Hunnny, Chuchcha, Zafar, Laali and Bholi Punjaban are back. They are as nutty as they were the first time we met them in 2013’s sleeper hit Fukrey produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani. Back then, however, the refreshing naturalness with which Mrighdeep Singh Lamba portrayed them and the director’s own evident understanding of middle-class Delhi were good enough reasons to forgive that thoroughly enjoyable film its slightness.
In retrospect though, Fukrey feels profound in comparison with Fukrey Returns. The novelty has worn off by now, and Lamba is so busy sitting on his laurels that he does not bother to come up with a semblance of a credible plot for the sequel. Since his sense of humour remains intact, what we get is a hollow film that feels like a series of hilarious jokes strung together.
Life has somewhat settled down since the boys were introduced to audiences. Hunnny (Pulkit Samrat) now runs a business and is in a comfortably happy relationship with his girlfriend Priya (Priya Anand). Zafar (Ali Fazal) is a successful singer and is moving in with Neetu (Vishakha Singh). Laali (Manjot Singh) still longs to free himself of his mithai-shop-owning father and still yearns for a woman to fall in love with. And Chuchcha (Varun Sharma) is dreaming dreams.
When the gangsta Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadda) gets out of jail and confronts them over the financial losses they have caused her, the four get stuck in a scheme to make a few crores overnight. Of course things go awry. Of course they run around in circles, giving them time for scene after comic scene. And of course everything is sorted out in the end.
The story – if it can be called that – revolves around the premonitions encased in Chuchcha’s dreams. Add a powerful politician (Rajiv Gupta) to that mix, a zoo, a tiger and a tiger cub, and the result is a motley assortment of ingredients that do not at any point come together as a smooth blend.
For one, Zafar and Laali are completely irrelevant and nothing would change without them. They have so little to do in Fukrey Returns that they look like hangers-on who were retained simply because they happened to be in the first one. This is the film’s loss because Ali Fazal and Manjot Singh are both capable actors.
Chadda as Bholi Punjaban fares a little better, not a lot. The problem with her has more to do with the somewhat zestless acting than the writing though. Gupta, who has been lovely in other films, is given little to chew on here but pulls through. Pankaj Tripathi deserves applause for his value additions to the ordinary writing – with a look here, a gesture there, an amusing posture elsewhere, he manages to make a mark with a barely defined character.
Fukrey Returns’ screenplay has invested itself in one role and one role alone, and that role ends up being the only reason for its survival: Chuchcha remains laugh-out-loud, hold-your-stomach-or-it-will-hurt funny and Varun Sharma is hysterical. The actor’s flawless comic timing makes every moment with his character a fun ride. Even when the humour gets more slapstick in tone than Fukrey and becomes physical, it steers clear of being crass for the most part. I confess to feeling uneasy with a scene in which a firecracker pierces a man’s bottom, but that requires a separate and very long discussion that we have not even begun to have in our country as of now.
(Note: The story, screenplay and dialogues of Fukrey Returns are by Vipul Vig. Lamba has been credited for “additional dialogue and screenplay”.)
Sharma’s killer comic talent and the lines he has been given are the driving force of Fukrey Returns. Pretty much everything else about it is listless. Even the presence of a tiger and a cub on screen have not been sufficiently mined for effect.
Make a film around Sharma/Chuchcha, if you wish, Mr Lamba. If you do intend to bring back the rest of Team Fukrey in a third venture though, please remember not to neglect them as you have done in this one. The consequence of that neglect is that Fukrey Returns is funny but its gnawing hollowness is impossible to ignore. It may as well have been a stand-up comedy show headlined by Varun Sharma instead of a film.