With Stree being an experimental Bollywood movie based on the comedy horror genre, it is needless to say that the attempt itself was a brave one. Reflecting the change in the modern Indian cinema, Stree is an impressive mix of comedy with horror moments. Apart from being a movie with an unusual story, the versatile and multitalented actor, Rajkummar Rao playing the lead gives us enough reasons to go and watch it. To be more specific, however, Stree is more spoofy and less of a horror tale. But it does have its own moments of chills and scary screams.
Directed by Amar Kaushik, Stree (meaning a woman) is a 2018 comedy horror movie with a star cast of Rajkummar Rao, and Shraddha Kapoor in the lead. While Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee appear in the supporting roles, Pankaj Tripathi impresses us all in his serious yet funny book-expert avatar. Shot with a budget of around 20 crores, Stree hit cinemas on 31st August 2018.
Stree is primarily based on ‘Nale Ba’, an urban witch legend of India. According to this myth, there was a witch who used to knock at the doors, calling out the names of the residents in the voice of their relatives. Once the clueless innocent residents of the house would open the door, they would die in the next 24 hours.
During the 1990s this urban legend spread immense fear among the people of the present day Silicone Valley of India i.e. Bengaluru. As a solution to this hauntings, people started to write ‘Nale Ba’, a Kannada phrase meaning ‘come tomorrow’ to ward off the witch. Surprisingly, ‘Nale Ba’ seemed to work and was believed to send the spirit back for the night. Eventually, as time passed, the story gradually died out. However, even today, 1st April is observed as Nale Ba Day and many places of Bengaluru still bears the markings of ‘Nale Ba’.
The story of Stree revolves around a local myth where every year a witch named ‘Stree’ came to haunt the small town of Chanderi during a festive period for four consecutive nights. During this brief haunting period, the ‘Stree’ calls out the names of men when they are alone and takes them away as they turned to look at her, leaving nothing but their clothes. It was believed that no man can refuse to look back once Stree calls his name for the third time.
And then comes Vicky (played by the talented Rao) who is a tailor with amazing tailoring skills, a kind heart, and keen eyes, living in Chanderi with his father. He falls head over heels for an unnamed girl (Played by Kapoor) who also comes to the town every year during that festive season only. Disregarding the fear of the ‘Stree’, Vicky continues to accompany the girl during the night.
When one of Vicky’s closest buddy, Jana, is taken by Stree, both Vicky and his buddy Bittu starts a desperate search for Jana to the god-forsaken ruins of a palace on the mountaintop. This time it is Vicky whom Stree calls with the name. Can Vicky resist the call and not look at the witch? Do the hauntings at Chanderi ever stop? Or, what is the secret that lurks in the darkness forcing Stree to hunt men every year? The plot gets more and more intense as more men continue to vanish.
Things I liked
Well, I liked the movie and enjoyed it throughout. I spent most of the time in the theatre all giggling and laughing, even uncontrollably at times. And the credit for this goes to its fair share of witty dialogues, hilarious scenes, scary yet funny moments and entertainment. Lines and phrases like “Bhagwan ka darzi-rupi avatar’ or ‘Naye Bharat ki chudail’ or ‘swayamsevi’ will linger on your mind even after leaving the theatre.
Rao was definitely the best part about Stree with his flawless and outstanding acting skills. Seeing the ‘Newton’ and ‘Shahid’ famed actor putting the comedy shoes so well, again confirms that he is one of the most versatile actors now in Bollywood. The two buddies of Rao also demand special mention as it was the team of the trio that makes us crave for more of them on screen.
While Banerjee was very much convincing as a foolish and timid looking Jana; Khurrana does a fab job as a cool, smart yet scared at heart, Bittu. Even Pankaj Tripathi gave his best whenever he appeared on the screen as the ‘gyani’ Rudra, who knows all. Little comic moments with him have a unique charm making him difficult to overlook.
The screen representation of Stree not only is fantastic but also there’s something eerie about her presence, hanging mid-air with her face covered by a ‘ghunghat’. Stree doesn’t have any lines, except the name-callings, however, Stree impresses us more than any of the female ghost spirits, portrayed in Bollywood who talks all about their motto, reasons for revenge and past history. Flora Saini in her Stree avatar does all the talking with her eyes. Even the use of jolting screechy sounds to create a horror atmosphere was good and never seemed overloaded.
Despite having a comic overtone throughout, the movie succeeds in drilling horror inside the audience. The startling performance of the cast limited yet masterfully created visual effects, and the engaging narrative has saved Stree from becoming a poorly directed Bollywood horror film of low-quality visual effects.
Things I didn’t like
Stree is an experimental Bollywood movie with fresh content. So, honestly, it didn’t have many things to complain about unless you have expectations like that of watching ‘The Conjuring’.
However, personally, I felt Shraddha Kapoor seemed nothing but a mere side character with same and unconvincing expressions. In simple words, Shraddha failed to do justice to her character and was seen rather struggling to manage her pace with the other talented actors surrounding her. It was Rajkummar Rao who made each and every scene with Shraddha worth watching on screen.
This otherwise unconventional film mocks the gender bias, hails woman as a source of great power, and worth respecting. However, the inclusion of typical Bollywood item songs strikes a contrast with its overall message as they objectified women.
Lastly, from a director like Amar Kaushik who has movies like ‘Aamir’ to his credit, a much intriguing and complex plot was expected. Left aside the story, the ending could have been more convincing and better explained. While the movie continued to grasp our attention from the very beginning, building a high expectation; finally, on reaching the end, all expectation comes to an abrupt halt. Keeping in mind the popular Shakespearean phrase, ‘All’s well that ends well’, Stree could have achieved a far more persuasive ending.
Those who are looking for a solid plot, spine-chilling horror elements, and a strong satisfactory ending, Stree is not for you guys. The 127 minutes of story-telling quickly vanish from your head, leaving many of the viewers wondering what exactly happened in the end.
But, those who are looking for a fun-filled movie weekend with light horror moments, humorous dialogues and stark comic kicks, book your tickets for Stree. Trust me, you won’t regret it. You’ll not only have a good laugh at the comedy moments but also witness Rajkumar Rao flawlessly getting into the character of a Chanderi tailor boy.
The moments of chills and laughs, the acting, the suspense have succeeded in keeping the viewers engaged and far away from monotony. With a feminist ghost finally making its way into the Bollywood comedy-horror flick, this unusual amalgamation of less horror and more laughs can certainly be an entertaining watch for anyone.
My Rating: 7/10