Sherni is a movie that sheds light on the man-made problems that are destroying the lives of animals and humans alike. It puts forth the idea of how the prey and predators aren’t so easy to identify because the prey was once a predator, while the predator can be a prey easily.
At the heart of this tempestuous hunt in the forest is Vidya Vincent, a divisional forest officer trying to stand her ground in man’s world. The film addresses multiple issues in its storytelling — from patriarchy in households and discrimination in the workplace to environmental crisis, wildlife conservation and poaching. However the beauty of Sherni lies not in its message, but in the manner in which it delivers it. It doesn’t make bold claims and deliver powerful, echoing dialogues but still manages to, flamboyantly, convey the needed message. It doesn’t pick sides for the audience in black and white but presents them with a story, and leaves it upon the viewers to point out right and wrong for themselves. The movie is not preachy for even a moment, something which films with social message tend to do. Sherni roars with restraint. There are no big speeches or grand gestures of breaking the glass ceilings. The ceiling breaks but with little things. Vidya puts across her ideas calmly and peacefully several times like when her mother pesters her to have a child or the locals point out her gender as a weakness, rather than launching into a dramatic monologue.
Sherni in many ways is an unexplored genre that could have gone wrong but didn’t because of its power-packed team. Vidya Balan without a doubt is the driving force of the film as she masters the art of being subtle yet powerful. Moreover, just like its protagonist, the film is filled to the brim with talent. Fine actors grace the screen in small, but significant roles. We have Vijay Raaz playing a sensible colleague to Vidya in a herd of thick-headed skulls with huge male egos. Neeraj Kabi and Brijendra Kala are playing senior officers who couldn’t be less interested in the actual problem or finding a solution to it while Sharat Saxena plays the hunter. Ila Arun plays Vidya’s mother-in-law and Mukul Chaddha plays her husband. The phenomenal star-cast makes sure to set high standards when coupled with director Amit Masurkar’s brilliant work.
Alas, Sherni establishes the idea that life’s a jungle, especially for the women, the tigresses — you do what it takes to survive. You mark your territory even as the powers-to-be try to crush you because in a jungle you are always at war. Sherni is a nuanced film with a deep and layered understanding that has a lot to offer if the audience wishes to lend it an ear.