Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga

wogma rating: Catch on TV/online for sure (?)

quick review:

The screenplay forms the meat of Sherdil. Around its unusually sturdy but otherwise unremarkable skeleton, the flesh forms a curious animal. One of which, were I a biologist, I would like to dissect and explore every nook and cranny.

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Director: Srijit Mukherji
Running time: 135 minutes
Genres: Comedy, Politics, Satire
More Movie Info

I used to hate poetry. I always found it impenetrable and excessive. “Just say what you want to in plain language, why don’t you!” I’d scream at long-dead poets, throwing the tiny book across my room. But then a professor at college described poetry as emotion distilled to the purest form that it can be. Every poem, at its core, is trying to make you feel something. It is using language to effectively and viscerally remind you of a very specific feeling.

Despite how well made the movie is, the main character tip-toes dangerously close to the problematic. I am still making my mind up about what he was supposed to be—satire of the powerful, or caricature of the poor. The point, however, is that I am still thinking about the movie.

In many ways, Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga reminded me of a poem. On its surface, it looks benign or even boring. But when you see it for what it is—language manipulated to make you think and make you feel—you can’t help but smile.

The language it uses is simple, and one most moviegoers are familiar with. If you are an avid viewer of satire cinema, you will be intimately familiar with these techniques. It plays exactly like others in this genre: engaging camerawork, likable characters, and a government system that refuses to work, despite everyone’s best efforts. Relatability is the backbone of this story’s set-up, and a dynamic camera forms the rest of the skeleton.

But as always, it is the meat that entices the most. The screenplay forms the meat of Sherdil. Around its unusually sturdy but otherwise unremarkable skeleton, the flesh forms a curious animal. One of which, were I a biologist, I would like to dissect and explore every nook and cranny. Whether I like the taste of the meat, however, is a difficult question to answer.

Despite how well made the movie is, the main character tip-toes dangerously close to the problematic. I am still making my mind up about what he was supposed to be—satire of the powerful, or caricature of the poor. The point, however, is that I am still thinking about the movie. I want to study it, to see what makes it tick.

We need more movies like Sherdil, not because of the way it handles its extremely volatile subject matter, but because it tries creatively. It doesn’t want to simply expose. If it did, it would have been a documentary. Instead, it is fiction.

The writer didn’t just want to tell us about the way our country treats its poor. The writer wanted to show us an experience, to make us feel absurdity, tragedy, and frustration.

This review is by guest reviewer Arsh Kabra. He is an English and Creative Writing student at Ashoka University. This is really enabling his vindictive attitude towards movies. Arsh Kabra also blogs at http://abu.smritiweb.com/.

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Very little. No blood visible, though.
  • Language: No foul language.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: Would be hard to grasp for children because of the politics involved.
  • General Look and Feel: Political satire that would be better enjoyed with a nuanced understanding of ecological politics.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
135 minutes
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