Ever since actor Akshay Kumar confirmed the news of him stepping back from the Hera Pheri franchise, social media has been buzzing with the ‘No Akshay, No Hera Pheri’ trend, initiating conversation around the viability of taking forward such franchises without actors redeeming their iconic characters. And, according to people from the industry, getting the original cast is always the best bet.
Last week, Kumar confirmed that he is moving away from the planned Hera Pheri instalment due to some creative issues. Sometime back there were reports suggesting that actor Salman Khan has distanced himself from the No Entry sequel. Earlier this year, Sanjay Dutt had revealed that he is working on the third part of Munna Bhai franchise, which was lauded by his fans through social media.
“When it comes to commercial viability, the makers always prefer to get the original cast back. And that should be the way because that is the essence of a franchise. But when things don’t fall to the desired places they have to look for an alternative way, which seems safe to them commercially. Sometimes the makers wait for a long time for the original cast, but if they find a safe alternate, they also want to go ahead and explore it. Safe is the key word here,” says director Anees Bazmee, who revived the Bhool Bhulaiyaa franchise with a new cast.
Actor Suniel Shetty is upset about the new development, and says, “I am not happy about it. It hurts. 14 saal toh humne vanvas kaat liye, uske baad bhi problem ho toh it hurts. We need to sit and talk. We all are mature adults, and fins a way through”.
“I have committed and I have to stay committed. So let’s see what happens. I will talk to them after November 20. As far as I’m concerned, all three are committed to the film… And Kartik is not playing Raju’s character. That is a completely different character which is coming to the movie, which is also very exciting,” he adds.
Opening up about the business game, actor Gulshan Grover shares, “First, I have to say that Hera Pheri without Akshay is unthinkable. If we talk about the commercial variability, both points have proven to be right in the past. If you look at franchises such as Superman, actors change at a certain stage, and the franchise has done well. Many times senior actors stay in the film, and sometimes the franchise moves on to another person.”
“In the Hera Pheri case, the film is identified with its characters, so it will be fantastic to see them back, because these characters have remained in the minds of audiences. So, getting the original cast in such cases is the best scenario,” he adds.
Actor Tusshar Kapoor picks the example of the Golmaal franchise to stress that having an original cast for a franchise is important, saying, “I don’t know about the commercial viability in such cases, what will happen or not. Rohit Shetty was the star of the franchise for us, and I can only hope he casts us all together if he is planning to go forward”.
Here, actor Paresh Rawal reveals that most actors stay away from such creative decisions. “Audience ko kuch naya milega Hera Pheri 3 mien… But the decisions of who to get back, and commercial sense is something which the producers, writers and director take. I don’t like to think about it, and focus on my craft,” he says.
When it comes to starting a new chapter with new faces in the franchise universe, the past examples highlight that it comes as a big gamble, with Bhool Bhulaiyaa with Kartik Aaryan turning out to be a success, but Race 3 with Salman Khan tanking at the box office.
Producer Ramesh Taurani, known for backing projects such as Race, Raaz and Ishq Vishk, asserts that script plays a bigger role in such cases. “Yes, stakes are higher when revisiting projects without their faces, but script is the only way to evade it. The plan of action is very subjective and differs film to film. But in the end it depends on the script,” he says.
However, Bazmee feels going high on nostalgia and retaining the essence of the previous part is also a way forward, and something that worked for him with Bhool Bhulaiyaa.
“For instance, the film had the haveli, some songs, ghungru, Rajasthan.. I retained the essence, so that people are reminded of the first part, which is why I guess even though the characters and story were different, audiences accepted it,” he says.
Even Grover feels in such cases continuation of the same story should not be the way forward. “Having the same team is a great asset for the franchise, but if it is not there, something new can help,” Grover shares.
If we talk about the risk, Bazmee reveals the stakes are a bit high, and backing of strong content is something which everyone leans towards. “Koi bhi movie banane mein bahut risk hai, because we don’t know what will work and what won’t. So, one has to focus on script and take a calculative risk,” he says.