Scarily funny

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Sep 2018 11:19:22




By Farina Salim Quraishi

Going by the sorry record of horror comedies in Bollywood, it’s not really too hard to dismiss Stree as yet another comedy of horrors, especially when its tagline goes, Ab Mard Ko Dard Hoga. However, contrary to perception, there is a lot to like and little to complain about in the quirky and scary Stree. The horredy has enough spunk and spirit to merge the diverse genres and manages to serve the best of both with aplomb. Based on a – self-confessed- ridiculously true phenomenon, Stree combines chills and tension with perfectly timed gags to be a highly entertaining scare-fest. Carrying the trademark quirky stamp of director duo, Raj and DK - who are serving as writers this time round - Stree sails strongly as much on its snappy writing as it does on its power-packed performances with the immensely likeable Rajkummar Rao leading the way.

The small town of Chanderi (Madhya Pradesh) is terrorised by the wandering spirit of Stree, a woman who died decades ago, but hasn’t left town yet. Seeking revenge for the cruel injustice meted out to her by the villagers in general and men in particular, Stree comes into town for four days each year - during the annual puja - striking terror into the hearts of the townsfolk. For years Stree has been abducting solitary men after seducing them with her sultry voice, leaving behind just their clothes as a sign of her vengeance and their disappearance.

In a bid to stay safe, each house in town wears the sign, ‘O Stree, Kal Aana’ painted in crimson with a special ink. Stree, who can presumably read, sees the sign and changes her course, only to repeat the cycle every night. Scoffing at the paranoia, Vicky (Rajkummar Rao) - the self-proclaimed Manish Malhotra of Chanderi - is unperturbed by the legend of Stree and is in fact in love with another ‘stree’; a mysterious girl who visits Chanderi only during the puja.They meet each year for four days and she goes away soon after the puja is over. Vicky’s best buddies, Bittu (Aparshakti Khurrana) and Jana (Abhishek Banerjee), think the mysterious girl is the Stree of Chanderi and fear for the safety of their friend. Things take a drastic turn, when Jana, while looking for Vicky, disappears one night leaving behind all but his clothes.

First-time director Amar Kaushik makes a confident debut and erases the blurred line of frightening-versus-funny fantastically and serves a winning mash-up of thrills and chills. There are plenty of laughs to be had as the film pendulums wildly from being spooky to funny; never staying in either genre for too long. Stuffed with exciting surprises and thrilling twists, the film is a breathless ride, which excels in turning theories on their heads. The story,
written by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, is solid and the well-written plot has a lot of fun with the absurdities it embraces with relish.

The congested setting - narrow lanes of Chanderi and closeted houses - serves as the perfect backdrop to the plot and cinematographer Amalendu Choudary excels in using the shadows and silhouettes to stunning effect. The background score, much like the movie, is understated and impactful. No ear-piercing screams are to be heard, yet the eerie beats and tempo manage to make one jump time and again. However, in between dragging up and mocking every supernatural belief, the easy breezy movie takes out moments to address serious concerns like gender equality and women empowerment along with taking political potshots, losing track sporadically. Also not every question gets answered in the movie and not all dots connect as Stree steadily gets repetitive and meandering post interval. But though the film loses momentum in its over 2-hour run, it, however, never runs out of steam and remains an engaging watch. The ghostly moments are decidedly few and not gory enough to please die-hard goth fans but the overload of funny gags and hilarious dialogues will definitely make you laugh out loud. Sumit Arora’s lines are pure magic and bring alive even the dullest of scenes.

Rajkummar Rao is outstanding as Vicky and gets the mannerism of a desi-dude right to a T. The sequences, be it wherein he is rattling off types of designs he specialises in or being the King of Romance, Mr Shah Rukh Khan, are pure gold even though at the most inappropriate of times. Though his exceptional tailoring skills are not on display much, the endearing vulnerability of Vicky is unmistakable. Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee are outstanding as Vicky’s cowardly buddies and share a heartwarming bromance. But the show stealer is the shudh Hindi-speaking Pustak Bhandar owner Rudra (Pankaj Tripathi). He nails the role of a smug know-it-all, who takes much pride in being the bakwaas baaton ka expert and brings the house down with his poker-faced lines.

Shraddha Kapoor is enigmatic initially, flinting in and out of scenes intriguingly. But post second half, when she is called to do more than chirp out, ‘Hi Vicky’, Shraddha’s listless acts shows through as does her one-note expressions. Atul Srivastava in the role of Vicky’s father and Vijay Raaz as a celebrated writer gone loony leave an impression in the handful of scenes they have in the film. With the right amount of bone-tickling and bone-chilling moments, Stree is an unconventional entertainer which is sure to brighten up your weekend. Go watch.

The Hitavada Rating: OOO