The story of sequels in Malayalam cinema

Megastar Mammootty dons the lead role in the CBI movie (screengrab).

SN Swamy might have got tired of being asked when he is planning to write a sequel to ‘CBI 5’. Interestingly Swami acknowledges that they are probably asking him out of love. “I took eight years to finish ‘CBI5’. Now let me rest for some time,” Swamy tells us.

'CBI 5' came 17 years after the last CBI film which was 'Nerariyan CBI'. In between K Madhu directed 4 or 5 films. And SN Swamy wrote scripts for at least 8 to 10 films.

Lokesh Kanakaraj wasn’t even born when Kamal Haasan’s first ‘Vikram’ (1986) was released. And the same Lokesh made a film with the same Kamal Haasan with the same title ‘Vikram’ 36 years later.

It was just a few days back that Jayaraj had announced a sequel to ‘Highway’ with Suresh Gopy. ‘Highway’ was released 27 years ago with Suresh Gopy in the lead. And the same Jayaraj has been contemplating making a sequel to his successful Mammootty film ‘Johny Walker’ for the last 4-5 years. Director Sunil has already announced a sequel to the 1995 Babu Antony film, ‘Chantha’. We keep hearing about sequels to ‘CID Moosa’ and ‘Big B too’.

CBI won't take all the cases

SN Swamy who has written the maximum number of sequels in Malayalam cinema acknowledges that it was easier to write an original story than write a sequel to a previously successful film. The audience will be expecting a lot. They will have the earlier characters' traits and mannerisms in their mind. Especially when the genre is an investigative thriller. Between 'CBI 2' and 'CBI 3', K Madhu-SN Swamy and Mammootty came together for 3 or 4 films. And all of them were investigative thrillers. But even then Swamy wasn’t prepared to translate them into a CBI film. In fact, K Madhu had asked him if they should pitch those stories into CBI films. But Swamy reasoned that it wasn’t time yet for CBI films.

Swamy also confides that though he has written a lot of sequels he isn’t really keen on writing them.

Ramji Rao? Sorry, wrong number

Siddique and Lal get at least one phone call a month requesting a sequel to 'Ramji Rao Speaking'. Though they scripted the second part of 'Ramji Rao Speaking' titled 'Mannar Mathai speaking' for Mani C Kappan, Siddique isn’t keen on sequels. Siddique believes that it doesn’t take much creativity to write a sequel to a successful film. He loves the prospect of writing original characters and stories. It challenges the creativity of directors and writers. While writing a sequel, you don’t really need to introduce the characters to the audience. You only need to go straight to the story. And he isn’t interested in such shortcuts for now.

Sequels are raining in Malayalam

Even before 'CBI 5' there were discussions around doing a sequel to 'Big B' and 'Lucifer', it wasn’t until the success of 'Vikram' that the concept of sequels started trending in Malayalam cinema.

This discussion comes at a time when Malayalam’s first-ever successful sequel is celebrating its golden jubilee. ‘Udyogastha Venu’ directed by P Venu was the first pucca Malayalam sequel to the CID Nazir series. 'CID Nazir' headlining Prem Nazir came in 1971. The very next year a sequel called ‘Taxi car’ was released. The third part called ‘Prethangalude Thazhvara’ which was released the next year had Raghavan instead of Nazir. The first two CID films made in the James Bond model were huge hits.

Most people mention “Anavalarthiya Vanambadiyude Makan’ directed by P Subramyam in 1971 as the first sequel film in Malayalam. It is a sequel to the 1959 film 'Vanambadiyude Makan'. But both were bilingual films (Tamil and Malayalam). Vanambadi’s Tamil version was first released in Malayalam. Prem Navas was the hero in 'Vanambadi' and Gemini Ganeshan was the hero in the Tamil version called ‘Makan.’

What Madhavan Kutty said before death

“Don’t stop with my death. Make sure you continue with the good work-” there was only one hero who said that before his death in Malayalam cinema. It was journalist Madhavan Kutty in the IV Sasi-Damodaran master film ‘Vaartha’ (1986). There isn’t a more successful journalist than Madhavan Kutty in Malayalam cinema (GK in 'New Delhi' was known for his revenge than his journalism skills).

It was when he was planning to uncover corruption charges against the rich and powerful that he gets shot dead. Though his car containing the secret document gets bombed Madhavan Kutty instructs Rahman to safeguard the documents. Even when he is about to die, he takes out a pen from his pocket and hands it over to his colleague played by Nalini, and tells her to continue this journey before breathing his last. The film ends with the reminder that ‘Vaartha isn’t doing to end here.” After 'Vaartha', IV Sasi and T Damodaran made a dozen films and also made sequels to 'Aavanazhi'. But Vaartha despite the promise never got a sequel. T Damodaran’s daughter Deedi Damodaran admits that her father was planning a sequel to 'Vaartha' before his death.

IV Sasi-T Damodaran cinematic universe

Ever since the success of 'Vikram', Lokesh Kanakaraj’s cinematic universe is widely discussed today. That, some of his characters and situations are appearing in 'Vikram' is also a point of discussion. Though there is a mention of Kamal’s old film 'Vikram' in the new 'Vikram', no one is really talking about Kamal’s cinematic universe. Even the new Vikram story was Kamal Haasan’s, which he discarded while thinking of a story for his old 'Vikram' film. But much before all that, it was IV Sasi and T Damodaran who made a unique cinematic universe in Malayalam cinema. They would put together several characters in one frame and make several successful mass films. Though the story and characters were different, there was something that connected them together. Most of the stories were set in the backdrop of Kozhikode’s Valiyangadi.

Even Mani Ratnam tried his hand in that cinematic universe before making films in Tamil. Most people think the T Damodaran scripted Mohanlal film 'Unaroo' directed by Mani Ratnam is an IV Sasi film. IV Sasi’s ‘Angadi’ (1980), ‘Eenadu (1982) and Mani Ratnam’s ‘Unaroo’ are considered companion pieces in the T Damodaran cinematic universe. 

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