|Principal Cast||Shraddha Kapoor as the mysterious woman|
Rajkummar Rao as Vicky
Aparshakti Kurana as Bittu
Abishek Banerjee as Jaana
Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra
|Running Time||128 minutes|
This highly slept on horror comedy follows Vicky, a tailor with genius abilities who becomes smitten with an unknown woman who shows up during his town’s esoteric festival/ritual meant to ward off a man-snatching spirit aptly named Stree (which means woman in Hindi). As the supernatural situation gets more tense, suspicions run high, as everyone is desperate to find a way to stop the abductions. The movie expertly plays with audience expectations, subverting them in ways that are clever and well laid out by a directorial bread crumb trail. Watching the mystery unfold is a treat and the movie will keep you on edge up till the very end.
If you’re familiar with Indian politics,the country’s social setting, or grew up with family/close friends that filled your heads with stories about those things, the movie will stand out even more in how well it effectively utilizes both horror and comedy to critique gender roles, religious manipulation, and the discrepancy between the customs of different generations. By leading into these serious discussions with a comedic touch, the horrifying “lessons” ,so to say, both highlight the repercussions of actions that aren’t taken seriously today, while never coming off as too preachy. From urinating on the wall, to prostitution, to sex talks, the movie knows how to approach the broad variety of topics it wants to talk about with great care. Tonal balance is definitely here and the movie never loses focus on what it’s trying to do.
There’s more than one moment that reminded me of interactions I had in my youth, and I laughed at how genuine and real the dialogue sounded. This is obviously helped by the great performances from the leading cast members. Rao absolutely nails it as Vicky, a dopey, awkward, romantic with aspirations of moving out and ahead in life. He’s comical enough to laugh at, but not so comical to render the issues he goes through less serious. Kapoor captures the ambivalence of the mysterious woman to a T and constantly kept me guessing as to what really drove her. Every side character is interesting from Vicky’s father to the town’s resident bookkeeper. Even if you can’t keep track of all the names, they’re all written with a real humaneness so you care about them. I can still tell you exactly what each character was about, so that’s a credit to how fleshed out everyone comes off.
If you’re someone who likes Bollywood, you’ll be glad to know this movie manages to incorporate the flair and passion you normally get in an mainstream Indian movie, but ties it down into a wholly unique plot that demonstrates serious writing ingenuity. There’s even an item song that’s incorporated both as an injection of a fun vibrant energy and as a way to highlight the themes at play. Offering a unique story is hard enough but managing to do that while playing to convention is something else. Sound design is excellent and the music can be scary and exciting at the same time. By playing up the normal romcom ideas we expect to see and adding a supernatural twist to the background those affairs take place in, the movie manages to keep the audience constantly guessing what’s going to happen. There’s more than one moment that had me nervously laughing, both because of the comedic tension of the situation at play and the fear that something horrendous would happen.
Despite my glowing praise, there are some plot elements that stand out as being less developed than others. It makes sense given the breadth of what the movie is trying to do, but those little moments feel like they could’ve really cemented some of the themes. Thankfully, a sequel is due to come out , so I’m excited to see how this creative team will answer or develop these threads.
|TLDR||Stree is a one of a kind horror comedy that mixes traditional Bollywood elements with a one of a kind ghost story. If you’re familiar with India’s culture/social history, the movie really shines as a critique of some of the country’s most pressing issues. With the sequel coming out soon, there’s no better than than now to watch this masterpiece.|
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!