Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani & Farhan Akhtar

Directed by: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba

Written by: Vipul Vig & Mrighdeep Singh Lamba

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Sharib-Toshi, Sumeet Bellary, Prem-Hardeep, Jasleen Royal, Gulraj Singh, Shree D & Ishq Bector

Starring: Pulkit Samrat, Richa Chadda, Ali Fazal, Vishakha Singh, Varun Sharma, Priya Anand, Manjot Singh, Panjah Tripathi, Rajiv Gupta, Frank Ossy Monye,

Michael Obidke & Sp.app.: Natasa Stankovic

The small negatives first, negligible ones really: one, the film should have been grammatically titled “Fukreys Return,” for that’s what the story is about, and all can understand it, and two, poor Richa Chadda’s name is again misspelled as Richa ‘Chadha’ in the titles. But then, what’s in names anyway?

Got to hand it to Mrighdeep Singh Lamba: In an era where directors slip rapidly from film to film, here is a filmmaker who is improving by the movie, from the execrable “Teen Thay Bhai” in 2011 to the bearable “Fukrey” (2013) to this very entertaining motion picture that is a sequel to the four-year-old movie. Like “Pyaar Ka Punch Nama 2,” this is a quantum leap over the tepid prequel that was somehow liked by a portion of the audience.

Like Luv Ranjan in that case, Lamba seems to have absorbed and assimilated his characters (in this case the heroines and supporting cast as well) so deeply that he has just devised and executed an organic plot with the necessary basic ingredients. This time, it is a true sequel in which the story begins a year after buddies Hunny (Pulkit Samrat), the eccentric Choocha (Varun Sharma), Zafar (Ali Fazal) and Lali (Manjot Singh), having succeeded in putting Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadda) behind bars.

Zafar is buying an apartment for his ladylove (Vishakha Singh) and planning to marry her, Lali is still woefully single, Choocha still gets dreams and premonitions, and Hunny wants to marry his girlfriend (Priya Anand). However, Bholi is seething in jail and wants out. She strikes a deal with ambitious politician Babulal Bhatia (Rajiv Gupta) and once out, tortures the four with threats to them if they do not cooperate with her. A scheme is hatched to con the Delhi public, and after that, it is a chess-like game between Babulal and her, with the four friends and Choocha’s premonitions bringing in the complications.

Like the prequel, this is a leave-brains-and-logic-at-home story, but what works is the addle-pated humor mixed with conviction both from the writers and for the audience. Panditji (Pankaj Tripathi) is again the star add-on to the mess, as the fun quotient not only never lessens but moves in an upward arc.

The strength of the film lies in the regular sudden escalation of humor (audiovisual, only in the lines or only visual, but relentless) in the most unexpected and often already funny situations. A classic example is where Choocha asks the hotel receptionist for a gadget (it will be a spoiler to mention what it is and what he asks for here!) when she already knows what a nutcase he is, and how the same actor narrates how he was “acquired’ by his father.

The script (Vipul Vig with Lamba as additional writer) is hilarious, and Vig too seems to have absorbed the friends and their environment deep inside, vis-à-vis his superficial first attempt.

The film clearly has luck on its side, as not only the entire cast comes together again but even the quirky elements are heightened because of that consistency. Like we loved the black acolytes of Bholi, we adore the inferiority complex Lali quietly suffers from, and the new villain is excellent. Bholi grows from her previous avatar, and the climax makes us wonder how the filmmakers will come out with part 3. But maybe they have given themselves that challenge deliberately, to come out with an even better product next time, as per Lamba’s record!

Technically competent, the film suffers from poor music, but unfortunately, that is happening too frequently of late. Sammeruddin’s background score is alright.

Varun Sharma emerges as the highlight of the story, and pitches his humor just right, unlike in his intervening (post-“Fukrey” that marked his debut) movies in which he was repetitious, and irritatingly so. Richa Chadda, as always a dependable actor, perfectly essays the cad of a woman with a heart hidden somewhere deep inside her completely selfish temperament.

Pankaj Tripathi, surrounded by these two skilled performers, again steals the show, effortlessly, in most of the scenes. Here is an actor who barely changes his style, and still scores each time. This is the most treasured kind of Hindi talent cinema has led by Ashok Kumar, Pran, Prem Chopra, Danny Denzomgpa, Amjad Khan, Amrish Puri and a few others, who create endless novelty with nuances alone.

Pulkit Samrat has a routine role but impresses with his sincerity. Rajiv Gupta is outstanding as the slimy politico. Ali Fazal (especially) and Manjot Singh are surprisingly shortchanged, though they do well. We admire their selfless team spirit in ignoring their sketchy roles and looking at the interests of the franchise.

The two blacks (Frank Ossy Monye and Michael Obidke) score by correctly merging into the background and still making a distinct mark. The two girls get no scope, but the crazy ambiance is not hindered by them.

Apart from all the positives, there are two crucial aspects I especially respected about the film: one, that the dark quotient stops just short of being unpalatable (Lamba is decreasing it by the film, which is also helping his progress!), and two, despite being based in Delhi, we do not hear a single Punjabi word in the lines, which is HUGE when everyone involved, including the writer, director, many artists and most of the characters, are shown as Punjabis. As in pre-‘90s Hindi movies, the PAN-INDIAN & HINDI film studded with Punjabis in both characters and artists is back!

Yes, the music has loads of Punjabi, but the songs are functional and just come and vamoose. They are the weakest and only forgettable aspects of the film, so who cares anyway?

Rating: ***1/2

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