Isn’t it lovely that Feminist Horror Comedy is now an actual genre? Stree is of course the best of them, but Roohi is a not terrible addition.
I saw this cast announced and thought “well, Janhvi is clearly going to be a minor performances, Varun Sharma is always irritating, but Rajkummar Rao will be a hilarious delight!” I was right that Janhvi was minor, good for what she did but clearly the straight woman, but by golly Varun Sharma was better than Rajkummar!!! Charming, silly, sweet, dumb but not stupid. If his character had been calibrated slightly off, the whole film would have fallen apart, it lives and dies on him.
This film is one of those where when it is good it is so good, that you forget where it is lacking. The good funny bits of dialogue are very very good and funny. The good twists upon the plot are very very good and surprising. The good performance moments are so perfect they don’t feel like performances. But there is also some lines of dialogue that is supposed to be funny and doesn’t quite make me laugh. And some predictable bits. And so on and so forth. I enjoyed it on a first watch. But I suspect on the second watch I would find the not as good bits a lot duller and harder to get through on the way to the really good bits.
The one thing I won’t get tired of is the message!!!! Excellently done. Could have been done better, central metaphor needs a little more backstory, but nothing actually wrong with it. And some moments of high delight.
This is one of those films where the humor comes from how stupid the patriarchy is. This is different from how stupid men are. The comedies about “how stupid men are” can enforce the patriarchy, say “they are so stupid, it is our job to clean up after them”. This is different, this is saying “the whole system is dumb and it is hilarious how people of no particular talent and intelligence are in positions of power over others who are better than them.” It’s also a film that doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because that’s the point. It’s a comedy about the patriarchy, and the funny bit is all the men in it. If there were more women, and if they were able to interact in female spaces, it wouldn’t even be funny.
Which brings me back to the casting. Janhvi does fine in her role but there really isn’t much for her to do, it’s a comedy and she’s the one non-comic character. Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma have the far more difficult task of showing two people who are not innately bad, but are the products of the society in which they live, a society that gives them more power and prestige than they deserve. The problem is, in for the film to work as a feminist statement, eventually our heroine does have to speak for ourselves, to balance the scales of power and make us understand what the men are doing from the other side. And Janhvi is a wee bit week when it comes to that point.
Overall though, EXCELLENT! If you liked Stree, you will like this. Not as much, but you will still like it.