One doesn’t need to shout to be heard. That’s a handy tip for some of our prime time news anchors but director Amit Masurkar already excels in it. In fact, he now has developed a distinctive style where he smartly and effectively makes his point and then nonchalantly moves on to the next. Unlike films that spoon feed us , spell out everything since if we can’t be trusted enough to get what the makers are trying to say, Masurkar extends us the courtesy of being able to understand and empathise with his vision.
In the first few seconds of Sherni , thanks to Rakesh Haridas’s camerawork, we get to soak in all the luscious greenery. The aerial shot of a never-ending forest that takes our breath away, long wide-angle shots of forest officials animatedly talking till we slowly zoom in on them and the issue.
Sherni is about an actual tigress who has gone rogue wreaking havoc, killing cattle and villagers and basically giving a tough time to the forest department officials. There are lots of themes that emerge, so much that the makers want to show and nudge us ever so slightly to ponder about them without overwhelming us. Aastha Tiku’s screenplay ensures the narrative moves forward smoothly, without excesses and dramatic highs.
There is the larger debate about man vs nature, conservation and environment vs development and progress. How does one strike the balance? Much like the wild Sherni, Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan), a newly appointed DFO seems displaced and uprooted from her own natural habitat as she tries settling into her new job. Vincent just wants to do her job and do it well. Nothing out of the ordinary and yet it’s her steadfast commitment to her work that makes her remarkable.
The unhurried pace which some might find a little too slow for comfort heightens the urgency. The writing and performances both are layered and profound. So much is conveyed just through silences, sometimes a strategically placed pause. Take for example the scene where our no-nonsense DFO, Vidya Vincent, is in an official meeting discussing their way forward when the superior suddenly indulges in sher-o-shairi. Vincent is clearly flabbergasted but that’s conveyed through her otherwise impassive face and a steely death stare. And the way Brijendra Kala remains delightfully oblivious of it makes it all the more memorable. Vidya Balan’s outstanding performance is complimented brilliantly by a stellar ensemble. Brijendra Kala, Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Sharad Saxena, Mukul Chadha, Ila Arun, Sampa Mandal - the film is richer thanks to these actors. Verisimilitude is evident in the organic ways of so many of the actors who seem to have been picked up from the villages.
Nothing is formulaic in Sherni. A woman pitchforked into unfamiliar territory, condescendingly referred to as “lady officer” doesn’t respond with a diatribe against patriarchy. With little touches and documentary style detailing, Masurkar manages to actually give us a sense of how it must feel to be on ground zero as the action unfolds. The denouement therefore might seem quite underwhelming to some, especially those of us who have been surviving on a steady diet of regular mainstream Hindi film tropes . But no concessions to mainstream contrivances are made here. There are no easy answers or closures and that’s probably why we think of Sherni and Vidya long after the film is over. The sign of an eloquently made film.
Rating: 4.5 Quints out of 5.
. Read more on Movie Reviews by The Quint.Review: Vidya Balan's Brilliance Makes 'Sherni' a Must-WatchUS Senate Confirms Radhika Fox to Lead EPA’s Water Office . Read more on Movie Reviews by The Quint.