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Are Bollywood’s Cinematic Universes the Industry’s Next Big Thing?


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Are Bollywood’s Cinematic Universes the Industry’s Next Big Thing?

Mirroring Hollywood’s ‘cinematic universe’ concept, Bollywood now boasts of not one, but of at least 4 such independent universes. The idea, popularized by Marvel studios leaving tidbits of future projects in their movies and shows, has only just gathered speed in India. There’s Rohit Shetty’s CopVerse, Dharma Productions’ Astraverse, Yash Raj Films’ Spyverse and Maddock Films’ Supernatural universe. It is interesting to see how the foreign trend is playing out in India, and whether this has any scope in Bollywood.

How Bollywood’s Cinematic Universes came to be

A cinematic universe involves a series of films being loosely interconnected with each other, irrespective of the order they are released in. This involves connecting individual franchises to each other, becoming a new collective franchise. Marvel started with Hulk, saw a stagnant period and then shot to success with Iron Man, and then added Captain America to the mix. The franchise then brought in other superheroes, until they culminated in The Avengers, where they collectively meet for the first time. And since then, Marvel has always banked on adding elements that are distantly related to each other in the bigger picture, who will gather to solve a pressing problem in the future. 

In India, the idea was picked up much later on, when the constituting franchises were existing as standalone ones. Only now are they being connected with other similar elements. For example, Rohit Shetty’s CopVerse was limited to the Singham franchise that had only 2 movies. It was only in Simmba that Shetty decided to bring back Singham, who last solo appearance was in 2014’s Singham 2. Shetty also introduced ACP Veer Sooryavanshi in Simmba. The three then appeared together in Shetty’s Sooryavanshi in 2021. By logic, this becomes Bollywood’s first cinematic universe.

This is also the case with the Spy Universe, which only had the 2 Tiger movies (Ek Tha Tiger, Tiger Zinda Hai), and 1 featuring Kabir Dhaliwal (War). In 2023, YRF decided to formally combine the franchises into the SpyVerse in the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan. The only Bollywood universe that was confirmed with its very first movie is the Astraverse, which is only constituted by the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Bramhastra as of now. 

The concept is still fresh in India

To build a universe might be easy, but to maintain it will always be a test of time. Marvel itself is struggling to get audiences back after a series of flops, given the exits of their major characters. The universe seems to have become too exhaustive for Marvel fans now. Bollywood universes are still seeing a hype because of how young they are, and the potential they promise to their viewers. Pathaan, for example, had audiences screaming in excitement when Tiger pitched in. Salman Khan reprised the role 6 years after Tiger Zinda Hai. Pathaan also borrowed from Marvel the post-credits scene idea, which hinted at a possible collaboration between the two spies in the future. And lo and behold, the duo was seen together again in Tiger 3. This universe is still very new, with some more characters to join later on. Rumours say Alia Bhatt will be the next addition to this universe. Deepika Padukone will star in the next CopVerse film, and Maddock Films’ Munjya joins the supernatural universe that comprises of the Stree movies and Bhediya. 

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What is working for Bollywood’s Cinematic Universes

Unlike Marvel, Bollywood universes are smaller and easier to handle. The production companies of each Indian cinematic universe are also handling loads of other projects, apart from these universes. And they are not as regular as Marvel needs to be. The studio has no other purpose but to contribute to its universe. Bollywood universes are working at a relatively slower pace, and no one seems to complain about it. 

Bollywood works on a system entirely different to that of Hollywood. India prefers its entertainment in its own unique way, and has different likes and dislikes. Nobody knows what will become the next big hit, but the formula for success remains the same: novelty. That is how the universe concept became a hit in India. It will probably never acquire the same stature as its Hollywood counterpart. And perhaps, that is what works for the success of Bollywood’s cinematic universes.

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