- Release Date: 31/8/2018
- Director: Amar Kaushik
- Written by: Raj Nidimoru (story and screenplay), Krishna D.K. (story and screenplay) & Sumit Arora (dialogue)
- Cast: Rajkumar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana, Abhishek Banerjee
The sleepy town of Chanderi in Madhya Pradesh is home to one of the most bizarre legends of paranormal nature. Chanderi was haunted by the spirit of a lady referred to as “Stree” who would abduct men leaving behind only their clothes. These men were never to be found again. Vicky (Rajkumar Rao) a talented tailor of the town of Chanderi meets a beautiful girl (Shraddha Kapoor) during the annual 4 days long religious festival which also happens to be under the shadow of the legend of the “Stree”. Vicky is so smitten by her that he doesn’t even care to ask her name.
During the same period, Vicky’s friend Dana (Abhishek Banerjee) is abducted by the Stree. Bittu (Aparshakti Khurana), their third friend believes that Vicky’s newfound girlfriend might be the cause of the abductions and also that she might very well be the Stree. Vicky and Bittu now must try and solve the enigma that is Stree to save their friend Dana. It’s also a personal battle for Vicky as he is hell-bent on proving that his girlfriend is not Stree as Bittu doubts her to be.
Stree is one of the few comic-horror films of Bollywood that works well on both counts. It is so simply because it takes both the elements seriously and is able to make both the elements seamlessly blend into the narrative. Neither the comedy nor the horror feels out of place as both the elements are essential parts of the narrative and they are actually what the narrative is made up of. While the horror comes as a part of the folklore on which the film is based, the comedy is a result of some quirky writing on the part of the dialogue writer, deft understanding of the cultural and social milieu of the place as well as some hilarious and out of the world predicaments that the people of Chanderi have to endure because of the hauntings.
Rajkumar Rao as Vicky is brilliant. He is so believable and immersive as the protagonist that every comic punch as well as the scares— a lot of which we experience from his perspective— work perfectly. He shares a beautiful chemistry with Shraddha Kapoor who for once does a good job with her role. Rao has a kind of “Dadagiri” associated with his character that he unleashes on everyone else except Shraddha Kapoor’s character. When he is in her company, he fumbles with his words and has an ear to ear smile on his face. I found these portions extremely cute.
The part where he offers himself to the Stree so that she can consummate with him and have her peace was utterly hilarious. The manner in which the man moves in these scenes and positions himself on the stone bed to be violated by the witch was enough to make me roll with laughter. He is also great at transposing his fears to us. We actually feel his fear when he is chased by the Stree and some of these parts are done so well that they crawl under your skin and startle you time and again. Loud noises after a lull and jump out of your seat moments are horror clichés but they never seem to get old. Here again, they are used well to instill some genuine chills.
Shraddha Kapoor has a small role and for once she is genuinely charming in her essay. I found her character totally adorable. Atleast that was the case until the last 20 minutes or so. She strikes the perfect balance with Rao and gives out all the right vibes about her character. Aparshakti Khurana has the kind of face and expressions that would make you believe every lewd thing that you could hear about him. This greatly helps him to fuel comedy from every word that comes out of his mouth in this film. I especially adored the Mission Impossible reference that he so beautifully puts forth with his expressions. Abhishek Banerjee is equally apt as Dana. Many would enjoy his act more than that of Aparshakti especially the portion where he is possessed. Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra who believes that he knows everything that he needs to know in the world is insanely funny.
Having said all that, Stree is brutally brought down in the end by a total lack of closure. There is so much left unanswered and unresolved that it felt as if they ran out of ideas. Also, the justification of Shraddha’s character and her final resolution was so unbelievable that it left me scratching my head. Here is a film that was clever to start with. It had the potential to thrill and amuse and it did so for a large part of its runtime. However, when the time came to show all its cards, the film decided to go for an easy and cliché resolution that in this case didn’t even justify the tale and the characters.
A film that for so long was building a mystery that got us interested and thrilled should have thought of better solutions. One also has to agree that since it was based on a true story, there was a certain degree of realism that it had to inculcate in its resolution. Even if we ignore all that, we cannot shy away from the fact that certain things that they showed, in the end, were absolutely not possible owing to the way the characters were playing out their respective parts in the tale.
All said and done, Stree is still very entertaining and funny. I was invested in its tale and its comedy. I loved the film all the way to the climax but the last fifteen minutes or so of it really spoiled the whole film for me. I wish they had delivered better on the promises that the film made right from the beginning.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)