Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurrana
Direction: Amar Kaushik
‘Stree’ is a horror comedy that keeps you completely entertained. Amar Kaushik’s debut film has a rare mix of really scary moments peppered with a generous dose of humour.
The director takes an urban legend prevalent in southern India, that had people writing ‘Nale ba’ (come tomorrow) on their doors to ward off an evil spirit, and weaves an intriguing tale.
Here’s how it unfolds: Residents of the small northern Indian town of Chanderi believe that a female ghost (Stree) visits every house during the four days of a local temple festival. If the householders have not inscribed ‘O Stree, kal aana’ with a special red paint on their doors, their men will be taken away by the spirit.
Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a talented local tailor, doesn’t believe in these superstitions. While Chanderi is gearing up for the festivities and making sure that all houses are prepped and painted to keep the witch at bay, Vicky is busy tailoring his own love story with the mysterious new girl (Shraddha Kapoor) in town.
Only when his friends suddenly go missing and he has some weird encounters with his new girlfriend, does he realise that something, somewhere, is amiss. A self-proclaimed authority on Stree, Rudra (Pankaj Tripathi) then intervenes and offers to help the villagers get to the bottom of these mysterious happenings.
What works for this comedy of horrors is the performance of the ensemble cast – Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi have impeccable comic timing and are adeptly supported by Aparshakti Khurrana. Their dialogues and repartees are spontaneous and the characters never seem to miss a beat. The easy camaraderie they share make even the subtle jokes laugh-out-loud moments. The creepy moments in this film are undoubtedly scarier than what the so-called ‘spine-chilling’ horror flicks that Bollywood churns out have had to offer.
Where ‘Stree’ hits a bump is the climax. While most of the plot makes for a very cohesive narrative, the payoff doesn’t have the same solidity. Despite a successful build-up, the filmmakers fail to tie the loopholes and the outcome isn’t the clincher that one would have wanted it to be.
Despite the flaws, ‘Stree’ is a fun watch – the narrow bylanes of a small town, the young tailor’s fashion sense, the folklore that has percolated down generations, the panic that eventually sets in – kudos to the director for weaving all these elements into an amusing tale.
Much like Rajkummar Rao’s ‘Bareily Ki Barfi’, ‘Stree’ is a small-town story that has its own charm. And also its fair share of laughs and scares.