Fukrey Returns: Pankaj Tripathi is the only grace of this objectively bad film
Nobody is going to call Pankaj Tripathi a star, but when someone can carry a film all by and for himself, then what is he if not a star?
There is a tiger, a cub and a couple of snakes. A zoo that is always open for our protagonists. Two careless caretakers, ostensibly inclined towards politics, given beef ban is a subject of their small talk. A thankless character with the gift of premonition, a proclivity for bad jokes and Campa Cola, an insatiable itch, sleepwalking through most of his waking hours, and first dates in the zoo. Varun Sharma as Choocha was the breakout character in the original film, Fukrey, and here he is again, trying very hard to get back that innocence. A competent performer at best, his comedy is fleeting, it works when it works, and it gets on your nerves at all other times. Surrounding him are a bunch of other non-performers returning to their earlier posts - Pulkit Samrat, Ali Fazal and Manjot Singh. There are appearances from Priya Anand and Vishakha Singh. Richa Chadda tries to keep a straight face through it all. And then there is Pankaj Tripathi.
Cast: Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Richa Chadda, Pankaj Tripathi
Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Nobody is going to call Pankaj Tripathi a star, but when someone can carry a film, make you watch an objectively bad film all by and for himself, then what is he if not a star? Because if there is any reason to watch Fukrey Returns, it is him. Watch him eat all these people up in every frame he is in. Watch him sleepwalk through all of this and still emerge a winner. There are scenes where Tripathi is doing nothing but simply registering a presence, as if he is giving you a reassuring nod, his hands touching his heart and making you feel better, happier about something. He is probably telling you that yes, you may have been wrong in choosing this film, but worry not now that I am here. There are scenes where his lines are monosyllables. Pandit, the character that he plays and has carried over from the earlier film, puts into practical use his recent lessons in the English language. He uses words like "slippery" and "arrogance", with a nonchalance that is not meant to be funny, but turn out to be anyway.
Pandit's (and the film's) funniest and most loaded scene is when a homeless man asks him who he is. He says "Main khamakha..". For starters, it explains his presence in this weak ensemble. He is the odd one out. It also explains his presence in the group, he is really not doing anything for them. Not that each of them contributes a talent, but Pandit is there with the Fukrey bunch for the fun, for the highs and the lows. In cinema though, Tripathi is neither without reason nor redundant in any form. The man has had a breakout 2017 - Anaarkali of Aarah, Newton, Gurgaon, Bareilly Ki Barfi and now, the saving grace of Fukrey Returns. A score of A-list stars would come behind as far as performances go, both in - admittedly poor - 2017 and also when their whole careers are considered. Everything else about Fukrey Returns - directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba - is forgettable. It makes you wonder what you can take - gross incompetence like in the case of the releases from the past couple of weeks - Julie-2 and Tera Intezaar - or earnestly produced well-meaning nonsense. I know my pick and it is not pretty.