'O Stree, Kal Aana'- the walls of the houses in the quaint town of Chanderi have these words written in red ink made from the blood of bats and cow urine. Sounds spooky, doesn't it? But, Rajkummar Rao-Shraddha Kapoor starrer Stree has lots more to offer other than just chills. Right from the first frame itself, the film sets a tense atmosphere where you find yourself speculating about what's going to unfold on the screen next.
Based on a 'ridiculously' true phenomenon, Stree's hero is Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a gifted tailor who believes that his life is not just restricted to sews and stitches. Labelled as the 'Manish Malhotra' of Chanderi, our man doesn't need measuring tapes to size up his client's vital statistics.
Meanwhile, the urban legend of Stree grips the town. Folklore has it that she's a witch who lures men at night during a four-day Hindu annual festival and whisks them away, leaving behind only clothes. The only way for men to save themselves from the widely feared spirit is by scribbling the message, 'O Stree Kal Aana' on the walls of their houses. But then, god forbid, if they ever come across her, they shouldn't turn behind when she calls from behind or else, they are doomed!
To add more to it, it's love at first 'eyesight' for Vicky when he comes across a mysterious girl (Shraddha Kapoor). As events unfold, Vicky's best mates (Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee) are convinced that Stree is none other than Vicky's mystery girl who visits Chanderi every year only during those four days of terror. But is there more to it than meets the eye?
Combining horror and comedy in a film isn't a child's play, but director Amar Kaushik blends both these elements in perfect proportions to make Stree an interesting watch. When it comes to the fright department, some of the 'jump scares' catches you unaware. Special mention for Sumit Arora's rib-tickling dialogues, which pack a punch. On the flipside, the film has a sprinkle of dull moments at a place or two, but that doesn't play a major spoilsport. And now, coming to the most important part, the climax - sorry, no spoilers here, but all I can say is that it leaves you on a guessing note. Different people, different interpretation!
For those who ain't aware, Stree is loosely inspired from a popular folk legend called 'Nale Ba'. It is said that a witch terrorised the streets of Bangalore in the '90s, long before the city became India's Silicon Valley. The only way to get rid of her was to call out from inside one's home, 'Nale Ba', which means 'come tomorrow' in Kannada.
Speaking about the performances, Rajkummar Rao once again proves why he's one of the best talents we have in the industry. With his razor-sharp comic timing, he whips up a delicious fare that's hard to resist. Shraddha Kapoor brings in a sense of mystery, though I felt her character could have been sketched out more to give a better clarity.
Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee, as Vicky's besties, put up a commendable act to add more to the humour. Pankaj Tripathi with his hilarious one-liners makes you laugh till it hurts.
Be it the alleys from the eyes of Stree or the palpable moments, Amalendu Chaudhary's camera work never fails to impress. Hemanti Sarkar does a fine job at the editing table.
The songs with some quirky lyrics blend in well with the narrative.
Along with the laughs and scares, Stree also delivers a strong message without spelling it aloud and that's where the film stands out the most. In one of the scenes, while speaking his heart out to Shraddha, Rajkummar says, "Mor jab saawan ke mausam mein jhoom uthata hain, toh sab log usse dekhar mantra mugdha ho jaate hain, jaise hum aapko dekhkar mantramugdha.' The actor's charming act does exactly that to you. I am going with 3.5 stars.