The latest horror-comedy from the makers of Stree (2018) and Bhediya (2022) is supposedly based on a folk tale from Maharashtra’s Konkan region, about a boy who dies soon after his thread ceremony and becomes a demon. Nobody mourns Munjya, who has been stalking a woman. But the village makes sure to stay clear of the grove where his spirit lingers, waiting for the right vehicle to fulfil his one-sided dream of marriage.

That vehicle is the easily frightened Bittu (Abhay Verma), whose family hails from Munjya’s village. Bittu is in his own one-sided relationship, with his college friend Bela (Sharvari Wagh).

Forced to carry out Munjya’s bidding, Bittu teams up with his buddy Diljit (Taran Singh) and the psychic Karim Elvis (S Sathyaraj) to tame the frustrated spirit. Bittu also gets valuable tips from his beloved grandmother (Suhas Joshi).

Munjya, directed by Aditya Sarpotdar, is based on a story by Yogesh Chandekar and a screenplay by Niren Bhat. The 123-minute movie is as wispy as a ghost story told to pass the time during a summer vacation.

Its raison d’etre is to serve as the latest entry in a planned franchise that began with Stree. A post-credits sequence links Munjya to Stree as well as Bhediya. But the link between the films is baffling, apart from shared jump scares peppered by comic sequences.

Tainu Khabar Nahi, Munjya (2024).

Munjya has the least body mass among the three productions. There surely must be a darker story draft sitting on a desktop somewhere, one that better explores Munjya’s bloodthirsty tendencies. By ignoring the elephant in the room – Munjya’s stalking tendencies – the movie loses much of its relevance.

The tonal shift to hyperventilating comedy is sudden; doubts over Munjya’s actual prowess linger. The computer-generated Konkani cousin of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings has the attention span of the boy he once was. Munjya reveals his powers very late into the movie, finally fulfilling the hype about his malevolence.

As a placeholder in the imagined universe of movies emanating from Stree, Munjya just about fulfils the brief. Sarpotdar (Zombivli, That Sholay Girl) has a far better hold on the dramatic aspects, as well as the skill to stage tossed-off sequences with suitable seriousness.

Of the cast, two actors stand out. Marathi acting veteran Suhas Joshi is wonderful as Bittu’s grandmother – so wonderful that she overshadows the other female characters, including Mona Singh as Bittu’s mother and Bhagyashree Limaye as Bittu’s cousin.

Abhay Verma too is the right fit as the geeky Bittu, carrying the movie ably on his young shoulders. Grandmother and grandson own a half-way occult tale of possessiveness and possession whose inherent nastiness has been watered down for family-friendly viewing.

Munjya (2024).