In Mrighdeep Singh Lamba’s Fukrey, the absurd dreams of school-goer Choocha (Varun Sharma) are mined for clues to the winning number in a Delhi lottery by his friends Hunny (Pulkit Samrat), Zafar (Ali Fazal) and Lali (Manjot Singh). In their effort to hack the lottery, the quartet gets entangled with fiery tracksuit-wearing gangster Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadha). After watching Fukrey Returns, Lamba’s sequel, I went home and revisited the 2013 film, to remind myself why I liked these characters in the first place, and to wash off two hours and 20 minutes of high-energy, low-impact comedy.

It’s been a year since the events of the previous film. The boys have been cleaning up at the lottery, but once Bholi gets out of jail by indebting herself to politician Babulal Bhatia (Rajiv Gupta), they’re once again scrambling to keep life and limb intact. To pay off her debt of Rs10 crore, they start a company that capitalizes on Choocha’s unique gift by placing lottery bets for the public (why anyone would give their money—lakhs!—to a firm founded on interpreting dreams isn’t explained). It all goes south, of course, which leads to a second half of unrelenting silliness.

It’s hard to see a film that seemed as casually tossed off as Fukrey gain a follow-up that’s so labored. It isn’t just that the events in Fukrey Returns defy logic – that was true of the original, and in itself is hardly a disqualification of any film. It’s also the deathly pacing, the writing that leans too hard on easy gags, the timid approach to character development. Choocha, endearingly stupid in the first film, is unbearably stupid here. Chadha was a genuine delight as Bholi the first time around; her reprisal feels like agitated leftovers. Not a single character is deepened—we know them about as well at the end of this film as we did in the last one.

Fukrey was rooted in the everyday: the comedy seemed to arise naturally from the slackers’ surroundings. The sequel, though, has the desperation and unfocussed energy of a work that’s not sure why it exists. Any film that begins with someone sucking snake venom out of someone else’s behind is clearly lacking for ideas.

Providing some relief is Pankaj Tripathi as Pandit, timid-voiced supporter of the fukreys. He’s had a stellar year: Anaarkali of Arah, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Gurgaon, Newton. Over the course of this film, he wrings laughs from a fixed stare, a costume change, words like “arrogance" and “slippery". In a graceless film like Fukrey Returns, he’s a welcome grace note.

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