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When Vidya's (Vidya Balan) mother-in-law tells her, "Accha kiya billi paal liya. Aadat ho jayegi. Practice ho jayegi future ke liye," hinting at her to start a family, the latter chuckles and quips, "Kaisi practice mummy? Mera Tuffy (cat) bahut independent hai. Na diaper, na school fees na koi jhanjhat." To this, she tells her son, "Tumhari wife na bahut toughie hai."
In a film which primarily revolves around man-animal conflict, director Amit Masurkar cleverly inserts a scene which highlights the societal pressure to become a parent. He makes you both, laugh and think with this brilliantly conceived scene. Unfortunately, such shining moments are as rare as the sighting of a tigress in this film.
What's Yay: Vidya Balan, Concept
What's Nay: Screenplay
Vidya Balan's Sherni opens with a wide shot of the sprawling luscious green jungles of Bijaspur. We see a forest officer imitating the movements of a tiger. This scene is symbolic in a way about how humans have encroached forestlands over the years. In this tug of war between man and animals, arrives an upright DFO (deputy forest officer) Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan), who is entrusted with the task of capturing an unsettled, man-eating tigress who has instilled fear in the villagers.
Slowly as the film progresses, we see how Vidya tries to preserve a balance in the environment with the help of her team and the local allies, while tackling gender bias, patriarchy, poachers and vested political interests on her way to capture the 'sherni'.
Kudos to Amit Masurkar for taking up an issue that's the need of the hour! While the filmmaker tries to present both the sides when it comes to exploring the complex issues of conflict between the humankind and animals, it's the writing which fumbles a bit and falls short of creating a solid impact as expected.
In a bid to keep things at its most subtle level, the director ends up giving the film a documentary film-like feel which might not entice a large section of audience even if the subject has an universal appeal. Barring a few places, the satirical scenes too, lack a punch. The sluggish pace of the narrative also makes the film lose some of its charm. Despite having an extremely talented star cast, Amit Masurkar fails to utilize them in a way that could have yielded a better product.
In one of her interviews, Vidya Balan had mentioned that her character in Sherni is that of a woman who is passive-aggressive. She is a quiet doer who would rather go unnoticed and be left alone to do her job. While the actress brilliantly conveys this side of her character, you do feel a bit impatient at places since Amit barely gives her any scope to channel her inner 'sherni', even when it's required. The underplaying of her character just seems to be a bit off the hook especially when we all know that she's such an incredible performer. Nevertheless, Vidya is one of the reasons why Sherni keeps you glued to the screen.
Brijendra Kala is bang on with his terrific comic timing. Be it his scenes with Vidya Balan or the rest of the cast, the man lends a lighter tone to the otherwise sombre narrative. Sharad Saxena and Vijay Raaz are luminous in their respective roles. Ila Arun and Mukul Chadda lend a fair performance even if they barely get a chance to be in the centre stage. Neeraj Kabi gets a thumbs up from us.
Right from the eerie silence of the jungle to the flora and fauna, Rakesh Haridas' camera work is top-notch and creates the perfect ambience which is required for a film like Sherni. On the flipside, the film could have been a lot more tighter if the editing scissors were a bit more sharper, especially in the first 30-40 minutes of the film as some of the scenes come across as repetitive.
There's barely any scope for songs in Vidya Balan-starrer Sherni and thankfully, the makers too, didn't unnecessarily throw in tracks simply to add to the runtime of the film.
In one of the scenes in Sherni, Sharat Saxena's character Pintu and a young lady forest officer argue over the poo of an animal, whether it's of the man-eater tigress or a leopard. Pintu finally puts an end to the clash by saying, "Kahe ko argue kar rahi rahi. Bahut experience hai yaha pe." One wished Sherni had more of such scenes which throw light on how patriarchy and gender bias seeps deep in our society.
We give 3 stars out of 5 to Vidya Balan-starrer Sherni.