The recently released multi-starrer film Vikram, directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, is setting new records the world over in terms of box-office collections. It has been picking up rave reviews as well. Besides, it has laid the path for introducing an entirely new concept – at least for Tamil cinema if not for the entire Indian film industry – the ‘cinematic universe’. Through this concept, more multi-starrer films can be expected in the future.
The four-film old Kanagaraj has carved a niche for himself in Kollywood. Barring his debut film Maanagaram (2017), all his other films deal with the narcotics mafia. Using night as a canvas, he then constructs a parallel universe, where the notions of love, friendship, revenge, etc., take on a different shade and he makes the characters loyal only to their own intuition.
This concept of creating a universe was first introduced in Hollywood by Marvel Comics in 2008. Called as ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’, the imaginative universe has more than one superhero coming together for a cause. So, in a film like The Avengers (2012), one can see superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc., from different films sharing equal screen space in one film without losing their individuality or importance. In fact, the impact of Marvel Cinematic Universe was such that in 2014, the University of Baltimore introduced a course ‘Media Genres: Media Marvels’ to study the intricately plotted world of Marvel’s cinematic universe franchise.
Kanagaraj’s Vikram, has kicked off such a possibility for an imaginative and shared universe, where some of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars can come together for a franchise.
Lokesh started to deal with the subject of drug mafia from his second film Kaithi (2019) starring Karthi, the younger brother of actor Suriya who incidentally has done a cameo in Vikram. The director has woven the script in such a way that the new film is an extension of Kaithi and by picking up a famous character agent Vikram from the 1986 Tamil film Vikram (directed by Rajasekar), he has created a universe.
This is the formula for creating a universe: a continuation of a director’s previous film, retention of lead character or characters from the director’s previous film, roping in new characters (read superheroes) from other director’s films, leaving out the possibilities for prequels or sequels and providing the freedom to introduce new characters or removing the old ones.
So, in a way, the new film Vikram can be considered the sequel to Kaithi, in one sense. It can also stand on its own as an entirely new film. Hence, there is a possibility of Vikram-2 or Kaithi-2. Since, Vikram has Suriya (whose character called Rolex has got a huge response), there is a possibility the audience can see Karthi and Suriya in what could be Kaithi-2.
But the possibilities do not end here. Director Kanagaraj has roped in Malayalam actor Fahadh Faasil, as a secret agent who is inspired by his senior Vikram (Kamal Haasan). So, there is a possibility for Vikram-2, where Fahad can play the lead battling the drug baron Rolex.
If Lokesh is willing to make an another fan boy tribute to Kamal Haasan, he can still retain agent Vikram either in Vikram-2 or in Kaithi-2, along with Karthi, Fahadh Faasil and Suriya.
There are more possibilities. Kanagaraj also focuses on minor characters like the character Anbu (played by Arjun Das) in Vikram, who was earlier seen in Kaithi, as one of the henchman with the same screen name. He was also seen in the director’s third venture Master (2021) starring Vijay. Kanagaraj can churn out a new script from the point of Anbu and if Vijay can be included (remember Vijay has played an undercover police officer in 2007 film Pokkiri), there is a possibility for Master-2.
As of now, Lokesh once tweeted that Dilli (played by Karthi in Kaithi), will return. Also, from the tweets by Kamal Haasan and Suriya, it is expected that the star cast can join hands again. So, in another couple of months or years, we can expect either Kaithi-2 or Vikram-2.
However, for Tamil cinema, has seen successful sequels like the Singam franchise by director Hari, starring Suriya as a police officer, Tamil film prequels have not been up to the mark. Director Chakri Toleti tried Billa-2, starring Ajith Kumar who played the don Billa. The film tried to show how the underworld don Billa was born and thereby it became the prequel to Billa (2007). But the film bombed at the box -office.
It is interesting to note, the 1980 film Billa starring Rajinikanth, was a remake of the Hindi film Don (1978) starring Amitabh Bachchan. It is one film which was remade, dubbed and rebooted (same story with another actor and directed by another filmmaker in a different era like Don (2006) starring Shah Rukh Khan and Billa and Billa-2 starring Ajithkumar), in many languages, more than once.
In one way, Billa had and still has possibilities for creating and continuing the cinematic universe. Who knows, if any other director takes inspiration from Vikram (2022) or if Kanagaraj himself chooses to expand his universe, even Billa-3 may happen. And if Rajinikanth comes forward to share the screen with young actors as Kamal Haasan did, the Tamil film industry can have the possibility of making a film like Avengers: Endgame (2019). At that point, it will not be just pan-India, but pan-world.
Talking to The Federal, Singara Velan, a film writer said that earlier, for a Tamil film to be called as a pan-India film, Bollywood heroes were required to act as villains, as it was done in Shankar’s 2.O (2018). Akshay Kumar had donned the role of the negative character. “But, now Vikram has opened up the gates where Tamil heroes will turn into villains in another hero’s films. That will open a bigger market,” he said.
Pointing out that Vikram will set a standard for bringing out more multi-starrer films, Velan added, “What Vikram did was phenomenal. Through his films, Lokesh has created his own narcotics universe. In a way, Prashanth Neel too created his own KGF universe. Instead of expecting sequels, where the same actors will play their roles, this ‘cinematic universe’ should be taken forward.”
Meanwhile, Suresh Kannan, a film critic said that by bringing multiple stars into a film, there is even a possibility of creating a ‘multiverse’.