Unlike his peers from the film industry, Mrighdeep Singh Lamba doesn’t crave the limelight. So much so, he escaped to the idyllic part of Goa with his mother, once the dust had settled on the news that his third directorial feature Fukrey Returns — a sequel to the sleeper hit, Fukrey (2013), was a commercial hit. “I had made a promise to myself, that this time around I shall be better at PR and stuff,” says the Delhi born and bred Lamba, 37.
Fukrey, a coming-of-age comedy of four boys from West Delhi, has a cult following and till date garners a high TRP on TV. The film, on a relatively low budget with no big names, attributes its popularity to sheer word of mouth. Lamba, in Fukrey Returns has recreated the same world and continues the storyline, though this time the scale is bigger and the characters are well-known. The director was plagued by questions as to what happened to Hunny, Panditji and Zafar. The seeds of a sequel were thus born.
“Fukrey worked because we had these really relatable characters with their small-time aspirations. Hunny and his friend want to escape the drudgery of their government school life and get into a good college. Lali wants to get into the same college where his girlfriend studies. Then there was Bholi Punjaban — in reference to Sonu Punjaban. And we all have encountered a Panditji in our life. In the second film, we decided to take the narrative further and it became this mad comic caper,” says Lamba.
Even though Fukrey Returns (released last month) did not quite hit the spot with the critics, the box office has affirmed that the film is a hit. “Writing the film this time was tougher. We could feel the pressure. The last time around there were no expectations, but this time there was a frame of reference – for the story and the characters. So we — me and Vipul Vig (co-writer) — layered the script and made it more complex, and with the political angle we got the dark underbelly of Delhi in the narrative,” says Lamba.
Lamba admits that his was not a very filmy household. But in the business family from West Delhi that recently moved to Gurugram, films were part of weekend discussions and activities, courtesy VHS tapes. Staying true to convention, he had enrolled in an automobile engineering course, but dropped out after an year. “I remember one night we were having dinner and I announced that I wanted to make films. The very next day I was in a film school in Noida. When we, as a family, saw Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt films, we would always debate who was a better filmmaker — these discussions seeped into my subconscious,” he says.
Fukrey and Fukrey Returns – are based in Delhi, his favourite hunting ground. “It’s the world I know — jis ko hum Dilli main jaamna paar bolte hain. I have eaten chole bhature at those same joints which we have shown in the films. I remember Shah Rukh Khan tweeted after Fukrey that the film took him back to the time he spent in the Capital,” says a visibly nostalgic Lamba.
After passing out of film school, Lamba stuck around in Delhi, made short films, and assisted on foreign films that were shot in the city. In 2005, Lamba headed to Mumbai and assisted Farhan Akhtar and Subhash Ghai on Don and Yuvvraaj respectively, and learnt the finer nuances of filmmaking on the job. In 2011, he made his directorial debut with Teen Thay Bhai — a story set in Punjab.
Lamba’s films have been termed as being extremely populist, with a humour that is often crass. “Comedy is not an easy genre. And it’s extremely subjective. We have had the likes of Manmohan Desai co-exist with Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. Then we also had David Dhawan. Why should it be an either this or that? I think the audience has evolved, they are more discerning – we need to give them more credit,” he says. For now, Lamba is busy soaking up Goa. There are also talks of a Fukrey 3 in the making.