The Rajkumar Rao-Shraddha Kappoor starrer, ‘Stree’ is a very intriguing film. Amalgamating horror, comedy, romance and social satire, the movie is a sincere attempt to keep the audience engaged until the end, and to an extent, a successful one too.Every year, during a religious festival that lasts for four days, a female spirit named ‘Stree’ arrives in Chanderi, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. She is known to abduct men in the night, leaving behind only their clothes. Men are advised to return home early, not venture out alone, and avoid responding to strangers.
Rajkummar Rao plays Vicky, the best tailor in town- one who can gauge a woman’s measurements by merely looking at her. He falls for a pretty girl, played by Shraddha Kapoor, who requests him to stitch her a lehenga urgently. Strangely, the girl never reveals her name and only arrives in the village during the festival.
During the festival, men begin to disappear and Vicky’s friends somehow trace those incidents to the mysterious girl he has been hovering around- whom no one else has seen and who has given him a bizarre shopping list that includes cat hair and a lizard’s tail. They therefore persuade him to delve further into this girl.
It could be said that the film is largely imperfect, with neither horror nor comedy entirely dominating the narrative. The horror is standard, the comedy is not out of the world either, yet, the combination of a well-designed background score and visual cues yield scarily entertaining moments. A well-chosen cast upholds the spirit of the film, with actors such as Pankaj Tripathi as the local expert and Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee as Vicky’s friends tickling your funny bone from time to time.
Despite the entertaining interplay between the actors, Stree does not really give goosebumps like those given by hardcore horror movies. Although the dialogue delivery is effective, the dialogues in themselves don’t do justice to the absurd situations and the environment that is created. The lines, although simple are not hitting. The humour is inconsistent, and the plotting feels sloppy and rushed. Linear in structure, the film takes the idea of simplicity and straight-forwardness too seriously. Drama has been inserted too many times for the horror to make its impact. The idea is novel, the execution is not.
Rao is wonderful as ever, effortlessly putting forward his talent. When listing out types of blouses, he seamlessly portrays the excellence of the tailor’s character. It does seem a little unrealistic for any tailor to have such talents, yet, given the fact that the movie’s concept is novel, it can be discounted. His performance justifies his selection for the role, yet, the delivery is not unexpected. There are a few times when he conjures up something unique— when he switches to imitate Shah Rukh Khan because has to save the village by looking at a ghost with love and affection.
Quite surprisingly, Shraddha Kapoor puts up a good show for the character assigned to her. She brings a certain charm to the romance, drama and horror throughout the film. Her ‘Vicky please’ is as well done as is Rao’s imitation of it, if not better. Initially, her character does not seem like it would be anything more than adding a romantic angle. However, as time passes and it is evident that she is there to stay, and the film gives her more to do. With actors like Rao and Tripathi around, the benchmark is certainly high and she struggles in comparison to their seemingly natural talents. Khurana sells ready-made clothing, believes in only filling fifty bucks worth of petrol in his bike at a time and is critical about things around him. Banerjee steals the show- with his drama and on point energy.
Slipped under the shrills and roars of laughter, the point of the entire film is its feminist implication. In some cases, the concept is out there in the open. For example, when Tripathi’s character points out that the spirit roaming throughout the village is a “naye Bharat ki chudail”, who, unlike men, doesn’t adhere to “zabardasti”, is empathetic and understands the concept of consent. He adds that she calls out to the man by repeating his name thrice, waits for him to turn and look into her eyes before possessing and eventually taking away her victim. The message about how our society treats women as inferior and limits them to beauty and marriage is destabilized through scenes in which men across town are terrified to go out at night, are made to stay indoors and given instructions to protect themselves. The village setting too favours the narrative, wherein women are seen doing things and behaving in the typical Indian cultural context. Stree is certainly entertaining, while also being one of the most novel films of the year. It’s a must watch in theatres, for only that kind of an environment can give fun-filled goosebumps.
Picture Credits : dnaindia