Amar Kaushik’s Stree based on a true phenomenon does the needful to you- scares, entertains, educates- keeping the film just like any ghost story- strange
Rarely do you come across a film that keeps your mind in a distinct confusion where you aren’t able to decide whether you liked the film or not. That’s the biggest significance and beauty of Stree where you enjoy what is shown, but tend to question the logic and sanity once you’ve left the theatres. Its a film that gets your mind in a 50-50 state.
Set in Chanderi of Madhya Pradesh, the story revolves around Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a dexterous ladies tailor, something that his father is extremely proud of. Things for the city take an evil turn when just like every year, its time for an annual religious 4-day ceremony and the entire city is abuzz with the stories of Stree, a mythical woman who preys on men leaving behind only their clothes.
The story by Raj & DK is based on a popular folklore of Nale Ba rampant in Bangalore in 90s. The setting has been modified a bit where the back story of the mythical woman- unknown completely in reality- has taken an interesting contemporary shape in the film. Also the town where the film is set boasts of its culture and heritage monuments.
The story is good, for it brings in a touch of contemporary world with a message to give to audiences. Although it comes very subtly and coming to think of it, turning the story to make it relatable for the audience of today, it’s a good way of narration. After all, the audience, especially the Indian audience is often seen troubled with open endings or where they are left to interpret. The makers smartly have understood this well and incorporated the humane touch, both for the benefit of the story and the audience.
The treatment of the film is horror and comedy- something that needs to be dicussed. Would the film be any different if it was fully horror? Well, its ideology of a horror folklore that works here. Recall any such horror story told to you and you’ll know the nature of such stories often evokes both- fear and eventually you laugh about it. That’s the exact same pattern of narration that’s followed in the film, digested by some, and found humbug by some others.
Needless to mention, both humour and horror have done with utmost sincerity, with dialogues by Sumit Arora making you laugh out loud wherever required. Also the situations created and the expressions of almost everyone aboard aid the process. The structure of horror is followed through conventional style of instilling fear- sudden audio jumps. They do the needful for the moment. But just after that, you too laugh at your own self just like characters on screen do.
The film entirely mixes both the genres in good amount never letting you dominated by any one. Also, you are not bored, not even for a second. There’s a quality in the screenplay that keeps you guessing on what will happen. The characters too have been given great importance in a way that a lot of them other than the lead are seen contributing significantly to the plot.
There are great moments of joy from the POV of direction- sequences where Vicky doesn’t need a measuring tape proves his skills, where he measures Shraddha Kapoor to stitch a lehenga for her is shot wonderfully, the scenes in the haveli are few that remain with you for long.
Of course, there’s a section of the audience that would set out to find logic in everything shown, which is absent. Hence the film might seem a dull affair to this segment. But that’s how folklore’s are. And that’s how the film is. Believe it or don’t.
Just like every character of his in the past, this one also truly belongs to Rajkummar. He’s supreme and always in command. He’s the hero, literally for you and for the city. He charms you with his appearance, the way his character is introduced, and whatever he does on screen. He never fails to impress. Don’t miss his throwback to SRK.
Shraddha Kapoor looks effortlessly beautiful in every frame and just like the characters, even the audience is wondering about her reality in the film. She has a strong role prominent to the story and she stays all through.
Aparshakti Khurana is brilliant, yet again. He has a significant screen time allotted and he doesn’t leave a single frame go waste. He’s your man to look for some serious humor in this one.
Abhishek Banerjee too is very good, for he plays his part with utmost honesty. He makes you fall for him, laugh at him, sympathise with him, and carries the plot forward too.
Pankaj Tripathi as a book store owner and the know-it-all man has an interesting role. The makers have made sure to make the audience laugh whenever he’s in the frame. Ofcourse its his appearance and popularity that does wonders for him but he’s given one fine act here.
Vijay Raaz in a brief special role makes an impression.
Music by Sachin Jigar is just okay. Ofcourse there are a couple of songs including one item number starring Nora Fatehi with funny lyrics playing in the background but they don’t add value to the script. Not are they very pleasing to the ears. Disappointing especially because you know the potential of these two composers.
Background score on the other hand is interesting and keeps the film true to the genre. Yes, the sudden loud audio bits seem jarrung at times.
Cinematography by Amalendu Chaudhary is very good. The film is majorly shot in dark and the lighting in those scenes is impeccable. A lot of the sequences are stylistically shot where the shots and lighting give a rich feel. The film visually is very appealing.
Editing by Hemanti Sarkar is satisfactorily good in a way that the film has its moments of entertainment, in moderation at frequent intervals. Not too much, not too less.
Production and art design by N Madhusudan and Sagar Mali makes sure the audience is visually treated and related to the plot, its setting, and the surroundings creating a good enough aura.
Misogyny and patriarchy are social evils that mankind is grappling with for decades. Seeing such issues in a horror comedy is a unique experience. The film is an experiment, will be liked by some, not by some. However, the makers deserve applauds for bringing in the much needed maturity in dealing with a subject like this.