I also list out my 5 favourite moments from the film
Within the first few minutes of Amit Masurkar’s Sherni, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, you realise that it isn’t tigers who are predators.
Especially those seeking to politicise every matter available.
These are the chief forces our protagonist Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) is up against.
A forest officer for nearly a decade now, Vidya has recently been posted as a DFO in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh.
Just like a caged animal, she’s unhappy with her career and feels trapped in it for its failure in providing her with any growth or progress. I was reminded of PiKu here, who, too, isn’t initially happy with her underpaid content-writing job. (Using this as an excuse to plug in my book PiKu & ViRu :) Buy/download now if you haven’t yet.)
Moreover, Vidya is away from her Mumbai-based husband Pawan (Mukul Chadda), who recommends that she stick to her job anyhow. The reason for his insistence is easy to guess: his own employment is on the line due to the economic recession.
And then, one day, Vidya receives a phone call.
About a tigress on the loose.
The animal is seeking another un-encroached habitable land.
While the tigress goes on her quest, the villagers along the way need to be alerted and protected. The tigress needs some safety, too.
Sounds like a straightforward piece of work, doesn’t it?
While the job should be straightforward and simple, the matter is also a potential goldmine for the politically ambitious.
In no time, a bunch of self-serving candidates show up, who create barriers for Vidya in her mission and add unnecessary stress to the challenge.
So, you have: (a) an uncooperative boss named Bansilal Bansal (Brijendra Kala), who’s more fond of poetical shers than the living ones, (b) a gruff local resort owner Pintu (Sharat Saxena), who exploits his political connections to justify his hunting expeditions, (c) a campaigning MLA ironically called GK Singh (Amar Singh Parihar), (d) an aggressive former leader PK Singh (Satyakam Anand), and (e) a backstabbing mentor Akhil Nangia (Neeraj Kabi).
Vidya’s biggest ally amid all this is Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raaz), a sincere zoology professor who also works as a DNA-collecting expert.
Do the two, along with their team, succeed in overturning these forces and helping the tiger reach her destination?
Or do they fail in their mission?
This is what Sherni is all about.
The best part about this Vidya Balan movie is how the makers have taken regular moments from the daily lives of forest officers and injected them with interesting drama.
Together, these slice-of-life bits come to form a highly entertaining and gripping movie.
Rakesh Haridas’s cinematography gorgeously captures the greenery of MP’s forests and makes them worth your wanderlust.
While Vidya Balan and Vijay Raaz shine in their roles as expected, Sharat Saxena and Neeraj Kabi could have done with some more meat in their characters (can’t help the pun). Even in the case of Vijay Raaz, Hassan’s arc could have ended better.
Brijendra Kala is surely in for more big-ticket assignments after this earnest stint.
The real show-stealers, though, are the actors playing the villagers and other forest officers. Their raw performances make their characters even more realistic. Sampa Mandal as the farmer Jyoti was fantastic.
While Sherni is an overall delight, my biggest grouse was with its ending. It left me underwhelmed and could have been way better. Despite the film’s need to highlight the politics plaguing forest affairs, I was seeking inspiration in this part, not hopelessness.
I also had a slight issue with Vidya’s whisky-drinking scene. As a ploy used for highlighting the judgmental attitude of small-town India, especially towards women, it works. But as a trope frequently used in current-day movies and web series to show drinking as a sign of progressive-minded city-bred women, it’s getting tiring now. I’m not saying the scene shouldn’t have been there. It’s just that it could definitely have been made to blend better in an otherwise cohesive movie.
Overall, Sherni is an awesome watch, even if a few of its parts may not be to your taste. For sure, this Vidya Balan movie will make you fall in love with our wildlife all over again.
My 5 favourite moments from Sherni:
Vidya having poha-jalebi
The village actor hilariously playing a selfie-posing jungle tourist on stage
Whenever the tigress’s cubs arrive on the screen
Whenever Vidya’s kitten arrives on the screen
The line, “Agar aap jungle mein sau baar jaayenge, toh ho sakta hai tiger aapko ek baar dikhe. Parantu ek baat toh tay hai, ki tiger ne aapko 99 baar dekh liya.”
Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes
Directed by Amit Masurkar
Written by Aastha Tiku
Dialogues by Yashasvi Mishra and Amit Masurkar
Featuring Vidya Balan, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Sharat Saxena, Neeraj Kabi, Sampa Mandal, Satyakam Anand, Amar Singh Parihar, Mukul Chadda, Ila Arun
Produced by Vikram Malhotra, Amit Masurkar, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video