Banners: Maddock Films, D2R Films
Producers: Dinesh Vijan, Raj & DK
Director: Amar Kaushik
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurrana, Abhishek Banerjee, Atul
Srivastava, Vijay Raaz
Writers: Raj & DK, Sumit Aroraa (dialogue)
Comedy capers are usually well done in Hindi cinema, but horror is a genre that has found limited success in mainstream films. We have had filmmakers who have tried to combine the two but have found it a challenge to maintain a balance between the two elements.
Last year, we saw Rohit Shetty make a horror-comedy and he did that with aplomb in Golmaal 4 and the film was a huge success story. Stree is another attempt to get that balance right. And, to a large extent, the makers have succeeded.
Every town has its urban legends and Chanderi’s is Stree. Every year, during the four-day Puja festival, all the walls in the town are painted with the words ‘O Stree kal aana’. These words are said to keep a vengeful spirit away, a woman who takes away men, leaving only their clothes behind. And just as there is a naysayer for every handful of believers, Chanderi has Bicky.
By profession, Bicky is a tailor and works with his father. He is the only thinking man in a town filled with superstitious and ignorant folk. He thinks he has a greater calling than just being a tailor of women’s clothes. But his father feels that his son has not tapped his vast tailoring talent. When Bicky is not at the shop stitching and mending women’s clothes, he is with his friends Bittu and Jana. But during the Puja festival, even his friends take a back seat, as he waits eagerly for a girl.
She comes to Chanderi only during the festival season and those are Bicky’s most memorable days. But, this year, her visit brings about a huge change in his life. While Bicky is trying to take his ‘friendship’ with this mysterious girl to the next level, stree strikes. She takes away one man from the town on the first night of the festival, and on the second night Jana becomes the victim.
Bicky, who didn’t believe in stree till then, decides to get up close with her, and he literally does! Along with Bittu and Rudra, the Mr. Know-It-All of Chanderi, he sets out on a mission to bring Jana back. While he succeeds in doing that, more men are taken away by stree. When Bicky and his friends believe there is no way to defeat this angry spirit, help comes from the most unexpected quarter. With this new-found help, do Bicky and his mates manage to rid Chanderi of stree? That’s what the rest of the film is all about.
Amar Kaushik makes his directorial debut with this film. He has some amazing material to work with and that has definitely made his task easier. Raj & DK give us a very crisply written story. There are barely any scenes that are forced. For a film of this genre to work, the pace is important and that has been managed well. Here, one must mention Sumit Aroraa, who has written the dialogue. It has some extremely funny lines and he manages to give us a good dose of sarcasm at regular intervals.
Another thing that works in favour of the film is the music. The songs composed by Sachin-Jigar are used as background tracks except for Kamariya and Milegi milegi, which plays during the end credits. This is another reason that keeps the narrative tight. Also, the background score by Ketan Sodha and sound design by Shojith Koyeri and Savitha Nambrath enhance the film, especially the scary portions.
For all its positives, the only thing that works against the film is the climax. For a film that should have ended on a high, after a roller coaster ride of laughs and scares, the climax is underwhelming and confused.
Performance-wise, there are two stand-outs – Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi. As Bicky, Rao brings a certain innocence and vulnerability to his character. He is absolutely believable as a tailor from Chanderi. Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra is top-notch. He has some of the best lines in the film and he delivers them in his signature style. Every time he appears on screen, laughter is guaranteed. Aparshakti Khurrana as Bittu and Abhishek Banerjee as Jana complete the comedy quartet. They perform their parts to the ‘T’ and it would be impossible to imagine Rao and Tripathi getting their comedy right without their support.
Atul Srivastava, who plays Bicky’s father in the film, is a treat to watch. The father-son interaction when he talks to his son about the ‘needs’ of young men is hilarious and he performs his role with conviction. Shraddha Kapoor as the mystery woman has limited screen space, but she does manage to do a decent job. The cameo by Vijay Raaz is okay.
Verdict: A sure-shot winner at the ticket counter!