No doubt, Stree has its moments and some fine performances, but the blend of horror and comedy fails to come together satisfactorily and while the film scores solidly in the funny department, the horror portions are much too ‘hooty’ to be truly effective.
Stree, directed by Amar Kaushik, is set in a small town (Chanderi) during a religious festival that takes place annually during which, the men have to be extremely careful. For if not, they are kidnapped at night by a witch/evil spirit called Stree, who prowls around and once she’s taken her prey, she vanishes with them, leaving behind just their clothes. We follow young tailor Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), his bosom buddies, Bittu and Jana (Aparshakti Khurana, Abhishek Banerjee), over the four days and four nights of the festival. And even as Vicky falls in love with a mysterious woman (Shraddha Kapoor), who has been visiting Chanderi only during the festival for the past three years, things get really serious when Jana too becomes a victim of Stree. Along with the woman and a Stree ‘expert’ (Pankaj Tripathi), the group of ghostbusters tries not just to stop Stree but nullify her as well.
There is enough that does work in Stree. The production design in creating small-town atmosphere is spot on and the film is well-cast with the characters and locations appearing entirely believable. The story is mostly engaging enough though it does lose steam towards the end with a climax that doesn’t work effectively at all. The main characters (barring Shraddha Kapoor) are fleshed out nicely and the film really scores with some witty dialogue writing. Stree is also surprisingly layered and takes a smart dig at various issues making headlines in the country today besides turning some gender conventions on their head.
It’s the screenplay, however, that falters in places with logical loopholes and even stretching credibility at several points. He is a lad grown up small town that is holding a Hindu religious festival and yet Vicky doesn’t even bat an eyelid when he is asked by the mysterious woman for alcohol, mutton, a lizard’s tail and a cat’s hair. Or when she leads him to an isolated spot and night and vanishes and he doesn’t think much of it in spite of all that is happening in the town. Really? You also wish the horror portions had more bite to them. The Stree character, when seen, is more inadvertently laughable rather than spooky. The final twist with Kapoor too appears more a necessity for the genre rather than anything else.
The actors certainly lift the film a notch or two. Rajkummar Rao is reliably efficient as the ‘cutting master’ who can tell a woman’s measurements by just looking at her and who is a whiz with the sewing machine as well. His goofy grin works big time and he creates a likeable ‘maadern’ small town young lad who has you rooting for him. Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee are a hoot, particularly the latter, and Pankaj Tripathi is typically excellent as well. In the midst of such fine actors, Shraddha Kapoor is expectedly the weak factor but it has to be said she’s better than what she has been in most of her films although that’s still not saying much. Vijay Raaz’s cameo fails to add anything substantial to the film.
The camerawork (Amalendu Chaudhary), though simple, explores the locations quite well. The editing by Hemanti Sarkar maintains the pace and rhythm of the film quite nicely, knowing when to build up the thriller quotient and when to bring it down. However, the songs don’t work in the film at all, while like most horror films, the sound design is a mite too typical. Still, the film overall has enough going for it, which is more than what you can say for most Hindi films today.
Hindi, Horror, Comedy, Drama, Color