Sunny Deol’s ‘Gadar’ Sequel, Spinoff on the Cards as Zee Studios Mulls Speciality Arthouse Division (EXCLUSIVE)

Zee Studios blockbuster “Gadar 2,” headlined by Sunny Deol, could get a third part and a spinoff, provided the story is right.

The film is already amongst the highest Indian grossers of the year with $45 million globally in just seven days of release. Written by Shaktimaan Singh and directed by Anil Sharma, “Gadar 2” is a sequel to 2001 smash hit “Gadar,” which was set after the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in the 1947-54 period. It revolved around the adventures of Tara Singh (Deol) and Sakeena (Ameesha Patel) and there was plenty of action set in Pakistan. “Gadar 2” picks up the action in 1971 against the backdrop of the India-Pakistan war and features their son Charanjeet (Utkarsh Sharma).

The film is packing it in across India, particularly attracting the mass audience in India’s heartlands, who are arriving for screening after screening by tractors and trucks. “People are dancing in the aisles while the songs are on, tickets are being sold in black, which has not happened, which I think in some 20-30 years ever since the advent of the multiplexes,” Shariq Patel, chief business officer, Zee Studios, told Variety. “It’s a crazy, crazy phenomenon, it’s just mind boggling.”

Inevitably, all eyes are now on the possibility of a “Gadar 3.” “We have to get the story. It took Anil Sharma and Shaktimaan 20 years to find the story [of “Gadar 2″]. We find the story we go fast but I am assuring you nothing will be done just for making the money and encashing the brand to get that money and then kill the franchise and kill the brand,” Patel said. “This is a true sequel. It’s on the lines of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ with the same character several years later, it’s not a franchise, we’re not creating a franchise, we’ll have to create a sequel to it. Would I love to create a Tara Singh spinoff? I’d love it. We have to figure out how to do that.”

On the arthouse front, Zee Studios has been on a roll this year with Devashish Makhija’s “Joram” selected at Rotterdam, Ashish Bende’s “Aatmapamphlet” at Berlin and Anurag Kashyap’s “Kennedy” at Cannes.

With the Sony-Zee merger finally approved, Patel has an eye on branding. “I’ve been toying with the idea of having multiple studio brands. I think it’s now time for us to have a different brand for ‘Joram’ and ‘Kennedy’ and a different brand for ‘Gadar 2,” Patel said. “I think that brand architecture post this merger is surely something’s on my agenda depending on what the revised brand is called.”

Patel’s idea is to create a brand for the films aimed at the mass audience like “Gadar 2” and several films in the Punjabi and south Indian languages that Zee Studios is backing and another label for the arthouse or middle-of-the road films favored by multiplex audiences. While the merger was pending, Zee Studios did not greenlight any new films for a while, but now with the process nearing completion, that will resume. And on top of that list are massy films.

“You just have to believe in the magic of cinema and I think that is what was increasingly getting lost,” Patel says, adding that investment is required in India’s stagnating single-screen cinemas that specialize in attracting the mass audience.

“Within the next two, three years if we continue making films, which is meant for that single-screen and making it unabashedly and making it for them – rather than being apologetic about it, that has to stop. We all have been part of this problem. We’ve created this issue for ourselves by being shy about it,” Patel said, calling for a balance between the mass blockbusters and sensible cinema.

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