Sherni, on the surface, narrates the tale of a man-eater tigress who poses threat to a village situated in the vicinity of Madhya Pradesh. However, it is steeped in intense patriarchy evident in the journey that the protagonist Vidya Vincent undertakes in order to accomplish her mission.
Vidya’s mostly silent resistance did show her resilience but it also proves how even the most sincere people can become subdued in the face of patriarchy. It proves once again that power and patriarchy are directly proportional.
Bansal’s (the head of the forest department) appeasement of the political leaders even while turning a blind eye to Vidya’s pleas on behalf of the villagers, who have lost grazing land for their livestock in the garb of “development”, reflects how politics has led to the debasement of actual wildlife conservation.
Amidst the insanity of this male-dominated environment, the only sane people are Hasan Noorani and Vidya. Hasan Noorani serves as Vidya’s ally by imparting knowledge on wildlife conservation to the villagers & aiding her in trying to conserve wildlife rather than play into the ulterior motives of others. His selfless devotion towards his passion leaves an indelible mark in the audiences’ hearts. Whike Noorani’s passion was always belittled by Bansal, who labelled him as a mere ‘butterfly expert’, he was one of the few whose knowledge and strategies were of use to Vidya & on whom she could rely on.
The quest of the pompous hunter, backed up by the local politicians & even the compromised administration, was a symbolical presentation of how human beings are more detrimental to wildlife than a supposed man eater tigress is to humans.
The villagers struggle not only against the man eater tigress but also against politicians who are trying to exploit their problems & sorrow. And hence they have many confrontations with the forest department as well, sometimes on their own accords & sometimes because they are being played into it behind the scenes. In such scenarios, Vidya proves her mettle by always maintaining her calm & composure and trying to deal with the situation at hand so to find a solution which is beneficial to the villagers but not against nature.
Though Vidya is a woman of few words, her actions speak volumes. From starting a self help group for the village women to engaging the youth as volunteers, she manages to create bonds with a large part of grieved party so much so that they vow to give information only to her, realising that she is the only one trying to strike the balance they desire.
Sherni not only revolves around a man versus wild combat, it also unfurls a woman’s battle with patriarchal dominance which threatens her professional commitments & personal happiness. And while Vidya couldn’t accomplish her mission of rescuing the tigress from the pangs of the hunter, her two word reply “You’re pathetic” to her old-time mentor Nangia was a tight slap on the faces of all the condescending men.
The consequences that Vidya faced for this single ‘outburst’ is reminiscent of how many a times women are much more harshly punished even as the men around them continue to prosper after having committed much graver offences. But no punishment will stop the villagers or her junior officers from remembering Vidya as a superwoman who tried to strike that oft quoted balance between man & nature.
Sherni, thus, simultaneously depicts the stories of two Shernis – one of a tigress forced into violence and the other of a suppressed tigress in the guise of a woman. As a lead female character, Vidya Vincent is different in how she deals with even the most hard situations – physically & mentally. As a character, Vidya doesnt rely on melodrama or long monologues to put across her resistance. Instead, it is through her sensitivity & rigour that she manages to thwart patriarchy.
Sherni, directed by Amit Masurkar, is available to stream on Amazon Prime.