Movies

‘Stree’ review: A feminist tale of laughs and chills

Between chuckles and stabs of fear the film offers some lessons in gender sensitivity

No two films could be as different as Amar Kaushik’s debut feature Stree and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s much celebrated S Durga. Yet the most singular aspect about this week’s release is its undertone that inverts the premise of S Durga while trying to score similar feminist points in a fun and fluffy way. With a mock-ironic touch it makes men go through the physical and mental trauma that women face in day-to-day life. A woman’s fear, suffocation, lack of safety and constant degradation gets transposed to men. All of their own doing; disrespect for women after all, can only beget disrespect.

 

All these life lessons are offered in the guise of a horror-comedy. Tables are turned for four days a year during a religious festival when the men of Chanderi are unable to venture out in the dark, get advised by their wives and mothers to return home early and keep the doors and windows of the house locked and to not pay heed to stalkers and strangers. Sounds familiar, right? All the precautions owe to the potential danger of getting abducted by a mysterious female spirit who leaves only one clue behind — the clothes of the claimed men.

Stree
  • Director: Amar Kaushik
  • Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana, Abhishek Banerjee, Vijay Raaz, Atul Srivastava
  • Run time: 127 minutes
  • Storyline: For four days a year, during a religious festival, the men of Chanderi, get abducted by a mysterious female spirit. The only sign that gets left behind are the clothes of the missing men.

Between scares, laughs and trying to be feminist, the film does tend to get unwieldy and spreads itself too thin. The three elements play out inconsistently. But on the good side, as in some of the recent Bollywood films, Stree has a quaint sense of place, eccentric characters, a few madcap sequences and some sharply written, consciously irreverent lines to keep one engaged. Though the trailer has, unfortunately, outed the nice play on Aadhar, a few innocent viewers are still likely to come out of the film smiling, with a word like “swayamsevi” (the self-serving) acquiring a whole new meaning.

To use the lines from the film itself, much as Rajkummar Rao gets under the skin of his character and proves to be a great fit for his role of “Chanderi ka Manish Malhotra” “Bhagwan ka darzi roopi avtaar” (God’s own incarnation of a tailor), it’s those around him, be it father Atul Srivastava or friends Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee who are as much “oorja ka bhandar” (reserves of “artistic” energy). Pankaj Tripathi, in particular, is in insane form, making comedy look damn easy with his deadpan look, droll ways and crackling, impeccable rendition of the written word. I am still guffawing at the earnest talk about “Naye Bharat Ki Chudail” (the witch of New India).

However, in the madness unleashed by the boys brigade, it’s the woman at the centre, i.e. Shraddha Kapoor, who becomes curiously inconsequential and utterly colourless; if not entirely an object of the male gaze like Nora Fatehi in the token item number. A tad ironic for the film’s larger feminist aims.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:44:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/stree-review-a-feminist-tale-of-laughs-and-chills/article24833981.ece

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