There are films that offer more than just entertainment. Amar Kaushik’s directorial debut, Stree, managed to do the same. Starring Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, the film has also crossed the 150-crore mark recently.
What struck us the most, however, is that between laughs and fear, the horror-comedy offered a touch of gender sensitivity through its narrative. The director, his team of actors, the crew, and the production, came together to make a film which gave the audience a subject to observe, talk about and reflect; all this while gathering elements of acute laughter and irony takes on the present-day scenario.
SheThePeople.TV spoke to Amar Kaushik about Stree, his team, portrayal of women’s issues and his idea of filmmaking.
“Subjects that address social issues, without being preachy, and providing enough dose of entertainment should be considered as a priority for filmmakers now.” -Amar Kaushik
Kaushik, whose short film, ‘Aaba’ won the prize at Berlin Film Festival last year, believes in telling stories that he most relates to, whichever platform he chooses to narrate it on. “I have been a Bollywood buff and have enjoyed all sorts of films made in our country. I’ve learnt from each film that I have watched. I also come from a small town and have spent a lot of time travelling to the interiors of the country,” he says. Stree, he adds, is a slice of life film and he wanted to make exactly that, keeping the characters, language and the set-up very relatable.
“For Stree, I brought together my observations and experiences of all these years.”
The very idea of touching current issues while offering entertainment, is what appealed the most to the director. He says a subject as grave as this triggered him to take it up without apprehensions. “I am thankful to Raj and DK for writing and offering me a strong and thought-provoking script like Stree. It’s such an amazing way to touch issues the society faces and, yet, make the narrative entertaining,” he says. Balancing horror and humour has been a challenge for him as a director, however, it has been an interesting one.
He says he is grateful for an amazing team which had his back during the process. “This was a huge opportunity for me to showcase my skills – I couldn’t have asked anything better for my debut. Our supremely talented dialogue writer, Sumit Arora, very efficiently supported them,” he adds.
The power of content
Stree’s successful run again proved that content is something that builds the very soul of the film. The audience understands it too and Kaushik, therefore, feels relatable content makes everyone receive the films with open arms. “Our success once again proved that content is the king. If you bring strong, relatable, relevant and interesting content to the audiences, they welcome it with open arms. This is also an indication that the Indian audience’s tastes are evolving and they are receptive to fresh ideas,” he reflects.
Kaushik considers that a film’s success is always the result of the entire team’s hard work. “A fabulous team’s work is behind this. I think each department played an immense role in making Stree what it is today,” he maintains.
“Filmmakers are privileged to have a platform that can bring about change and influence minds.”
Speaking of gender sensitivity, he agrees it’s vital to narrate stories that educate a little about gender stereotypes and tend to break them. “Although entertainment is the objective, filmmakers have been using the medium to bring about change in the society. We have been battling gender stereotypes for a very long time now. These issues are now being talked about more constructively though. Some of the recent films have made a significant contribution towards this purpose,” he emphasises.
On his team of actors
Stree’s cast, apart from Rajkumar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor, features Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee in interesting roles. “It was an absolute pleasure to work with such distinctive personalities in my first film. Such actors not only bring talent to the set but also motivate and inspire others to give their best. I can proudly say each actor, with whatever screen time they had, left a significant mark,” he says. He believes working with such multi-faceted actors helped him push further and explore his potentials.
“I’ve had my share of struggle, which I, proudly, call my learning.”
Kaushik, who hails from Kanpur, has grown up watching multiple genre films. His journey has been an interesting one and he credits all his experiences in making him a person he is today. As for entering the film industry as an outsider, he feels the industry is welcoming enough and is surely rewarding for all the hard work and time one puts in. “Every day is a learning here and every person a teacher, in one way or another.”
On box office and gender-issue based subjects
With an awareness growing, the success of a film is directly related to the package it offers. Although box office success, for Kaushik, is always gratifying, it’s making a content-driven quality film which holds utmost importance. “With my debut, I sincerely worked towards creating a film that the audiences would enjoy and would take home something as well,” he says.
Films highlighting gender-based issues has been on the rise lately. “Subjects that address social issues, without being preachy, and providing enough dose of entertainment should be considered as a priority for filmmakers now. I strongly believe the recent trend of successful films proves this big time.”
Need for more strong female characters on-screen
Kaushik reflects that the value of portraying women strongly on screen is extremely significant, now more than ever. He feels women balance personal and professional lives smoothly and they have the ability to achieve everything there is.
“Through films, we can contribute to all aspects surrounding women and shatter gender-based boundaries that have been unnecessarily created.”
He points out that, “Films showcase what is happening in the society. Don’t we see strong women around us every day, at home or at work? I sincerely believe women play such important roles in our lives, as mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and friends. It’s crucial to bring them to the forefront and give them the rightful place they deserve. And what could be a better medium than cinema to acknowledge this influentially,” he urges. While his first film continues to make all the buzz, he is all set to start working on his next with Dinesh Vijan, the producer of Stree.
Feature Image Credit: Amar Kaushik