Stree (transl. Woman; Hindi pronunciation: [st̪ɾiː]) is a 2018 Indian horror comedy film directed by Amar Kaushik, written by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. and produced by Dinesh Vijan and Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. under the banner of Maddock Films, in association with D2RFilms. The film’s plot is based on the Karnataka urban legend known as Nale Ba (English: “Come Tomorrow”), about a spirit who knocks on people’s doors at night. Stree stars Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor. Stree is one of Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao’s highest grossing films. Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana, and Abhishek Banerjee appear in supporting roles. The film was known as a sleeper hit in the box office.
In late November 2017, Raj and DK approached Rao to star in the maiden production. As part of the preparation for his role of a tailor, Rao learned to sew. In December, Kapoor was confirmed as the film’s female lead. Raj and DK brought on their First Assistant Director from Go Goa Gone, Amar Kaushik to direct the film in January 2018. Principal photography began on 13 January 2018 in Chanderi. Filming took place in Bhopal and Mumbai; the final schedule was completed in May 2018. The soundtrack was composed by Sachin-Jigar with lyrics written by Vayu, Badshah and Jigar Saraiya.
Stree had its theatrical release on 31 August 2018. It received positive reviews with praise for its ingenuity, but received some criticism for its convoluted plot. With earnings of over ₹180.76 crore against a budget of ₹23 crore, Stree emerged as a major critical and commercial success. The film received ten nominations at the 64th Filmfare Awards, including Best Film, Best Director for Kaushik, Best Actor for Rao, and Best Supporting Actor for Tripathi and Khurrana. It won Best Debut Director for Kaushik.
The plot is based on the Indian folk legend about a female witch who abducts men at night when they are alone and only leaves their clothes behind. The residents of a town named Chanderi believe in the spirit of an angry woman, referred to as “Stree”, who stalks men and whisks them away during the four days of a religious festival every year, causing many disappearances. To protect the residents, “O Stree, come tomorrow” is written in Hindi with bat’s blood on the entrances of all homes and men are advised to not roam alone after 10 pm during the festive season, and move in groups for safety – a parallel of instructions women are usually told to follow for their own safety.
Vicky (Rajkummar Rao), a ladies’ tailor in Chanderi, mysteriously encounters a charming woman (Shraddha Kapoor) who only comes to the town during the annual Durga pooja season and falls in love with her at first sight. She asks him to stitch her a lahenga. Her frequent disappearances, her shopping list including peculiar items such as a lizard’s tail, white cat’s furr, flowers of Datura, meat, brandy and such like presumed to be ingredients for black magic and the fact that she is not seen by anybody except Vicky, makes his friend Bittu (Aparshakti Khurana) suspicious, and he starts believing that she could be Stree. After one of his friends, Janna (Abhishek Banerjee), is kidnapped by Stree, Vicky grows suspicious of the woman as well. He confronts her on which she disappears yet again.
They decide to research the history of the town and the myth of Stree, to find a way to save their friend and ask the town’s librarian Rudra Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) for help, who is also a paranologist. They come across a partially torn book in his library which mentions Stree’s story and an old fort. Vicky, Bittu and Rudra visit the old fort, which Stree is supposedly inhabiting, to find Janna. Stree drives away Bittu and Rudra and is about to attack Vicky but does not, as she senses the feeling of love and respect in his eyes. She is then driven away by the mysterious woman. The woman tells Vicky and his friends that she has been trying to defeat ‘Stree’ for the last three years after losing someone close to her, this been the reason of her coming during the festival season when Stree haunts the town. This clarifies that The Woman & Stree are two different persons. Stree releases Janna as requested by Vicky, but he starts having sporadic violent episodes. More men go missing after a possessed Janna, under Stree’s control, erases the word “Tomorrow” from the protective phrases outside everyone’s homes, leaving it as “O Stree, come”; an invitation.
Vicky, Bittu, Rudra and the woman meet the book’s author Shankar Shastri (Vijay Raaz) to find a permanent solution to save the town, who informs them that Stree had once been an extremely beautiful courtesan that every man in town desired. At last she found a man who truly loved her and wanted to marry her, but on their wedding night, Stree and her husband were killed by the town’s jealous men. Her spirit has ever since been searching for her true love and also seeks revenge on the town by aiming to abduct every last man in it. Shastri tells them of a prophecy pointing to a saviour and Vicky surprisingly appears to have all the characteristics describing the saviour which is also inclusive of the fact that his mother too was a courtesan who fell in love with his father and married, a story similar to Stree’s, but with a fortunate end. Vicky struggles with taking on the truth, confronts his father but then feels grateful for his father’s affection and efforts, and decides to save his town which accepted him and didn’t denounce him. The friends and the woman make a trap to kill Stree but Vicky realizes that Stree only desires love and respect. Instead of killing her, the mysterious woman suggests Vicky simply cut her long braid – the source of her powers – so that she will be rendered powerless. He does so, and Stree vanishes. The mysterious woman leaves the city the next day and Vicky bids her farewell, forgetting to ask her name all this time. On the bus, the woman merges Stree’s braid with her own hair and then vanishes from the bus, implying that she is a witch who wanted Stree’s power through her braid.
Stree visits Chanderi again the following year and finds her own statue at the town entrance with a new phrase – “O Stree, protect us” – thus giving her respect, and she does not enter Chanderi.
Shraddha Kapoor as the mysterious woman (written in the script as “Gayatri”)
Rajkummar Rao as Vicky, a ladies tailor
Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra, a paranologist
Aparshakti Khurana as Bittu, Vicky’s friend
Abhishek Banerjee as Jaana, Vicky and Bittu’s friend who got possessed by Stree.
Flora Saini as Stree, a devil that abducts men during Chanderi’s festival night.
Vijay Raaz as Shastri, the author of Chanderi Puran.
Aakash Dabhade as Narendra
Atul Srivastava as Vicky’s father
Ramkrishna Dhakad as the tailor’s assistant
Nora Fatehi (special appearance in song “Kamariya”)
Kriti Sanon (special appearance in the song “Aao Kabhi Haveli Pe”)