Stree fights patriarchy with chilling horror and comedy

A satirical attempt to spread social message


September 13, 2018

/ By / New Delhi

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The real ghost in the film is the partriarchal mentality, which is seeped deep within men in India. The witch on the other hand is instead the ‘hero’ fighting male domination.

There’s a demon on the loose and she is hunting men in the Chanderi village during the four days of a yearly puja (worship). The men can’t step out after it’s dark; if they at all need to, they must do so in a group.

The film Stree, which is being hailed as this year’s feminist triumph in Bollywood, has succeeded in tickling its audience while giving men a taste of their own medicine. In a very satirical manner, the story shows role reversal of men and women living in the village of Chanderi, where men have some ground rules, which in real life are considered as a non-negotiable part of a woman’s life in India.

The story is inspired by an urban legend called Nale ba, which was very popular in the state of Bengaluru in the 1990s. If the legend is to be believed, a witch used to roam in the streets of the city of Karnataka’s capital, hunting for her prey. She would knock on the doors at night, and try to lure men by calling them out in voices similar to that of the women they loved – their mother, wife or sister.

No matter how terrifying the witch looks in the film, she is still very different from the ones in our regular horror films. She is educated, asks for consent, and respects other people’s personal space. The film very cleverly takes a case of men in today’s society with dialogues like – “Wo Stree hai purush nahi jo bina permission ke le jayegi” (the ghost is a female, not a man, who will abduct you without permission).

For a long time now, horror has had a very defined pattern in Hindi cinema – old mansions, deep woods, ruins, old forts. Unlike those, Stree (literally translates to ‘a female’) subtly reveals the horrors of sexual repression. Yet, the makers ensure that Stree doesn’t get too preachy, and so the message unfolds in the form of satire and with the right dose of humour.

Just when you think the best part is over, the movie surprises you with an unusual ending – without any scenes of exorcism. If anything that gets exorcised, it is the belief that a stree (female) cannot be a protector for her society. The villagers end up installing a statue of the ghost with a message ‘O stree raksha karo’ (Woman, protect us).

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