Honest Stree movie review: Shraddha Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao Are Terrific In Madcap Film

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Shraddha Kapoor’s part is a bit risible, but she has some breathy moments with Rajkummar Rao.
Shraddha Kapoor’s part is a bit risible, but she has some breathy moments with Rajkummar Rao.

Shraddha Kapoor’s part is a bit risible, but she has some breathy moments with Rajkummar Rao. Rao, whose Bicky seems like an extension of his Bareilly Ki Barfi avatar, carries the film.

A grown, desirous woman is a threat to mankind, emphasis on ‘man’.

For centuries, women have been pilloried and victimised on the basis of these putrid beliefs. Oh, the horror. Rein her in, tamp down her sexual desires, tie her up, burn her at the stake, put a knife through her scheming heart.

It is fully appropriate that these toxic notions are sent up in a horror-comedy, written by Raj and DK. Stree’s premise is a cracker, leaving you grinning in the dark. But the execution comes off a tad clunky: subversion in a film willing to embrace its silliness can be very effective, but it can get diluted if your messaging is mixed.

In the town of Chanderi (MP, suddenly on the map after Padman), there lives a likely lad called Vicky (Rao), blessed by a keen eye and kind heart. That doesn’t stop him from preening, and falling for a mysterious girl’s (Kapoor) charms. When she says come, he follows, casting aside fears of the ‘stree’ who haunts the town, hunting lone men. There’s a ‘bhootni’ about, beware.

Predictably, Vicky is pronounced as Bicky, because Bollywood small town-ness is still denoted by an inability to differentiate between a V and a B. Neither the possessor of the name nor his two good pals, Bittu (Khurrana) and Dana (Banerjee) have any trouble with sophistication; they hang around, slinging jibes about love at first sight, doing ‘frandship’ with ladies of the night, and finally, confronting the ‘stree’.

The quality of the performances that Kaushik extracts from his actors lends Stree infectious flounce. Rajkummar Rao is terrific. Whether he is flummoxed, frightened or simply going along with the flow, he delivers with minimum apparent effort. Shraddha Kapoor is suitably icy as the enigmatic woman who traipses into the protagonist’s life and sets off the tremors.

Aparshakti Khurrana, full of beans, steals many a scene. Abhishek Banerjee delivers a high-energy yet controlled performance as the friend who suffers the most at the hands of the eponymous ghost. Pankaj Tripathi is in cracking form, giving the narrative a booster-charge whenever he is on the screen. Atul Srivastava in the role of Vicky’s father leaves an impression in the handful of scenes he has in the film.

Stree plays an unwavering hand in demonstrating that dread can be unbridled fun when it serves a larger thematic purpose. Go watch this spine-tingling film. It is completely madcap but there is method in its manic madness.

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