Fukrey Returns unfolds like a series of gags, each trying to outdo the other.
The frustrations of young Indian men, especially those lacking a sense of purpose, are fascinating. Listening to parents and following the herd have not made them happy. Their troubles increase if they aren’t privileged or talented. As adults left to make their own choices, their lives mainly revolve around two pursuits — women and money — and they’re elusive as well. The four main characters of Mrigdeep Singh Lamba’s Fukrey Returns, a sequel of the 2013 sleeper hit Fukrey, are no different.
Films like Fukrey, about hustlers trying to get rich, are common in Bollywood. They’re usually pleasant forgettable comedies, where humour lies in everyday situations and confusions. Like its prequel, Fukrey Returns is set in Delhi, where Hunny (Pulkit Samrat) and Choocha (Varun Sharma) are studying in college; Lali (Manjot Singh) is wasting time at his father’s sweet shop, and Zafar (Ali Fazal) is trying to make it as a singer. Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chaddha), a local drug dealer whom they got arrested in the previous movie, is in jail. Desperate to get out, she strikes a deal with a powerful minister who owns the state lottery, Babulal (Rajiv Gupta). Ten crores in ten days will set her free. She comes out, kidnaps the boys, and threatens them to earn money for her.
So begins Fukrey Returns’ paper-thin plot. To pay off Bholi Punjaban, the four men start a company where they bet on the lottery on behalf of other people, earning large commissions on winning. In a few days, they’re betting lakhs and crores. Why do people entrust their money to strangers? We don’t know. When Babulal finds out their plan, he changes the winning number, causing them huge losses. Why does a minister take interest in four slackers and a dealer? We don’t know. But these flaws don’t sink a film like Fukrey Returns. In this genre, audiences don’t seem to care as long as the laughs come quick and easy.
Unfortunately, they don’t. The problem is how Fukrey Returns sees itself as a comedy. Its screenwriters, Vipul Vig and Lamba, create situations and dialogues that don’t belong to the story but are planted to elicit laughs. They primarily do this through Choocha. He pronounces “Goa” as “Go-ya”, “Yale” as “Yeh Le”. He meets his date in a zoo where he asks her to scratch his back. He doesn’t know “where babies come from”. His friends make fun of him, calling him “Choochiye”. Like bullies scared of their own selves, Bollywood filmmakers often pick a sidekick to humiliate. Choocha is an animal in a zoo, reduced to antics so we can point fingers at him and laugh. It’s not funny.
Fukrey Returns wants to be silly and frothy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it fails to be intelligent or self-aware. It unfolds like a series of gags, each trying to outdo the other. Like Choocha, the other three are barely fleshed out. We don’t know what they want. We don’t know why we should care for them. Fukrey Returns also contains a lot of flab. Many scenes drag long after emphasising their points. A comedy needs to be smart and sharp. Fukrey Returns is not.
When the film is remotely entertaining – for about ten minutes – it’s because of Pankaj Tripathi and his wonderful screen presence: flashing an unexpected smile, shooting a stare, dropping a word instead of talking in sentences. Tripathi’s original, understated performance makes even the most mundane writing enjoyable. The film could have done well to follow his lead.