Misogyny and chauvinism are social evils that exist in both first and third world societies. Whether you’re educated or civilized, women have always had to play second fiddle in the male-dominant system. The world would certainly, do well to give women far more respect. To see such a pertinent conversation unfold in a horror-comedy like Stree, is a unique experience. But, it feels a bit jarring, when a film that pokes fun at horror film ideas and entertains the audience with its quips, suddenly bursts out into a comment on feminism. In a bid to be socially relevant, Stree ends up being a little too preachy.
Misplaced, good intentions aside, the writing for this genre-bender is very good, especially in the dialogues department. Horror comedies are a rare offering in Hindi cinema and in that respect, Stree serves up a lot of thrills and spills. The small-town setting and the many jibes at horror film legends are hilarious. The funniest character in the film is Pankaj Tripathi’s Rudra, a bookshop owner and Mr know-it-all, who guides Vicky and his friends on how to cope with Stree and her haunting act. Tripathi’s comic timing is top notch and one of the veritable highlights of the film. Rajkummar’s performance is just as good. He handles the many shades of comedy, horror and romance (in a brilliant throwback scene to Shah Rukh Khan) with great ease. Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee as the friends offer good comedic punches too. Shraddha Kapoor’s character is a bit of an enigma. Even though the role is problematic, the actress does a fine job of maintaining an air of mystery.
Stree does fairly well with the comedy, but even with several laugh-out-loud moments, the film feels a little too long. Towards the end, the movie drops the horror comedy treatment and becomes a little too serious about the conventional stabbing-the-ghost-in-the-heart kind of ideas that often play out in horror flicks. Also, it doesn’t add up that a film trying to advocate respect for women, has a song called Kamariya, where men dance around a skimpily clad Nora Fatehi.
Despite all its flaws and ambiguous ideas, Stree is still an entertaining film. This is an experimental comedy, that creates an eerie atmosphere and it manages to be funny and scary at the same time. Writers Raj and DK (who have directed films like Go Goa Gone, 99 and Shor In The City) bring in their trademark humour. The film has its absurdities, it also has its moments but the final act let’s it down.