Entertainment Film Reviews

Sherni Movie Review: Vidya Balan Buries Her Star Persona In The Lap Of Nature And Gripping Forest Politics

Sherni movie cast: Vidya Balan, Brijendra Kala, Vijay Raaz, Sharat Saxena, Mukul Chadha, Ila Arun
Sherni movie director: Amit Masurkar
Sherni movie rating: 4 stars (Out of 5)

STORY: As a new D.F.O (Divisional Forest Officer) takes charge of her position in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, a village in the vicinity is threatened by a tigress on the prowl. Will she able to restore balance in this tussle between man versus wild?

REVIEW: Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan), a committed forest officer, hasn’t got a promotion in nine years, and after six years of a desk profile, her new position in the forests of Bijaspur comes with its set of unique challenges. Over a video chat, when she casually hints to her husband, Pawan (Mukul Chaddha) that she feels stagnant with no growth and might resign after she snags that coveted promotion, he eggs her to stay on. Mostly because he isn’t sure how long he can hold on to his job in Mumbai.

In many ways, Vidya’s world seems isolated, the lone woman in a male dominated department. Yet, her colleagues and peers trying to undermine her is the least of her worries. She may be a woman of few words but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she is determined and intensely passionate about her work. When a tigress, identified as T12, by the forest department, starts hunting near the village fields, humans and farm animals fall prey. For the villagers, tigers passing through their fields is a norm, as their village is flanked by forests on both sides. In their own words, the tigers often pass by without even glancing in their direction, but this new development spreads the fear of lives and livelihood. One that is stoked by warring local politicians and made into an election debate for the upcoming polls. For Vidya, locating and capturing T12 alive is of utmost importance but this means navigating through the sentiments of the locals, the pressure built by the politicians, her boss Bansal’s (Brijendra Kalra) attitude who just wants the problem to disappear into the woods and Ranjan Rajhans (Sharat Saxena), an ally of the politicians who calls himself a conservationist but prides himself on the number of tigers he has hunted. Her only support seems to comes from Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raaz), who is a zoology professor in a nearby college, some of the local villagers like Jyoti (Sampa Mandal), a member of the village committee and Mr. Nangia (Neeraj Kabi), the Forest Department Head.

Director Amit Masurkar weaves an intricate and complex narrative with a rich visual texture, as he dives deep into this man versus animal conflict. The screenplay (Aastha Tiku) is meticulously detailed, giving an insight into not just the protagonist’s mind but also the workings of the department and also how the village and the forest are entwined in their existence.

The camera (Rakesh Haridas, cinematography) and sound design (Anish John) literally romance the dense, green jungles – dappled sunshine, gurgling streams, buzzing of insects, rustling of leaves, distinct sounds of birds and animals – it all comes to life in ‘Sherni’. One simply can’t walk away without falling in love with the forests first. But just as one is easily mesmerized by the beauty, one of Vidya’s aides tell her — you could go to the forest 100 times and perhaps spot a tiger once, but be rest assured that the tiger has spotted you 99 times. A chilling reminder of who is the intruder and who reigns supreme in the jungles. The background score (Benedict Taylor, Naren Chandavarkar) adds to the air of mystery and the only song in the film (music by Bandish Project, lyrics by Hussain Haidry) strikes the right note.

“Sher hain to jungle hai, jungle hain to baarish hain, baarish hain to paani hain aur paani hai toh hum hain.”, these words by a ‘Forest Friend’, trained by Hassan Noorani assures Vidya that all is not lost in the middle of an intense search for the tigress, which is literally a race against time and adversaries.

Vidya Balan gives us a remarkable, understated yet powerful performance, as she exudes the quiet determination, passion and grit of her character. Devoid of any dramatic overtones but with eyes that spark anger and speak volumes, it is a joy to watch Vidya subtly battle sexism and bias not just at work, but also at times at home. Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Neeraj Kabi, Sampa Mandal, Sharat Saxena add with their effortless performances. Satyakam Anand also leaves a mark.

Masurkar keeps us captivated and hooked for most part with the pace only dipping in a few points. As ‘Sherni’ takes us deep into the forests, through thrilling, tense tiger trails, it also gives also us a dose of some satirical humour. Ultimately, Masurkar’s potent film about wildlife conservation and maintaining the ecological balance leaves you with a haunting message even as you soak in the sublime beauty of the forests. ‘Sherni’ makes for an intense, intriguing film and is a must-watch. If you’re expecting the roar and rumblings of a regular Bollywood film, this one is far from it. But therein lies the beauty of it.

Watch Vidya Balan’s roaring performance in Sherni on Amazon Prime Video.

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