over the past few weeks about what the film would be called.
The ‘original’ Love Aaj Kal had Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone essay the title roles, while this one has Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan. So why is everyone calling it a sequel? Maybe it is because our collective media dubbed it Love Aaj Kal 2 in the absence of an official title. For the longest time, I could not wrap my head around a sequel that did not feature the original actors —is a sequel not, after all, supposed to take a story forward? Unless this is one of those ‘saat janmon ka rishta’ thingamajigs, where Saif gets reborn with more hair. Well, who knows?
Now that the makers have settled on the same title as the 2009 film, one can confidently walk into a theatre knowing it is a reboot. Or is it? What if it is a reimagining? Or a remake?
Damn. All this Hollywood terminology is so confusing. Which is why we in Bollywood, use the word sequel to describe any and every film in a franchise. Take Dostana 2, for example. The upcoming film features Kartik Aaryan, Janhvi Kapoor, and Lakshya in the lead roles. Again, unless the characters played by John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Abhishek Bachchan had kids that have grown up to be 20-somethings in the last dozen years, it seems strange the studio would append a ‘2’ after the original title. But that is what they are calling it. Go figure.
This ambiguity creates an element of suspense Hollywood totally seems to have missed out on. I will be going to watch Dostana 2 knowing it has got something to do with the original, but will not know whether it is a case of new actors in a new story or new actors living in the same Miami apartment. Will they wear the same Manish Malhotra threads? And, more importantly, will they dance to a Tanishk Bagchi remix of ‘Desi Girl?’
As a true-blue believer in all things Bollywood though, I think, it is important to understand what I am dissing on the other side.
Hollywood reserves the word sequel for the continuation of a story. Studios add numbers like 2, 3, 4… to the original title in order to make it clear to people that what they are going to watch begins where they left off the last time. If you think about it, though, this shows an utter lack of imagination, and dumbs things down. Where is the fun in that?
Hollywood also loves a good prequel, where you dial back the story in time, and finish the new story where the old one begins. Sometimes, the prequels can have second and third parts, which are technically still prequels to the originals, but sequels to previously released prequels, as George Lucas (Star Wars) would tell you. And because they are spoilsports, they numbered the films with Episode numbers. A totally lost opportunity if you ask me. It would have been so much fun had they just announced every film saying it is a prequel/sequel, and let the audience figure which is which.
They also have spin-offs, which focus on aspects and characters that did not get much footage in the original story, but got uber-positive vibes from controlled audience tests conducted by their research teams. Take Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. When Harry Potter was done killing Voldemort, one would have thought that is the end of that cash cow. But Warner Bros and author JK Rowling were not ready to give up yet. They took a 12,000-word book, and announced a five-film series around it. See? Capitalism at work. However, they could have spiced things up a little bit more by calling it a sequel, and letting us imagine everything from Harry’s newfound interest in bestiality to the return of Voldemort as a dragon. No?
There are also remakes which essentially tell the same story, but with CGI. And then there are reimaginings, something Disney has built an empire around — take an old story, change one major thing, and you have got yourself a new Cinderella. So, what is a reboot then? This one is actually complicated. Here, the writers can either take an existing story and mess with the continuity, thereby creating a new status quo, or reconfigure the entire story. I am not sure I get it either, which is why I love Bollywood, and how it refuses to get caught up in semantics. Everything is a ‘sequel,’ deal with it. Even when none of the Housefull films have anything to do with each other.