Let me start by saying that the biggest plus point about Stree is that it doesn’t try too hard. The aim of the film is not to scare the hell out of you or to make you keel over with laughter. When mixed together, it gives you what is a gripping story and a great movie. If you saw the trailer and got excited, it’s for good reason.
The movie as it is widely known and promoted is based on what they call a ridiculously true phenomenon. The story is inspired by the urban legend of Karnataka. Before Bangalore had become a sprawling city, legend has it that a witch used to roam the narrow lanes and look for prey. Apparently, she would knock on doors at night and call out to the person inside in the voice of a loved one. Whoever fell for it and opened the door would die in the next 24 hours. As panic spread through the city, a solution was found, ‘Nale Ba‘ which means come tomorrow was written on doors of every house to ward off the evil spirit. It was said that the witch would come, see the inscription and leave. This legend apparently exists in many parts of India and has been translated with amazing effect on to the big screen through Stree. As horror movies usually do, the movie starts off with a scary scene that sets the tone for the entire 2 and a half hours. While you don’t see Stree on screen, you feel her presence all over thanks to the chilling background score. The BG score will stay with you for quite some time, trust me.
The movie takes us through the seemingly innocent by day and hauntingly narrow lanes at night of Chanderi (And it looks beautiful). It follows a young man named Vicky (Rajkummar Rao) who is a modern village launda, tailor extraordinaire and the only son to his father. The individual characters in the movie especially Vicky, his two best friends (played by Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee) and the village know-it-all Rudra played by Pankaj Tripathi are what brings fun to the party. Aparshakti and Abhishek bring their characters to life with such vigor that you feel like you’re meeting local boys from Chanderi itself. I want to take a moment to appreciate the impact that Pankaj Tripathi had on the movie. In the first half, his appearances are limited to a scene or two, but the scenes that he is in, he steals the limelight and how!
Shraddha Kapoor‘s character is a bit of an enigma and she manages to maintain the mystery around the character beautifully. While in the first half, Shraddha’s character almost seems like a special appearance, the second half gives more meat to her role which proves why she was so perfect for it.
Raj once again proves why he is a force to be reckoned with. He has got everything from the look, feel and accent perfectly down to the T. Vicky’s efforts to be the modern youth in a village that still believes in witches is legit every horror movie protagonist ever. Apart from its protagonist, the movie has a lot of elements that are similar to any other supernatural flick. But the treatment of it what feels different. Because unlike other horror movies, it leaves the audience with a message. It talks about society and it’s chauvinistic and misogynistic mindset at large. But even then the film is not preachy. It delivers the message through subtleties.
Coming to the comedic part of the film, it almost makes you sigh with relief at how funny the movie is and not in the Hollywood ‘scary movie’ sort of way. Don’t worry, it is most definitely not a spoof.
How the makers have mixed two polar opposite genres and managed to NOT make a mockery out of both is where the real witchcraft lies. There is not one moment you’d want to take your eyes off the screen, it keeps you on the edge of the seat but also makes you laugh at those moments when you feel like it’s too much. The hidden social message is unmissable and even the instant flip of gender roles in a patriarchal society as the city finds out that they feel unsafe because of a woman albeit a ghost/witch almost makes you giggle. The first half is truly gripping, while the second half slows down a bit, it makes up for it in the end. The movie is what we call the perfect example of a great story and superb direction. Amar Kaushik leaves no loose ends in his direction and has packaged the film in a way that is sure to impress the viewers.
Stree is one of its kind and has just opened up Bollywood to an entirely new genre. Guys, thank god it’s Friday because the weekend comes with great promises and Stree is definitely one of them.
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Aparshakti Khurrana, Abhishek Banerjee, Shraddha Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi
Director: Amar Kaushik