Director: Amit V Masurkar
Writers: Amit V Masurkar, Yashasvi Mishra and Aastha Tiku
Cinematography: Rakesh Haridas
Edited from: Dipika Kalra
Starring: Vidya Balan, Vijay Raaz, Sharat Saxena, Mukul Chadda, Neeraj Kabi, Brijendra Kala and Ila Arun
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
A few years ago, in an interview, director Anubhav Sinha explained to me the concept of cheese in a movie. He said: In those stories that can alternatively be shot as films that will be very dry, I put a little cheese. The cheese is the shot of Ayushman Hurana, heroically carrying the rescued girl in his arms in Article 15 or the thunderous dialogue-baazi of Ashutosh Rana in Property. I interpret “cheese” as a delicate sprinkling of something extra to give a pulsating pulse to a film. And I want to Sherney there was more cheese in it.
Sherney is the sequel to director Amit Masurkar to his brilliant Newton. Newton is located in the forests of Chatisgarh. Sherney is located in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. As in Newton, here also the main character Vidya Vincent is a civil servant who is trying to do the right thing in a rotten system. At the beginning of this film, Newton says to his boss: I want to make a difference, sir. He has what his instructor so memorable describes as:imaandari pe gamand. ‘But Newton is a beginner. After nine years of service, Vidya lost that surge of idealism. She is an efficient and reserved forest worker who behaves in a boys’ club. For fun, her bosses – all men – get drunk around a fire and sing the numbers of Bollywood items. She dined alone, with a softened kitten for company.
Sherney is for a tiger that eats humans, but the villains in history are people – local politicians who make the tiger a pre-election problem; a hunter named Pintu bhaiya, played well by Sharat Saxena, whose masculinity and pride is based on the number of animals he has killed; forest officials who have little interest in wildlife conservation; and greedy corporations that strip the jungle and plunder animals from their natural terrain. The battle between development and the environment is played out with devastating results – in the short term for animals, but in the long term for humanity.
Amit has a keen sense of how state machines work – low-level corruption and friendship, the mediocrity and indifference that marinate in every corner of the system, and the lethargy that sarkari naukri gives birth – at the beginning of the film Vidya Pavan’s husband tells her that she is lucky to have a job that has been proven to be in recession and has advantages and security. “Apne kaam se kaam rakho,” he says, “bass apni salary lo aur ghar chalo. “Later, in one of the best scenes in the film, Vidya’s boss, Bansal, runs through the office to escape the wrath of a local lawmaker who arrived with his boys to make him rude for not dealing with This is a political position and Bansal rushes in and out of the rooms to avoid the smashing.At one point he hides in a room where cobwebbed files pile up from floor to ceiling.This visually captures the state of our nation.
Sherney was almost entirely shot on the spot. Amit, DOP Rakesh Haridas and sound designer Anish John immerse us in the textures of the terrain – the sounds and sights of a rich, majestic world, teeming with life that we can not see and barely understand. The images of insects and animals as transitions between scenes reminded me of the Malayalam movie Calla. The beautiful night sequences, in which lanterns and headlights dance in the darkness, resonate with Liho Jose Peliseri jallikattu.
The deerthe journey goes hand in hand with Vidya’s journey – they both negotiate a landscape hostile to men. The most memorable among them is Bansal, played superbly by Brijendra Kala. Bansal is to borrow the popular phrase from The family man season 2, “minimal man.” He’s sitting in front of a big picture of a tiger, but he’s not interested in anything outside of himself. Bridgendra plays it with the right combination of fatness and cowardice.
Sherni has many star actors, including Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi and Ila Arun, but the film is based on the gravity and reduced force that Vidya Balan brings to Vidya Vincent. The actor gives up his natural abundance and works with restrained expressions. She is controlled and great. You feel that beneath the stoic appearance of Vidya is a well of rage and disappointment. Which never explodes at all.
Which brings me back to the cheese. Sherni was written by Aastha Tiku with a dialogue by Amit and Yashasvi Mishra. The film adheres to a documentary aesthetic with manual cinematography, natural settings and carefully studied details of the work of the forest department – an unusual theme for Hindi cinema. But on the stretch, the reserve overwhelms the story. The scenario becomes inert. IN NewtonAmit managed to weave in dark humor, but here he does not make enough room for it. Although there is a delicious moment when Vidya and Hassan, the hero Vijay Raaz, viciously undermine Bansal.
But Vidya remains emotionally opaque. I didn’t get enough feeling for her, which is why the film doesn’t cut with that sharpness Newton I did. How did a woman like Vidya marry an impersonal man like Pavan? It’s a North-South love marriage, and in one scene Vidya says it’s nothing like when she was in college together. But we do not know how this distance between them affects her. His friends call her Lady Tarzan, and she smiles cautiously, hiding her irritation. As she does when her mother-in-law asks her to wear jewelry for a dinner trip.
Maybe less is not always more. But despite stretches that feel repetitive and even boring, Amit directs the story to the code, which cools in its silence. The final visual elements work as a warning and an accusation. This is the world we have built and we must be afraid.
You can watch Sherni on Amazon Prime Video.