When a horror film is made badly, it turns into a comedy and evokes laughter. On a serious note, the Hindi film industry did not really explore horror comedy as a genre for the longest time until films like ‘Great Grand Masti’, ‘Golmaal Again’ and ‘Nanu Ki Jaanu’ arrived in quick succession. ‘Golmaal Again’ was the only film which managed to become a success and that film veered more towards comedy than horror. Ideally, one would expect a film, which claims to be a horror comedy, to have a good mix of both. The trailer of ‘Stree’ made one hopeful about the fact that Bollywood can finally claim to have a legit horror comedy to its name. So, does film live up to the expectations? Let’s find out.
The people living in Chanderi, a small town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, strongly believe in and fear the spirit of a woman referred to as Stree, who roams around the town during a festive time and attacks and disappears away with men. To protect themselves from her, people paint their walls with ‘o stree kal aana’ (‘o stree, come tomorrow’) and men do not venture out of their homes at night during this period. Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a tailor in the town, prides himself in the fact that he is a modern fellow and looks down upon the people in the town for being superstitious and believing in things which he feels are far from being true. One day, a young woman (Shraddha Kapoor) approaches Vicky and asks him to make a ghagra for her. Vicky starts getting drawn towards the woman. Meanwhile, Stree abducts Jana (Abhishek Banerjee), one of Vicky’s friends. Vicky and his other friend Bittu (Aparshakti Khurana) start looking for ways to trace him.
The biggest triumph for the film is that it manages to strike a very fine balance between horror and comedy. You get the chills and laughs in equal measures. The dialogues (Sumit Aroraa) are one of the major highlights of the film. The way debutante director Amar Kaushik handles the written material (Raj Nidimoru, Krishna DK and Pawan Sony) is commendable. You are totally invested in the film as a viewer because of the way the visuals transcend on the screen. However, the screenplay has certain flaws which hampers the narrative at times. There are a couple of key sequences, mostly in the second half, which do not come across as plausible. The ending is quite interesting but it pops up several questions in one’s mind.
Rajkummar Rao is fantastic as Vicky. The actor has played a variety of roles in his eight-year long career. From playing intense roles in films like ‘Shahid’, Citylights’ and ‘Trapped’ to displaying his flair for comedy in ‘Dolly Ki Doli’, ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ and now, in ‘Stree’, the actor has proved there is no role that cannot do justice to. Shraddha Kapoor comes across as pleasantly demure in the initial portions of the film and manages to build an air of mystery around her very effectively. Hers is what one would call an extended guest appearance but she makes her presence felt throughout the film. Aparshakti Khurana, who has delivered fine performances in a couple of films in the recent past – most notably in ‘Dangal’, is in terrific form here too. Abhishek Banerjee, who is also a casting director by profession, delivers a standout performance which is bound to result in him getting several acting opportunities in the near future. Pankaj Tripathi evokes laughter with his brilliant portrayal of Rudra bhaiya.
‘Stree’ draws inspiration from our folklore and presents a story which, at the core of it, is deeply rooted in the heartland of the country. Despite a few loopholes in the script, the film does great service to this genre as it shows how to weave humour and horror in a narrative in the right proportion and deliver an entertaining film.