The humour in horror
The director duo, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K, talk about their recent production venture Stree
“The first thing that scared you as a kid was someone yelling your name from behind you,” says Rajesh Nidimoru, from the Raj and DK filmmaker duo. He is referring, of course, to the concept of their recently released Stree, with which they turned producers in Bollywood. Directed by Amar Kaushik, who assisted Raj and DK on Go Goa Gone, Stree — a horror comedy based on the urban lore of ‘O Stree Kal Aana’ — featured Rajkummar Rao, Shraddha Kapoor and Pankaj Tripathi, and released to generally positive reception. To those unfamiliar with the legend, here's what it’s about: A witch, or a bridal ghost, is believed to roam the streets at night, calling the names of sleeping residents. Answering is deemed dangerous, even fatal, so people instead write 'Kal Aana'/'Nale Ba' (meaning, come tomorrow) on their outer walls to drive away the entity.
“We hail from Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh. Growing up, this phenomenon was quite popular. It's a story born from our town, but no, while it’s personal, it’s not autobiographical. Much later, we discovered that Karnataka and other places have their own versions of the same legend,” says Raj, as DK nods. “When someone is narrating a horror story, the usual reaction as a listener is to laugh, no matter how scary the story is. We wanted to tap into that space with this story.”
Finding humour in horror is not new for Raj and DK. Their epochal zombie-stoner-slacker film, Go Goa Gone (2013), arrived at a time when crossover genres held little ground in India. Five years on, besides Stree, we have had Anushka Sharma's Pari (genocidal-horror), Netflix's Ghoul (dystopian-horror), and Sohum Shah's upcoming film, Tummbad (historical-horror) marking new territory in India.
“Stree is the local, rural version of Go Goa Gone. Zombies, like we know, are foreign elements. We even say it in the film, ‘Globalisation, Hollywood ka bhoot’. In Stree, both the horror and the comedy are more rooted, and based on an Indian premise,” explains DK. “There's also an element of satire here. It's not a satire about superstition, as we are taking the myth at face value. But it's more a satire about gender and gender norms. We played with the element of role-reversal, by talking about how men are not safe when stepping out at night, and that they should be escorted by a woman.”
Raj and DK have been splitting writing and directing duties since their American debut with Flavours (2003). In India, the duo broke out with the urban crime-comedies, 99 and Shor in the City. After creating much impact with Go Goa Gone and producing the Telugu film, D for Dopidi, they returned with the meta romcom, Happy Ending (2016), and the NRI-actioner, A Gentleman (2018). Up ahead, they have the Manoj Bajpayee-starrer Amazon web-series, The Family Man, ready for release, post which they plan to commence production on Go Goa Gone 2.
“The story, concept and idea is locked for Go Goa Gone 2. All the boys are very excited, including Saif. We don't take things easy. We always look for the complicated route. I cannot make GGG 2 exactly like GGG. As a filmmaker, I try to serve a new dish every time,” Raj says. DK adds, “The sequel, we realise, has to satisfy those who liked the first part. But the reason they liked it is because it caught them by surprise. So now, Go Goa Gone 2 has to do both. It will be still be a film about slackers going on an adventure.”