What is the story about?
Vidya Vincent, a DFO posted somewhere in Madhya Pradesh, is trying to track a man-eating tigress, T12, with the help of trackers and villagers. But at every stage, she faces various obstacles. Can Vidya save T12 before she is killed by hunters?
It’s not easy being Vidya Vincent. As a District Forest Officer (DFO) posted somewhere in Madhya Pradesh, she has to put up with a lot. After six years of being confined to a desk job, she has been given a tough posting. There are warring politicians and bloodthirsty hunters on the prowl, and she also has to put up with a slimy, lackadaisical boss. She wants to resign, but her Mumbai-based husband tells her not to do so, because her job is “recession-proof”. There’s also the obvious expectations about starting a family. And, then, to make matters worse, there’s the question of T12 prowling around, and the issue of irate villagers threatening to kill her themselves.
Can you call Sherni a spiritual sequel to Newton? Perhaps. But Sherni is more downbeat and cynical. Newton’s Nutan Kumar was more optimistic about doing the right thing. But Vidya is already jaded: like everyone else, she wants to escape from her job and her posting. Yet, at the same time, she also believes in saving T12 and her cubs.
Part conservation-thriller, part political-satire, Sherni is another example of what a film can be when it focusses on the small moments in search of a greater truth. Director Amit Masurkar, in collaboration with writer Aastha Tiku, superbly brings forth various micro-conflicts in the areas surrounding the forest. He also finds humour in everyday conversations, such as when a poacher introduces himself to Vidya as a “conservationist”, or when a politician tries to whip up tensions by claiming a person was killed by a tiger instead of a bear. At the same time, he never lets the downbeat realities of the film overpower its optimistic message—that humans and animals have to co-exist in harmony with each other. It’s a terrific film that should be watched at least once by everyone, in spite of its cynical ending.
Vidya Balan is solid as Vidya Vincent, who believes in doing the right thing, and is stymied time and time again. Vijay Raaz lends able support as Vidya’s ally, zoology professor Hassan Noorani. Brijendra Kala is terrific as the cartoonish boss Bansal, who keeps trying to please his superiors and ends up doing more harm than good. Neeraj Kabi is assured in a brief role as Vidya’s senior, Nangia. Gopal Dutt has a cameo as Saiprasad, Vidya’s predecessor as DFO. Sharat Saxena excels as Pintu, the poacher who is only interested in adding to his kills. The rest of the cast is decent.
Music & Other Departments
Rakesh Haridas' cinematography wisely utilizes a lot of drone shots, which are seamlessly blended with handheld shots, and he impressively cans the night sequences. Dipika Kalra's editing is deft. Anish John's sound design lends realism to the proceedings. Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar excel with their sparse background score.
A surreal sequence in which supporters of two rival politicians clash over a dead body at night is impressively filmed.
At least 15-20 minutes of the film could have been edited out. Also, the brief appearance of Vidya's family only serves as a distraction from the rest of the story.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes, in spite of the downbeat ending.
Do I recommend it?
Absolutely. This might be one of the best Hindi films of the year.