The best thing about Amit V Masurkar's movies -- Newton and now Sherni, is that they have a unique flavour of forests and their tribes and they seem to be extremely rooted to the soil.
While in Newton, the film took us down the tangled jungles of Chhattisgarh and involved Maoists and government officials, in Sherni, we are taken across the jungles of Madhya Pradesh with a tigress in action.
Vidya Vincent played by the amazing Vidya Balan is a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in the Bijaspur Forest Division. Though she is not happy with job, her husband Pawan (Mukul Chadda) advises not to leave the job. In the meantime, Vidya learns that a tigeress T12 was spotted close to a village and happens to kill a few locals. With elections around the corner, the whole incident turns upside down. What begins as a tiger hunt transforms into an administrative hurdle with everyone getting involved for their own gain.
Sherni meaning 'tigress' in Hindi, refers not only to the animal in the film but also conveys the many aspects of the system in society.
It, in fact, acts as a metaphor for the lead protagonists who has to fight the patriarchy, politics and lackadaisical attitudes of her co-workers.
Though the makers states the film as a work of fiction, Sherni, which is out on Amazon Prime Video, appears to revisit the killing of the tigress Avni in Maharashtra in 2018.
Vidya Balan excels with her subtle performance. There were instances when she needed to respond and when she just had to be a silent bystander. It's amusing to see Vidya Balan’s conversation with her mother in Malayalam. She perfectly gets into the skin of her character conveyed her emotions justifying the movie. Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz and Neeraj Kabi are the other impressive casts in the film.
Similar to Newton, Amit Masurkar's dark humour is visible in Sherni too. But unlike Newton's precision, Sherni's screenplay is more stretched and has a slow and documentary-style narrative. Rakesh Haridas's cinematography is splendid and the forest scenes especially are very well captured. While there are chances that the climax may seem to be bewildering, yet the film leaves a haunting impression.
Sherni makes for an intense watch making us wonder who the real beast is in the tale of a man-animal conflict.
(The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video)