What is the “Ridiculously True” Story Behind ‘Stree’?

Urban legend or true story?

3 min read
What is the “Ridiculously True” Story Behind ‘Stree’?

The trailer of Stree promises to be a very entertaining horror comedy. Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi steal the show with hilarious dialogues, while Shraddha Kapoor, opposite Rao, brings in a track of romance. This lightheartedness is complemented by a horrifying plot about a town petrified of an annual visit of a female spirit who reportedly preys on men, leaving behind only their clothes.

What is more terrifying is that the film is based on a true story.

A still from the trailer of Stree.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The Legend of ‘Nale Ba’

Everyone seems to think that the "ridiculously true phenomenon" is that of ‘Nale Ba.’

According to urban legend, in the 1990s, before Bangalore became Bengaluru and the bustling, vibrant metropolitan city it is today, a vicious “witch” used to roam the streets and prey on its men.

She would knock on the doors of people’s houses and call out to the person inside in a loved one’s voice, most often their mother’s. Upon hearing a familiar voice, the person would naively open the door, and subsequently die in the next 24 hours. This legend spread like wild fire, wreaking havoc in the city.

Amidst panic, people then found a solution: ‘Nale ba.’

Translating to ‘come tomorrow’ in Kannada, this phrase would be written outside the doors and the walls of people’s houses in an attempt to ward off the evil spirit. It was believed that upon reading the inscription, the lady would leave, and come again the next day, indefinitely repeating the cycle and keeping the people safe.

The legend became nothing short of gospel truth in Bangalore, to the point that 1 April is widely celebrated as 'Nale Ba’ Day even today. Several people at the time report hearing knocks on their doors at night, and a number of unexplained murders took place as well.

A still from the trailer of Stree: ‘Oh Stree, kal aana’ (‘come tomorrow’) written outside the walls of people’s houses.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Legends From All Over India

In conversation with the director Amar Kaushik, we found out that Stree is not just based on just the ‘nale ba’ legend, but on a combination of such myths from all over India.

We adapted the ‘nale ba’ story, but we also took some phenomena from the north, because every part of India has its own phenomenon, every state has some superstition or the other. So it’s not just one place’s incident - we’ve adapted such legends from all parts of India to make Stree.
Amar Kaushik, director
The first poster of Stree featuring Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

In fact, while “nale ba” hails from Bangalore in Karnataka, the film is set in northern India. The director explains how he adapted the legends into a story set in the North.

I chose the set the film in North India because it fits very well there. Chanderi is a place near Bhopal (in Madhya Pradesh) - I had been there 15 years back and stayed for a week. I always wanted to shoot there... the story fits into Chanderi very well. Even as they [writers Raj & DK] were narrating the script to me, I knew I would shoot it in the North, because the humour and way of speaking there really worked for the story.

When asked if the story is true, Kaushik gave a rather ambiguous answer.

Everyone interprets a story differently. And I have also not made it in such a way to suggest that you have to believe it or not believe it. It really depends on the perspective of the viewer. The story is out there. It’s happening in our country. It’s up to you whether you want to believe it or not.

So, while the trailer of Stree certainly looks thrilling, the real story seems even more deadly, and further builds the hype for the film. But is the story true or not? Decide for yourself!

Produced by Dinesh Vijan, Stree is slated to hit screens on 31 August.

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