Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Aparshakti Khurrana, Abhishek Bannerjee, Shraddha Kapoor, Pankaj Tripathi, Vijay Raaz, Nora Fatehi
Director: Amar Kaushik
Rating: * * *
After a futuristic zombie laughs riot like ‘Go Goa Gone,’ Dinesh Vijan’s Maddock films attempts yet another horror comedy – but this time it’s closer to the earthy Hindi heartland. Set in small-town Chanderi where townsfolk are shown to be believers in all kinds of superstitions, the 4-day annual, festive puja becomes the occasion for a ‘Stree’ to gobble up all the able-bodied men.
As the legend goes, told by a param gyaani Rudra (Pankaj Tripathi) the only way to prevent instant disappearance is to follow his 4 part instructions – the last of which is left unsaid, because the Stree – a malicious female spirit/Dayan happens to appear at just that time. The legend of the Stree is actually part of a book found within the pages of the Kamasutra, located in Rudra’s personal library. The film though is not just about the Stree, it’s also about a young tailor Bicky (Rajkumar Rao) who neglects his work believing he was meant to do better things – but falls right to the job, the moment a lovely young woman (Shraddha Kapoor) persuades him to sew-up a new ghagra/skirt for her. He is smitten, but does she feel the same?
Well, their fantasy romance plays out in the wildly imaginative bickering among three friends Bicky, Jaana (Abhishek Bannerjee) and Bittu (Aparshakti Khurrana). While Bicky is in seventh heaven, Bittu and Jaana stay unconvinced until Bicky finds himself alone in a forest and Jaana disappears later that night.
The scripting by Raj and DK is imaginative though not entirely sustainable. The plotting and treatment is great fun. It may not always ring true, but uproarious ribald jesting, the disconnected appeal for women’s empowerment, the earthy humour in the lingo and dialogues and the native rusticity heralded in the superbly able performances add up to something immensely likeable and entertaining. Social relevance is an important peg for a film aiming to light up the lives of its audience, but writers Raj and DK fail to make that count. A few stray salvos on that front fail to generate the desired impact.
Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkumar Rao, Aparshakti Khurrana and Abhishek Banerjee bring the house down with their antics. Shraddha Kapoor is likeable here, but she has a long way to go before she can be called an actress of calibre. The narrative’s objective to have fun with the horror genre and its clichéd tropes are best exemplified by the tacky CGI here – literally headlining the film’s frivolous intentions. Obviously, Amar Kaushik’s able, confident helming had a hand to play in all this. This film is most likely to bring joy to an otherwise beleaguered audience.