Writer-director duo Niren Bhatt and Amar Kaushik, the minds behind the chilling hits ‘Stree’ and ‘Bhediya,’ are bringing a new horror comedy to life – ‘Munjya.’ This film draws inspiration from a popular Konkan folktale about a mischievous spirit called “Munjya,” said to haunt peepal trees.

The story centers around the restless spirit of a man who died unmarried before a specific ceremony, “Sod Munja.” Bhatt explains, “In a man’s life, there are traditionally considered to be four stages: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retirement), and Sannyasa (renunciation). The Upanayan or Thread Ceremony, known as Munja in Marathi, marks the initiation of a child into the student phase. Sod Munja is another ceremony, usually performed as part of marriage rituals, signifying the end of the student phase and the beginning of the Grihastha phase. If a man dies unmarried after his munja has been performed but before his Sod Munja, he becomes a Munjya: A spirit who resides in peepal trees or near wells. The Marathi expression ‘Baaraa pimpla varcha munjya’ refers to someone with a restless spirit, akin to moving from one peepal tree to another.”

Bhatt and Kaushik delved deep into the legend, visiting several places in Konkan where locals believe Munjas exist. Their research involved reading numerous books, watching real-life encounter videos, and of course, talking to the locals who have their own unique “Munjya stories.” Bhatt adds, “Everyone has a munjya story but has never actually met a munjya. ‘Kissi ke sarr pe baith gaya; kissi ko pathar se maara (Sat on someone’s head; pelted someone with stones).’ A ceremony is conducted to control the bal rakshas (child demon). He is a monster but a child because he died young. He bothers people to fulfill his desires and usually wants to get married. Munjyas aren’t typically malicious; just juvenile, petty nuisances. They really seem to like pelting stones at those standing underneath trees.”

In Maddock Film’s ‘Munjya’ releasing on 7 June, the munjya somehow breaks free of the peepal tree and creates havoc.

Overseas distribution by Funasia Films and Marudhar Entertainment Network.