Cast: Venkatesh Daggubati, Varun Tej, Tamannaah Bhatia, Mehreen Pirzada Stars
Director: Anil Ravipudi
How do we talk about F3: Fun and Frustration? I could give you a rant about every problematic element in the film? Or do I just let it be and tell you about the bits I enjoyed? Because if I did the former then I'd have to rank and decide which ones to leave out and which ones to include in a review and choosing and ranking problematic issues from such a big list sounds wrong too.
Do I tell you that the jokes on epilepsy, night blindness, stammering, and other disabilities are terrible, or do I tell you that the idea that one of the protagonists' parents pimps her to save money is supposed to be funny? Oh, what about the constant usage of some professions as insults or the severely unlikeable protagonists whose only redeeming qualities are that sometimes they complain about money as most middle-class people do? But then again this is a director who in his previous films made fun of rape and child marriage, so am I happy that this feels like an upgrade?
This feels pointless and seems like an infinite task.
I'd rather tell you what I enjoyed and laughed at. And I'm not being ironic with what I say. I genuinely believe that Anil Ravipudi, this film's director and one of its many writers, has a good eye for sketch comedy. His best gags are not reserved for the protagonists but the absolutely irrelevant side characters. Think about the constable played by Srinivas Reddy in Pataas who is a satire on the devotion shown by side characters to protagonists, a character trope that Srinivas Reddy usually plays. Think about the family member in Supreme whose only dialogue and demand is "Coffee" at the worst moments ranging from a hospital, to when people are contemplating suicide, etc.
He also seems to have a good knack for how to make a scene funny with sudden entries and exits with his tertiary characters. Think about the bodyguard in F2: Fun and Frustration who every time he enters the frame complains about a new disease he's got and then exits even more randomly than he appeared.
But if Anil Ravipudi channeled this vision and writing for his main characters, I think we'd have a fresh comedic voice that we haven't seen in Telugu cinema since Jandhyala. But instead, what we have is a film filled with problematic elements and some cringe humor for its protagonists, and small hidden gems that are hilarious for the secondary characters.
F3: Fun and Frustration tells the story of Venky (Venkatesh), Varun (Varun Tej), Harika (Tamannaah Bhatia), and Honey (Mehreen Pirzada), all of whom find themselves struggling to escape their lower-middle-class roots. They scam others, each other, and themselves but nothing seems to be working until one day they chance upon an offer from a millionaire Anand Prasad (Murali Sharma). Do they take it? Are they worthy of it? What the hell is F3? Is it a brand?
This film too suffers from severely unfunny protagonists and it takes a special kind of Telugu film to make Venkatesh unfunny. The primary reason for this is that in F2: Fun and Frustration, Venky and Varun had the audience's sympathy and we laughed at their plight. Even when they did questionable things the audience forgave them. But here, they have no such rooting and therefore come out increasingly unlikeable. It's hard to laugh at characters who are wrong and do more wrong things without having our sympathy completely with them. I know it's a sequel but if the filmmaking team expects the audience to forget the original, then the audience will suspend their sympathy for the protagonists which has to be re-earned too. But Anil Ravipudi and the writing team fail to do that.
Where they do succeed though is with the side characters and the supporting actors who play them. Vennela Kishore as a co-scammer is so good that he manages to make "Doodh Mangoge ko kheer denge, Kashmir maangoge tho cheer dhenge" funny. I can't explain why it is so but it's just hilarious given the situation he's in where he plays a self-aware junior artist tired of the film he's in.
Similarly, Mirchi Kiran, who I rate highly and is terribly underutilized by Telugu cinema, has just two moments and his entries and dialogue delivery are hilarious. Sunil finds some of that old charm back and it's to Anil Ravipudi's credit that we have finally found a director who can bring that Sunil back. There's an excellent gag with children who are too addicted to phones.
Even Pradeep KV's henpecked father gets a hilarious payoff that is funny in the context of this film and as a meta-dig at all the punch dialogues thrown by young heroes. But the film's best lines go to Raghu Babu (Anji Reddy) who is the moral conscience of the scammers that nobody listens to. It's a role he's done countless times but as the man tired of making devious plans but does them anyway only to always regret them is the right note of hilarious.
And that's about it. I think. I might have missed out on a few more moments I laughed but this list covers most of them. The rest of it is some version of cringe, unfunny, and problematic. They tease an F4 which is going to be bigger apparently – sounds like a threat honestly. But at least I know what I'm looking forward to in that one.