Stree has strong feminist undertones and proves how a story-centric horror comedy can make for an effective entertainer.
Stree arrived in 2018, it reintroduced the horror-comedy genre, which has had its shares of ups and downs in Bollywood. It’s a difficult genre to crack with filmmakers failing to find a balance between horror and comedy whilst trying to increase the entertainment quotient. Stree took the risk, and even after three years, people remember it. There are many theories about its plot that only a sequel can answer.
But what was it that made Stree stand out from all the horror-comedies that were attempted before?
The writers adapted the story from Indian folklore of Oh Stree Repu Ra (Oh woman, come tomorrow), about a witch who abducts men at night. It was Raj Nidimoru, who decided to bring this story to screen after he came across messages warding off an evil witch in his hometown.
The writer-filmmaker said that the message stayed on his mind for a long time, even when he was studying in the US. Raj explained, "I knew there was a crazy film there, but I was trying to get a point across. So, I thought what if she (Stree) comes to take away men - a woman ghost is hunting men."
The film is based on the witch - a character often vilified in folklore and pop culture. In Stree, the idea of her existence has the men of Chanderi scared to death, but there is one man who is a non-believer. Vicky, played by Rajkummar Rao, is an A-1 tailor of the small town but he doesn't realise his talent like everyone around him does. The character is so amazingly written showing a man who makes women around him most comfortable and treats him with respect.
Although his aspiration doesn’t lie in his tailoring skills, it is commendable to watch how for a young, virile man to be a tailor and a designing whiz could be something that’s looked down upon. But his profession is a part of his identity, no one seems to have a problem with it.
This is one of the easiest and important feminist angles shown in Stree by the makers. The film has many feminist undertones and shuns the gender stereotypes in an upfront manner.
Stree has also commented on the question of women’s safety. If you remember, in one of the scenes, a woman is heard telling her husband that he better get home before it gets darker. Or when a woman is visiting the temple, she asks her husband to lock the door from inside and not open it until she knocks. There is a gender swap shown that instead of a woman, it’s the men who are in peril. It seems comical, even absurd because men are usually accepted to be physically strong compared to women.
Moreover, there's a dialogue by Pankaj Tripathi playing the role of a paranologist who says that Stree won't forcefully take you away. He says, "Woh stree hai, purush nahi. Zabardasti nahi karti." (She is a woman, not a man. She won't force on you.) He mentions consent which concept is something many refuse to understand. We are still living in a time where Indian laws have still not acknowledged marital rape and that they do not recognise the concept of consent in a marriage.
Even Vijay Raaz's character talks about insulting women initially, but then he is slammed by Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi and Aparshakti Khurana's characters. However, he clarifies strictly that this is how men of that village think, Stree only demands love and respect which was taken away from her for loving and marrying the man she adored.
Pankaj Tripathi's character Rudra Bhaiya owns a bookshop which has a novel named Chanderi Puran written by Shankar Shastri. The half-torn book has details about the actual Stree and what happened to her which led her spirit to haunt the village. The other details, although shown funnily, have a deeper meaning. One of which is the truth about Vicky's mother, who was a courtesan. Thus, this makes Vicky in some way related to Stree. This brings the film to full circle citing that why Shraddha Kapoor’s character only drew towards him and prodded him to help her in busting the spirit of Stree.
If you ask me, no, she isn't the actual Stree. Instead, she is a witch who wants to gain the powers of Stree and visits the Chanderi to do so. The climax sequence of Vicky and Stree's wedding night, shows the latter strangling Shraddha's unnamed character only because she knows her real intentions. Similarly, she visits the haunted haveli of Stree with a special knife only to take her long locks and integrate them into her.
In the course of the film, knowing that only Vicky is Stree's saviour, she leaves no stone unturned in manipulating him and making him a part of her plan. Shraddha's character succeeds in doing so and Stree is left with no purpose as she stops haunting the people of Chanderi, who eventually ask her to be their protector.
Definitely! After Stree, there were many movies made in the same genre namely Roohi and the recent release Bhoot Police. But sadly, none of them could match up with the standard that Stree set.
Despite not being a fan of horror movies, I can never get bored of watching Stree and every time I do, I discover the story differently. What about you?