Today sees the release of ‘Sherni’ (2021) on Amazon Prime Video. Directed by Amit Masurkar, whose last offering was the brilliant ‘Newton’ (2017), the film sees him back; this time shedding light on the important topic of wildlife conservation and addressing the long-standing battle between humans and nature.
Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) is the new Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), who along with her team is faced with the challenge of managing tiger conservation at a time when an unsettled tigress is creating concerns for may local villagers living near the perimeters of the jungle. Dedicated as she is to ensuring that the role of Forest Officer is carried out with the right intentions, she soon finds herself questioning the management and ethics behind those at the top, which includes her boss, Mr Bansal (Brijendra Kala), politicians and the blood-thirsty hunter, Pintu Bhaiyaa (Sharat Saxena). Trapped in a male dominated environment it also becomes apparent that she will not be taken seriously by them or the locals and has to push her way through to get heard. Thankfully she is surrounded by a team of other Forest Guards who share her enthusiasm.
Balan executes her role wonderfully. She carries the film with subtlety and grace. There were strong performances by everyone regardless of whether they had a big or small role to play. Special mention goes out the Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Mukesh Prajapati, Ashwini Ladekar, Ila Arun, Mukul Chadda and Prateek Pachori, to name but a few.
At times the storyline did drag and some of the sub-plots could have been expanded on, especially the ending which was a bit of an anti-climax. This is not your average masala action-packed thriller. Instead the film is set at a much slower pace and the cinematography is more like a documentary. Working together with Madhya Pradesh Tourism the scenes showcased the magnificent forests of Madhya Pradesh and the tireless contributions of the Forest Guards.
The objective of ‘Sherni’ is to highlight the ongoing issues that conservationists probably face on a daily basis and it does just that with Balan at the forefront leading the pack. The sheer amount of corruption that runs rife whether that be for political or personal gain is depicted in here. It also highlights the importance of education and the need for open communication with the local people so that misunderstandings surrounding wildlife can be managed better and that humans and nature can co-exist.