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Stree review: When a brilliant cast takes on consistently good comic writing

Release Date: 31 Aug 2018 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 10min

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Suparna Thombare

Director Amar Kaushik subverts gender roles in this very interesting marriage of horror and comedy. 

Amar Kaushik, who has previously assisted on films like Aamir (2008), No One Killed Jessica (2011) and Go Goa Gone (2013), among others, and directed the acclaimed short film Aaba (2017), makes his directorial debut with a one of a kind horror-comedy in the form of Stree. 

At the outset, the plot and the happenings in this film are quite bizzarre (and everyone on the team knows that), but the director manages to marry quirky humour with intermittent scares quite skillfully.

But it really is the consistently good writing and the brilliant performances that make Stree worth a lot more. 

Many many years ago a prostitute was denied a happy marriage and a life of dignity by the villagers. Since then she comes back once a year during a four-day puja held at the local temple to take away the men of the village, leaving behind only their clothes. 

Stree trailer: Based on myth or not, men have every reason to fear this lady

Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a magically talented tailor aka Chanderi ka Manish Malhotra, who can measure his female customers' stats by just looking at them and stitch a ghagra in 30 minutes, meets a mysterious girl (Shraddha Kapoor), who shows up during the very four days of the auspicious puja every year.

When his friend Jana (Abhishek Banerjee) is also spirited away, his other friend Bittu (Aparshakti Khurana) points out that Vicky's mysterious girlfriend could be the Stree. 

They seek the help of the local know-it-all and self-proclaimed expert of occult sciences, Rudra (Pankaj Tripathi) to get rid of Stree once and for all, even as more and more men begin to disappear.

Almost every scene is packed with witty repartee and conversational humour, and Rajkummar is in top form, nailing every single bit. Watch out for the scene where he tries to romance the ghost in Shah Rukh Khan style or the sequence where he is trying to tame his possessed friend Jana. 

Pankaj Tripathi is just as good, delivering comic moments absolutely nonchalantly. Khurana, Banerjee and Kapoor are all perfectly cast too. 

There is a definite subversion on women's treatment in our society and a message on women's safety by turning the tables on the men.

Zombieland is the only horror comedy I have watched: Stree director Amar Kaushik

In one scene, Tripathi's character also points to consent. The ghost only preys on the men who give her their consent by turning around when she calls them and look into her eyes. "Yes means yes," he says. But when Vijay Raaz spells it all out in his cameo, for just a while it feels like things may go downhill from here. Thankfully, Kaushik refrains from going the whole hog and getting preachy on his viewers. Instead, he continues to keep it clever and funny even with it's core being "if men continue to treat women badly they could come for you and literally or figuratively spirit you away."

The quirk is plenty in the screenplay writing of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK [who have previously written and directed cult films like Shor In The City (2011) and Go Goa Gone], and Sumit Arora's dialogues are hilarious. Camera work by Amalendu Chaudary [of Nude (2018) and Kaccha Limbu (2017) fame] creates the spooky experience, while the loud background score at crucial moments aids the jump scares. 

When brilliant actors, skilled technicians and writers come together for an experiment, it's worth witnessing the results. Like last year's Oscar nominated Get Out, a horror film that turned out to be a commentary on race dynamics in the US, Stree is a comment on gender relations at its hilarious core. 

The best part about this horror-comedy though is that it is completely desi in its tone and treatment, giving you an authentic experience. 



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