Sherni Hindi Movie Review

Feature Film | Drama
Amit V. Masurkar's Sherni works as an efficient warning against the bureaucracy's anti-conservation behavior. Sherni is not the first film to suggest that animals beyond the forest are more savage than those in it, but it may be the most intelligent of its kind. In Vidya Balan, it has just the right actor for holding it together as both a human and animal story.
Jun 24, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Vidya Balan's forest department officer Vidya Vincent tries to locate a man-eating tigress in Sherni. Compassionate and devoted to her wildlife conservation cause, Vidya's goal is to get the tigress and send it to a habitat where it should belong. But it is not an easy task as she has to work her way through an administrative system that constantly discourages conservationist tendencies. Navigating the forest is perhaps easier as compared to the bureaucratic system she is part of.

Her department head Bansal sits in front of a framed tiger photo, but he hardly cares about wildlife conservation. This is evident mostly in the scene where Brijendra Kala's character searches for a bottle of oil even as Vidya tries to discuss the threat of the tiger with him. Even outside of the system, Vidya faces pressure from MLA GK, who exploits the animal's killings for votes, and a local legislator who tries to thwart the politician's efforts and demands the predator be shot dead. There is also Sharat Saxena as hired hunter Pintu who claims that he can tell a normal tiger and a predator apart just by looking at its eye.

Vijay Raaz's moth expert cum tiger DNA analyzer, Hassan Noorani, and some locals are the only people who support Vidya's cause. Sherni is directed by Newton's maker Amit V. Masurkar and scripted by Aastha Tiku. The movie does not quite have the dark humor of Newton, but it works as an efficient warning against anti-conservation behavior. Masurkar uses a documentary-style approach to storytelling here, one that pays rich dividends. We are shown how forest officers track tiger movements in the forest, and how they deal with tiger-man encounter situations. I would imagine a lot of research goes into making a documentary-like film such as this. And, the results are there to see.

From the film, youngsters can learn new things about tiger behavior. Even a grown-up like myself did not know that the animal would return to its habitat if it does not see its prey for a few days. I am not a regular viewer of Animal Planet and Discovery. So, I particularly liked how the makers of the film presented all such details without affecting the flow of the film. You could say that it is kind of a thriller, although thrills are hardly on offer here.

The search for the tiger is a MacGuffin, an element that is not pertinent in itself but is important to highlight the other issues that the film discusses here. Sherni is not the first film to suggest that animals beyond the forest are more savage than those inside it. Even Mohanlal's mass action film Pulimurugan talks about the same. But Sherni may be the most intelligent film to base itself on that idea. It makes us wonder why India's tiger population is only in the thousands, not the tens of thousands.

I wished the film had more punch in it, but you cannot just stop watching it for the brilliant actors on display. Brijendra Kala is the kind of actor who turns even pauses and stares into meaningful lines. Who could forget him as the indifferent Taxi Driver character from Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met? In terms of the indifference he shows to others here, his Bansal is almost an extension of that character. Satyakam Anand is terrific as the rabble-rousing local legislator who demands the tiger's execution. Neeraj Kabi, Sharat Saxena, and Vijay Razz all excel in small yet important roles, but the film ultimately belongs to Vidya Balan. She is just exemplary in a performance with controlled emotions and great poise. Balan's character is not technically a mother, but she is a motherly figure to all the animals on display. There is a lovely stretch involving her character and a domestic animal that I particularly liked.

Sreejith Mullappilly