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quick review:

To preserve or not to preserve nature is a human vs human fight. This three-way struggle simmers in an intense film. The politicisation of the situation is reasonably detailed and thus engaging.

(Available on Amazon Prime)

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Director: Amit Masurkar
Running time: 210 minutes
Genres: Politics
More Movie Info

Sherni gives a glimpse of the complexity that fosters in forests that are being encroached on by human development. I must admit that I know very little about the functioning of the forest department. Of course, the department is supposed to protect the forest and its dwellers from poachers and hunters. And the officers are trained in recognising paw prints and trail markings of animals. They would also have to deal with some of the politics in the region. However, Sherni tip-toes into the details of these workings in an engaging and educative manner. 

The other members of the cast play their roles well enough to make you want to scream on Vidya’s behalf.

Sherni isn’t a run-of-the-mill good vs evil story. There are many aspects to the arguments being made. You begin with the villagers who risk their lives each time they try to graze their cattle where a tigress is on the prowl. Then you have the governing political party, the opposition party, the trophy-collecting hunter, the corrupt or yes-men bureaucrats, the honest officers and citizens. In the lot, you know who you are certainly against even though some of them have valid arguments going in their favour too. But if we are genuinely on the environment’s side, even the protagonist is doing only the next best thing: moving the feared predator to a safer place—for the humans. 

Sherni gradually builds up as the protagonist, Vidya (Vidya Balan), a new forest officer, learns, along with you, about the locality and its politics. As convenient a trope as that is, this once, I was grateful. On a slow-burner, the story reaches a point where you are invested in who spots the dreaded tigress first. 

And it is not that Sherni is only and only about the tigress. Along its way, it picks on many a social aspect that cannot be ignored in real life. A lady officer struggles with trying to do her job right while managing the boss’ agenda. This while fretting about being what a woman is expected to be: wife, daughter, daughter-in-law. Thankfully, it doesn’t fall into the stuck-in-the-kitchen cliché. She even takes a jab at corporate jobs while highlighting how a forest officer’s job isn’t an easy one at all. 

Of course, one of the reasons this comes through is that Vidya Balan is in charge. Her character’s impatience with pretence, hypocrisy, bootlicking is unmissable. At the same time, she knows she can’t be brash and put her job at risk. With Vijay Raaz by her side, the two performances are a compelling watch. From Sharat Saxena to Brijesh Kala to Neeraj Kabi’s cameo, the other members of the cast play their roles well enough to make you want to scream on Vidya’s behalf. 

The subtler layers too make the film feel authentic. One that stuck with me was a paratha, as finger-food an item as can be, being eaten by a fork and knife to mark the character as a frivolous one. Sure, it is a slight exaggeration. Yet, it works within the context. The same goes for the use of yellow and pink to represent political parties. The night shots add to the tension, especially in the last half hour, and I, for one, couldn’t have enough of the close-up shots of birds, butterflies, and lizards. Of course, the one thing that never works and I doubt ever will work—showing characters brush their teeth! What is the point?

But hey, if that is the only complaint I have of a film that doesn’t necessarily have a clear conclusion, it has done a lot right. Any film that wants to stay with presenting the ‘circle of life’ will undoubtedly have missed some finer points. Until there are more films to pick from, though, Sherni is as good a watch as can be to understand some of the intricacies of life in the jungle—for animals, humans, and politicians and bureaucrats too.

- meeta, a part of the audience

25 reviewers(?) - 18 yays 6 so-so 1 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Urmimala Banerjee, Bollywood Life : ...If you are a wildlife enthusiast, Sherni will appeal to you on many levels. The movie also makes commentary on how women are not taken seriously in certain professions. Sherni highlights how ecology and wildlife is often used as a scapegoat for politics. The film leaves you thrilled, angry and upset. There is a glimmer of hope at the end but it is too little.... full review

Thumbs up, by Aishwarya Vasudevan, DNA : ...'Sherni' walks without a roar in this commercial film not to be mistaken as a documentary.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...All-in-all, watch the film for its powerful message and for Vidya Balan’s feisty act. She’s a true lioness alright!... full review

Thumbs up, by Seema Sinha, FirstPost : ...“More than starting work I feel bad about the theatres and its employees, that has got affected so badly. Of course, it has affected the economy of the film business but a lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of theatres have shut down so that is worrisome. But I am sure once things go back to normal people will throng the theatres and it will be even better than it was before,” she says, signing off.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubha Shetty, Free Press Journal : ...Brilliant cinematography by Rakesh Haridas makes you feel like you are part of the forest and are right in the midst of the action. Masurkar and his team, like his earlier movie Newton, manage to cover a whole lot of ground about the current social and political issues that need to be talked about. This is an important film and shouldn’t be missed.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonia Chopra, IMDB : ...The film’s essence is captured in the almost-macabre ending scene. Intriguing and entertaining despite a measured pace, Sherni is highly recommended. Great for a family viewing as well. Lively discussions guaranteed!... full review

Thumbs up, by Rishita Roy Chowdhury, india today : ...In the end, you realise there are certain rules of the jungle for everyone - be the inhabitants, animals or mankind. Holding your ground against the powers that be takes courage, venturing out of your territory can be dangerous, yet you do what it takes to survive. No one is always the predator or the prey. Just like when confronted with humans, animals at times attack and other times, silently disappear into the darkness all for self-preservation.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vaishali Jain, India TV : ...Despite compelling performances and a believable plot, Sherni seems like a stretch with a runtime of over 2 hours. I loved the eagerly rutted storyline far more than I should have, but at some point, it did make me want to proceed with things a little faster. However, eventually, the absolute awe and exhibition of Indian wildlife swept me through the film.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Balan is a good choice for these kinds of solid roles: here she is caught between getting enough star wattage (she strides just a little ahead of her colleagues; the camera rests just a little longer on her reactions), and giving us an accurate representation of doing one of the toughest jobs in modern India, to keep our green lungs safe from predators of all kinds. Also, it’s nice to have other women in the forest team who have a say in the proceedings.... full review

Thumbs up, NDTV : ...Sherni Review: Vidya Balan's Tigress-On-The-Loose Adventure Bites Sherni Review: A still from the film. (courtesy YouTube ) 23 Cast: Vidya Balan, Mukul Chadda, Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Sharat Saxena, Brijendra Kala Director: Amit Masurkar Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5) Like the displaced tigress of the title, the human protagonist of Sherni, a just transferred divisional forest officer, finds herself trapped. Not that she isn't up to the task. However, in an alien, dead-end, male-dominated environment, being good at one's job simply isn't enough if you are a woman. DFO Vidya Vincent, played with impressive restraint by Vidya Balan, has to fight tooth and nail to save the female feline forced out of her natural habitat due to continuing deforestation and dried-up watering holes. Just as important, she is constantly at odds with entrenched patriarchy. o5u74fb8 Sherni Review: A still from the film. The tigers and bears pose a real threat to a village on the edge of a forest, but the wild animals are less dangerous than the men charged with sustaining the delicate balance between the fragile environment and a myopic development model driven by greed. Director Amit Masurkar (Sulemani Keeda, Newton), working with a screenplay by Aastha Tiku and dialogues penned by him and Yashasvi Mishra, renders a man-animal conflict drama as an understated, multi-layered, trenchant satire about the politics of gender and environmental conservation. Eschewing excess, Sherni does not growl and roar. It bites. The supporting actors (Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Sharat Saxena, Brijendra Kala, Mukul Chadda) bring to the proceedings a high level of authenticity. They are aided in part by a tertiary cast made up of faces that merge completely with the environs. With all the actors, known or unknown, professional or amateur, looking the parts they play, Sherni does not have to resort to cliched flummery to draw the audience into its beleaguered universe. ih35bd58 Sherni Review: A still from the film. The Amazon Original movie is lit and lensed admirably well by cinematographer Rakesh Haridas. He achieves visual fluidity and depth both in the interior scenes and the wide-angle exterior shots, many of which are staged in the still of the night bathed in darkness. The tranquility of the forest is frequently shattered by men out to fish in troubled waters. Among them is an odiously pompous hunter (Sharat Saxena) - about the only character in the film who borders on the conventional - a smarmy MLA (Amar Singh Parihar) and a hostile former legislator (Satyakam Anand). Sherni traverses across a range of social, economic, environmental and political issues with measured steps. Distressed villagers robbed of grazing grounds for their livestock, wild animals cornered and compelled to venture out of the forest, self-serving politicians haranguing each other and making tall promises they have no intention of keeping, and hopelessly compromised officials disinterested in, if not incapable of, stemming the tide. An irate mob attacks a forest guard and sets a government vehicle ablaze after a villager is killed by a tiger. In another sequence, two groups of political workers clash violently in similar circumstances. These confrontations do not, however, define Sherni in its entirety. The film resists the temptation of staging super-charged run-ins between the forces of conservation and politically connected people who believe in taking the easy way out. It trots out steady driblets of information and makes each layer that it unpeels count. Sherni plays out in a forest somewhere in central India, not far from where Masurkar's critically lauded Newton was set. Like Newton, Sherni centres on an upright and earnest government official trying to find a foothold on slippery ground. Vidya Vincent faces numerous obstacles as she goes about doing her job. The tigress on the prowl, even as it takes a toll on human lives, isn't, however, her biggest adversary. If anything, Vidya feels an affinity with the uprooted tigress trying to make its way, along with two cubs, across an unfamiliar terrain to return to the safety of the forest. Decisions that the manipulated forest department makes endangers Vidya's own well-being as well as that of the jungle and the wild animals. Vidya's boss is Bansilal Bansal (Brijendra Kala), a man who thinks nothing of schmoozing with the local MLA and his cohorts. Elections are up ahead and the tigress becomes a political football between the sitting legislator and the former one, with the forest warden siding with the former against the latter, leading to severe complications on the ground for Vidya Vincent and her team. Vidya, a middle-class Malayali married to Pawan Shrivastava (Mukul Chadda), has to ward off thoughts of quitting the Indian forest service. Her husband warns her against taking any hasty steps because he himself is in danger of losing his corporate job amid a worsening recession. Vidya is not as angry as she disillusioned with the system. Her resistance is built on tact and patience rather than on obstinacy and belligerence, which sets her apart from run-of-the-mill Bollywood heroines battling male condescension and corruption. She receives support from Zoology professor Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raaz, as spot-on as ever), who doubles up as a DNA collector for a resource-starved forest department. Traps are laid in the jungle to track the movement and hopefully capture the 'maneater', but Vidya and Noorani are up against a politician-official nexus. While Noorani is disparagingly described as 'a butterfly expert', Vidya has to grapple with runaway sexism. The hunter repeatedly reminds her that nobody understands tigers better than he does. Her feckless boss rarely stands up for her. A bar attendant at a departmental party is befuddled when she asks for a whiskey instead of the kaala khatta that he suggest for her. A politician claims he respects women and Vidya is like a didi to her. But she does not demand any favours from anyone and holds her ground in the face of repeated acts that smack of outright gender prejudice. "Learn to pick your battles," her one-time mentor (Neeraj Kabi) says to her, presuming that she still needs his guidance. The many strands of Sherni make it the film it is. It touches upon the lopsided nature of development, the rights of forest dwellers, the dangers of a depleting forest cover, and the lust of politicians for power and pelf even as the world around threatens to come unstuck. A song composed by Mayur Narvekar of Bandish Projekt with lyrics by Hussain Haidry (Bandar baant ka khela) has a dig at the blatant skulduggery of those in the saddle and contributes its mite to turning the film into a larger commentary on the times we live in. You know exactly what Sherni is trying to convey (tangentially but tellingly) when a minister peremptorily tells Vidya Vincent that no "proof" that she gathers will override the "faith" of the people. The truth, he suggests, is immaterial, thereby admitting that we live in an era in which belief trumps evidence and manipulation of facts gets the better of diligent pursuit of probity.... full review

Thumbs up, by Priyanka Bansal, NewsBytes : ...The commentary on how politicians, high up officials, poachers, basically everyone is concerned with their own agenda, rather than making an effort to restore the ecological balance, is brilliant.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...the end, Sherni leaves the audience with a disquieting silence, making us wonder who is the real beast in a man-animal conflict. And more importantly, can utopia, idealism and pragmatism coexist? Sherni confronts the truth while reminding us to do our duties before walking out with a head held high.... full review

Thumbs up, by sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Despite the tiger menace looming large, the animal-loving ways of the locals remain unchanged, be it the caretaker's affection for the wandering kitten or the shepherds risking themselves for their livestock. Sherni makes a compelling case for practical knowledge over desk rats by acknowledging the efforts of the unsung eco-specialists and their field experience around a committee full of bookish know-alls in a sly scene. Sherni is a triumph -- a sublime outcome of purpose and storytelling falling in place. But it's also a forewarning towards the impending extinction of a glorious species if man's thirst to control and cage all that's wild and free isn't quelled.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...The performances are uniformly engaging across the ensemble cast. Vidya Balan is excellent in buttoned-down mode. Often surrounded by people and unable to assert herself, Balan stands out in the crowd without pushing her way through.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, The Asian Age : ...But Sherni plays out in a more frugal landscape of events, characters and dialogue. In fact, at times Sherni feels like a van vibhag documentary. And that is not just because its pace seems to be in step with bureaucratic indolence, but also because while Sherni has one set of characters created with love and respect — especially the ones assigned to “stars” — the other lot are stock characters.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sangeetha Devi Dundoo, The Hindu : ...Sherni doesn’t have the predictable high-on-adrenaline approach one might expect from such a premise, but it leaves you thinking long after. That’s a win.... full review

Thumbs up, The Quint : ...The denouement therefore might seem quite underwhelming to some, especially those of us who have been surviving on a steady diet of regular mainstream Hindi film tropes . But no concessions to mainstream contrivances are made here. There are no easy answers or closures and that’s probably why we think of Sherni and Vidya long after the film is over. The sign of an eloquently made film.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sreeparna Sengupta,, Times of India : ...Masurkar keeps us captivated and hooked for most part with the pace only dipping in a few points. As ‘Sherni’ takes us deep into the forests, through thrilling, tense tiger trails, it also gives also us a dose of some satirical humour. Ultimately, Masurkar’s potent film about wildlife conservation and maintaining the ecological balance leaves you with a haunting message even as you soak in the sublime beauty of the forests. ‘Sherni’ makes for an intense, intriguing film and is a must-watch. If you’re expecting the roar and rumblings of a regular Bollywood film, this one is far from it. But therein lies the beauty of it.... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...Summing up SHERNI is all what you expect it to be. As a satire its not explosive yet a fine appreciable flip, with worth praying performances and some thoughtful writing. But if you are looking for anything else in terms of action and the man-animal clashes, then it might be an underwhelming experience as it was for... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...If the film keeps up the viewer’s interest it is because one wants to know what happens to T12 and Vidya Vincent, but the concept is more exciting than the didactism of the narrative. It’s as if the filmmaker wanted to educate his audiences rather than engage them. Not by itself a questionable aim, but then, entertaining the viewer is not a crime either.... full review

So-So, by Anupama Chopra, Film Companion : ...Perhaps less isn’t always more. But despite stretches that feel repetitive and even dull, Amit steers the story to a coda that is chilling in its quietness. The end visuals work as a warning and an indictment. This is the world that we have constructed and we should be afraid.... full review

So-So, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...There's barely any scope for songs in Vidya Balan-starrer Sherni and thankfully, the makers too, didn't unnecessarily throw in tracks simply to add to the runtime of the film.... full review

So-So, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, this Vidya Balan led action-adventure has a lot of things to like, but we’ve seen them perfected in an already superior product created by the same director. It’s neither a disappointment nor lives up to the hope one could possess after knowing the film’s cast & crew.... full review

So-So, new movie : ...Conceptually the “Sherni” movie was quite similar to Amit Masurkar’s “Newton” movie as both focused mainly to bring a change in the system.... full review

Thumbs down, by R.M. VIJAYAKAR, India West : ...This “Sherni” could have truly roared, but instead, only whimpers. One could actually say that the average “Delhi Safari” (2012) or the Marathi “Ajoba” (2014) on wildlife-cum-environmental issues were superior to this one.... full review

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

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Dead bodies of people who have suffered from wild animal attacks.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A forest officer trying to save a tiger from humans for the sake of humans.
  • General Look and Feel: Dark and intense

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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