Amit Masurkar disappears into the woods and returns with a decent-to-excellent film. That’s the way it works. He sees radical ruffians and bumbling ‘babus’ along the route. However, a single scene in one of his movies generates more emotion than the entire recent production of several chiselled Bollywood heroes.
Sherni (available on Amazon Prime Video), like Masurkar’s breakout smash Newton, is part parody of Indian bureaucracy and part modest call to action for the conservation of animals, nature, and, most importantly, our shared humanity.
Vidya Balan plays Vidya Vincent, a trainee Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), in an uncharacteristically quiet performance. Despite the reams of red tape she frequently finds herself tangled in, she is a no-nonsense sort who goes about her job with quiet efficiency. Balan does not elicit her signature guffaw or the ‘sherni’ shout at any point in the film. This is a positive development.
Vidya Vincent, on the other hand, is a bit of a Mary Sue, a little too perfect, especially considering the filth tossed at her. There isn’t a problem she can’t solve with a calm lecture. While her guy friends are constantly harassed, if not physically assaulted, Vincent often gets her way just by exuding confidence and trust — despite the fact that even she, in her position of power, has to deal with sexism on a daily basis.
Vincent’s strong demeanour comes in handy in some of the more difficult circumstances she encounters. Villagers are angry. Every few days, a tigress goes on the rampage, killing their siblings and sisters. Vincent’s own supervisor, a pathetically inadequate man played by Brijendra Kala, employs a hunter under pressure from his superiors.
Pintu the hunter, played by human tree trunk Sharat Saxena, is not as innocuous as his title suggests. He believes that if he stares a man-eating tiger in the eyes, he can detect it.