Post the trend of biographical movies, the latest buzz in Hindi cinema is of spin-off films based on the famous characters of hit movies/series of the past. A few weeks back, we had the web series Special Ops 1.5: The Himmat Story based on the key character Himmat Singh (Kay Kay Menon) of Special Ops (2020). And this week, we have the digital release of Bob Biswas featuring Abhishek Bachchan as a spin-off revolving around the cold-hearted killer of Kahaani released in 2012.
A spin-off is a completely different concept from a remake, prequel, or sequel of a successful venture. A remake is simply a film made again after many years (even decades) with a different cast, giving it a contemporary look. Whereas a prequel takes the viewers into the past, revealing the backstory of the original hit. And a sequel takes it forward as an extension of the script, with the lead and supporting characters (mostly) remaining the same.
On the other hand, spin-off movies are the ones that are intentionally written and conceived around the most appreciated character of a hit movie. In this, a specific character is chosen from the story of the original hit, and a fresh script is written entirely focusing on it, taking him or her into a completely different world.
For instance, as the character of the cool contract killer Bob Biswas became hugely famous post the success of Kahaani (2012), the makers wrote an entire film around him, presenting his family life and backstory in the spin-off Bob Biswas (2021). The trend got initiated four years back, when Neeraj Pandey came up with Naam Shabana (2017), directed by Shivam Nair, based on the character of Shabana in his hit film Baby (2015).
Naam Shabana was specifically presented as a spin-off, plus many articles and portals widely quoted it as the first spin-off movie of Hindi cinema at the time of its release. However, that wasn’t the fact, as our cinema had already witnessed quite a few such films before the new millennium that were never officially declared as spin-offs.
Sharing the most interesting projects, in 1961, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee made Mem Didi focusing on the Christian character of Lalita Pawar as the lead. The character was exactly similar to Mrs. D’Sa, played by Lalita in Mukherjee’s 1959 film Anari. Interestingly, a decade later, the director repeated the same character again played by Lalita in his cult film Anand (1971).
In 1965, when IS Johar had to change his film’s title from Goa to Johar Mehmood in Goa, he intelligently used it further for his spin-off titled Johar in Kashmir (1966), focusing only on the character of Johar. He later developed it into a series with Johar in Bombay (1967) and Mera Naam Johar (1968) before returning with a sequel Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong (1971).
In 1972, a sleeper small-budget hit Bindiya Aur Bandook had an evil villain’s character Ranga played by Joginder that became famous for his unique laughter and dialogue, ‘Ranga khush’. Taking a cue from its success, Joginder produced and directed a film in 1975 playing the exactly similar role of the evil dacoit and titled it Ranga Khush.
In the same year, Hindi cinema witnessed one of its most successful and cult films creating new benchmarks as Sholay. It gave rise to a new form of a spin-off, wherein just the names of the popular characters and their mannerisms were borrowed for making completely different and unrelated films. The years after Sholay, thus had several spin-offs based on its lead and supporting characters, including many B and C grade films. The key ones among them were Jagdeep’s Soorma Bhopali (1988), Veeru Dada (1990), Basanti Tangewali (1992), and many more.
In 1984, Pran and Ashok Kumar played the title roles in Shibu Mitra’s Raja Aur Rana. It was a spin-off using the names of the key characters of the 1972 hit Victoria No. 203 played by the two veterans. 1984 also had a Ramsay-horror movie making it to the list of most successful films of the year called Purana Mandir. The popular but horrifying ghost in the film was named Saamri. Ramsay brothers again used the character (performed by the same actor Anirudh Agarwal) for their 1985 3D-horror spin-off, titled Saamri.
Coming back to the latest Bob Biswas, though the film revolves around Bob as a spin-off, it has another exciting and mysterious character of an old man, Kali Da, who runs his strange shop of secured illegal services. In case Bob is not able to win hearts, then we might get to see a spin-off digging more into the world of Kali Da as that is how new stories get discovered, based on such novel characters.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)