Newton fame Amit Masurkar and Vidya Balan’s film is based on a real life incident of 2018 encounter
In 2018, Tigress Avni aka T1 was killed in an encounter in Yavatmal, Maharashtra. It was all over the news. Do you remember? Well, who cares? Sherni puts forth the same expression. A very unconventional film by its basic design, the film stands out for it audacity, the social statement that it tries to make and the subtext that beautifully touches you. The film says a lot without never mentioning it outrightly.
Watch the trailer here:
A jaded forest officer Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) leads a team of trackers and locals intending to capture an unsettled tigress, while battling intense pressures and obstacles, both natural and man-made.
Hats off to the story and in a way, more to the screenplay. The story and screenplay are penned by Aastha Tiku with dialogues by Masurkar and Yashasvi Mishra. The dialogues deserve mention for being to the point and living upto the fabric of the plot. They never dominate the course of the plot by claiming to be heroic. But the lines hit you, if you pay attention that is.
Coming to think of it, on one side it’s an important issue for environment. But at the same time, nobody actually thinks about it, let alone be a film dedicated to it. Although the incident of the late night encounter of Tigress Avni was much discussed back in 2018, it was soon forgotten in the larger picture as we are all too busy with our lives.
To decide to make a film on the issue and say things that you want to is something that deserves salutes and all the adulation. Clearly, Vidya Vincent is a reflection of the tigress. If you are sharp enough, you will start to draw parallels between her and tigress. Kudos to makers for keeping this undertone a subtle experience never overpowering the main narrative of capturing the tigress. In a world that is wild- not only the jungle- a tigress has to safeguard her and maintain her sanity by not falling prey to ‘man’. The symbolisms are many. But are you up for absorbing the experience?
It is a sort of a realist film experience where things happen minus drama. The drama is inherent, ingrained, and more psychological. Masurkar signs the film wonderfully in how he showcases government offices. He moves ahead here, wherein the socio-political nuances of a region are correlated with the environmental conservation, both having their twisted fate. The forest department trying to safeguard the villagers and the animals alike, but the politics of the region is pulling them back. Or when some of our own men become a hindrance to what should be accomplished. Or how two political parties use a dead body to keep their side up. This is all what is intelligently woven into the film.
The film might not find many takers because of a simple reason- it doesn’t give you what you expect. There’s no thrill of a tiger movie. The pace is slow. There is underlying subtext that can be understood mostly my ardent film viewers. The tiger scenes are too few. The motive of the film might not be clear. Although this is all true for a certain section of the society- probably the major chunk, but otherwise the film in its own in a near perfect affair which says without explicitly saying it and meaning it especially.
You see subtle and hidden hints of patriarchy. You see man’s greed. You see the jungle being dominated by ‘man’. You also see the duality and helplessness of villagers. And then, the tussle of politics with environment and sustainability.
Vidya Balan is very good. Restrained. As per her role. She suits the role absolutely. She has shades, where initially she is shown to be bored and fed up of her job. But then her graph changes. Ofcourse for an actress of her calibre, it seems a cakewalk. But to be able to justify the image of an upright (but helpless) forest officer isn’t a cakewalk. Great job by her.
Vijay Raaz has an important role. He makes his mark for the statements he makes in the film. Maintaining a righteous body language, he brings dignity to the role.
Sharat Saxena has also performed very well, making you despise him from the moment he appears on screen. You want more of him on screen so that you can dislike him more. That’s the power of his acting. Neeraj Kabi has a relatively small role. Underutilized undoubtedly. But then, he does well on his own front. He also has shades and you wonder after seeing his character of who or what is actually right.
Brijendra Kala is fantastic. Weird. Whacky. Eccentric. He is such a delight to watch that you wish he was there in every scene. Ila Arun in a very small appearance leaves her indelible mark by bringing in layers to the narrative. She is magnificent.
Score by Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar is quite good. Very good infact. With the use of minimal score, the film justifies its approach of being real. Anish John’s sound design must be appreciated. Had this film released it theatres, the beauty of the understated sound would have been very much visible. Minute and intricate details have been captured well, glorifying the overall essence of the film. One song composed by Bandish Projekt also makes a thorough impact.
Cinematography by Rakesh Haridas is decent. The major portion of the film is in jungle and the scenes are sharp and intelligently crafted. Some symbolic frames also appear here and there. If you can catch those, pat your back. Production design by Devika Dave is also good for how you are transported into the jungle and wait for ther tigers to come, just like the characters in the film. The disappointment or thrill of seeing one is replicated from screen.
Editing by Dipika Kalra is simple and straight. No major high or dull points. However the conflict within the drama is evidently present and there are many, appearing at regular intervals. This is very well cinematic.
It’s an important film. Ofcourse more like an art house realist film, which will not be liked by many but a well deserved entrant into the list of genuine and smart and brave films of Hindi cinema. If you understand cinema and its grammar and language, this one’s for you. Right till the rolling credits where the camera wrenches you through animals, who are not living but living.
Rochak Saxena a Mass Media Teacher, former journalist at DNA and an ardent lover of Hindi films - literally. The blog derives its name from the popular term ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’, most commonly used in the world of literature and cinema. Meaning to immerse yourself in an unreal world (where you know what you see on screen is fake) with a self-proclaimed/declared belief/wish to consider it real, the willing world becomes magical. It’s the same magic every Friday that drives Rochak to share things in the perspective that it needs to be observed with. Every film is different. And the difference needs to be cherished.