Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Richa Chaddha, Rajiv Gupta, Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Manjot Singh, Priya Anand and Vishakha Singh
One of the few, precious perks of growing old is simultaneously growing wiser — about life in general, of course, but also, more importantly, about oneself. As we age, both suffering and enjoying our decisions and experiences, we squeeze out crucial life lessons from them all — gems of wisdom the more evolved amongst us are able to internalise and live by.
For me, zindagi ka saar, life ka satya lies in a short list of five things. One significant entry in that list is this: Every time I take on an assignment, a career decision with my focus more on the perks — money or some meaningless, perceived prestige — rather than the job itself, I am satisfied financially, but it’s also always a soul-destroying, angst-inducing experience.
And every time I have followed my passion, gone for what I enjoy, love doing, I have been poor, but productive and proud.
I don’t know what lessons struggling writer-directors, who make superb first few films and then just slack off in the bigger, wealthier ventures that come their way, draw from their experiences. But my suspicion is that director Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, who made two insanely funny films — Teen They Bhai (2011) and Fukrey (2013), suffers the same shraap as me.
Do something solely for money and it will suck. His Fukrey Returns, which arrives four years after Fukrey, sloppily riding the goodwill of the original, has to be endured, not enjoyed. It’s not bad in an offensive, annoying way. It’s bad in a dreary, energy-sapping, “kahan phas gaye, yaar” kind of way.
Fukrey Returns begins “One Year Later…” And, to remind us that Hunny (Pulkit Sharma) and Choocha (Varun Sharma) are still besties whose banter and bewakufis is the stuff the world of Fukreys pirouettes on, we meet them at night, crapping in a field with tall grass and a hissing creature lurking about.
This dream sequence is like it was in the original — in Choocha’s dreams his bhai-like dost is either getting assaulted, mauled or humiliated, with Choocha having to save his ass, this time quite literally.
These, I’m-the-hero-of-my-dreams sequences is what defined Choocha’s character then. Now it’s just more of the same, without much comic delight.
One by one all the characters are reintroduced to us thus, reduced to their most basic characterisation.
So there’s Choocha with his dreams, Hunny with his love-interest, Priya (Priya Sharma), Lali (Manjot Singh) still being tortured by his halwai daddy and the lack of love in his life. There’s also vapid pretty boy Zafar (Ali Fazal) and his girlfriend who earnestly supports his seriously-suspect singing talent. For villany, there’s Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chaddha), now lodged in the ladies wing of Tihar. One Mantriji (Rajiv Gupta) joins her this time.
There’s also, in the margins, Punditji (Pankaj Tripathi), the college gateman.
Based on a muddled screenplay that tries to go for some laughs on schticks as lame as khujli (itch), Fukrey Returns’ plot, resting on Choocha’s premonitions, involves a lottery scheme, a corrupt politician, one sherni ka bachcha and zoo mein surang which will lead to a khazana.
Instead of making this a taut, loony, idiotic chase, it unfolds as a slow, earnest, family picnic with the aim to punish the corrupt. Fukrey Returns has a few weak laughs for sure, and two-three dialogues are funny, but most gags are limp, repetitive. The screenplay is so desolate that it doesn’t have a single sparkling, comical skit to make all the chasing-running bearable. What’s also missing is the fall-off-your-chair jhallapan I was expecting.
In comedy, comic timing is critical. Here one scene drags its feet to the next, and so on...
Though I liked the sharp political comments in between — corrupt minister doing yoga at India Gate, airing desh ke mann ki baat — I kept wondering, what’s the point of throwing a reunion party without a proper plan for the evening.
What do you do if you have successfully created and served three wholesome, crackling characters being chased by one bodacious goondi? You go for an encore. For a sequel. Like The Hangover. Problem is that Fukrey Returns rides on the strength of the characters we met and loved four years ago, but gives them nothing to do.
These lovely characters, inhabited by a very talented set of actors (excluding Ali Fazal), are buried under a dreary screenplay and an imbecile plot. While all the actors (again, excluding Ali Fazal, and his screen g’friend) were itching to act silly and have a blast, the film’s writers and director let them down. Fukrey Returns’ screenplay has been written by Vipul Vig and Mrighdeep Singh Lamba.
PS: For those who don’t follow Punjabi, here’s an introduction to a delightful word that may baffle you. Chittarael (chittar-rael). Chittar is a hard, multi-purpose chappal worn by Punjabi mothers. Its real purpose, however, is not that of footwear. It’s a stealth weapon used for sudden missile attacks on truant, nikamme children. Chittarael is a verb, plural. It’s the act of Punjabi mothers launching many such missiles on their screaming targets.