About some minutes into the movie I had a feeling of deja vu. The movie, Sherni, seemed very similar to the movie, Newton, in look and feel and the underlying tone of the story. In “Newton,” it’s one insignificant man and in “Sherni”, it’s one insignificant women – both have some bother against a huge system or establishment. In “Newton,” which is also on Amazon Prime, the movie is one of a kind – that is, it beats every department of filmmaking. It’s one of the movie in my repeat-watchlist. Unfortunately, Amit Masurkar, who also made “Sherni,” (after Newton) did not live upto “Newton’s” promise, storywise.
But no one expects a repeat of “Newton.” But what one expects, at least, is; if a lone person is pitched against a huge body of lies, how, in the end, the lone is able to win the day. On this yardstick, the movie “Sherni” starts well, proceeds well, but disappoints in the end. The climax was very tame. Although, there was an opportunity end it on a high.
The acting from top to bottom is perfect and seems to be handled by professionals, particularly those tertiary casts. Also, the cinematography is excellent. The Jungle and the village atmosphere and its unique sounds are aptly captured. Also well portrayed, are the middle class lives of government servants with their spacious but bland houses and their amateurish attempts to liven up their social lives.
What also is well crafted into the story, and for which the story is also educational in a way, is the depiction of conflicts in Jungle living; man-animal conflict, urban-village conflict, politics-land conflict and mixed with it all are the government legislations which threatens the livelihood of forest dwellers and their land. And on top of it all is the ever increasing menace of poaching – those “hunters” who brand Tigers as “man-eater” to justify the killings.
If the movie needs to be summed up, to say, two words, it would be – “Monitoring Cost.” The story is the attempt to protect the wild-life, the forest, the powerless forest dwellers and added to it all, is the protection of one’s relationships, in family, in workplace and finally in the protection of one’s sanity; because the “conflicts” takes a toll on all.
I wish the ending could have been better. There is a small scene where the villagers display their handloom and artefacts. And then there is an assurance by Forest Officials to help them profit from this. This shot could have been used to leverage the end. After the mission to protect the tiger fails, and the “powers” had achieved their goals, they all leave the village. The character of Vidya could have been shown to do the opposite – to reach out to the villagers and help them profit from their art. The last scene where Vidya shreds her resignation letter because two cubs were found alive – is ending a movie on a very weak note. It shows that the main lead of the story is satisfied with solace.
What the movie missed is to show is how the main lead contributes to the empowerment of the villagers. The two cubs have survived indeed, but they will only thrive and prosper if the villagers are in an economically advantageous position. In “Newton” the main lead decides that if the villagers have to vote till Three O’Clock, then the voting will continue till that time, till the last second. In other words, the main lead prevails till the very end. The same situation slipped in “Sherni.” In tennis terms – one can say, it was an unforced error.
The ending scene could have been rearranged such; Vidya is handed her transfer letter – she then types her resignation – but before handing her paper she visits a lone spot for final despondent moment – then, there arrives many villages and they gift her a handbag, made by villagers – this handbag is similar to her own favourite and “unique” handbag with which she had gone to attend the seminar of her mentor once earlier and the fallen-from-grace-mentor had complemented her handbag – this gesture by the villagers gives her renewed hope to work for the weak and the powerless and empower them – and then she walks away tearing her resignation – later she is supervising a museum where most of the displays and a store is stocked with village industries – also on display are those “unique” shaped handbag.