Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga
One of the leftovers from last weekend and I managed to catch that yesterday! With that I finished watching the Hindi film Sherdil which starred Pankaj Tripathi. It was almost a year back(in fact in June itself) that the Vidya Balan starrer Sherni had released. That for me was one of the best Hindi films from last year which managed to touch upon the several issues of the authorities while dealing with animals and more specifically how the forest is the home of animals which are constantly being encroached for civilizations. It was a thought provoking satire which didn’t really take sides and instead put out the message across the table. So when I had earlier watched the trailer of Sherdil, it did give me a feel that Sherdil was an extension of the world created by Sherni. But I was appalled at the negative reviews doing the rounds, something that is often leaving me perplexed these days. So then is Sherdil worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Based on true events, Sherdil follows the story of a poverty stricken villager who decides to give up his body as a prey for the tigers to feast on, to claim.a compensation for his village. The story is powerful and really a tale which needed to be told. The screenplay standing at 2 hours is probably a tad too much considering the manner in which the story is narrated. Probably, 20 odd minutes could easily have been chopped off on the edit table. But it is an important film nevertheless.
The screenplay is an absolute slow burn so if you aren’t privy to slow burns then you are less likely to like the film. In other words, the drama is niche and requires patience. You get a glimpse of the world when the protagonist meets up with the authorities in quite a long opening sequence where he is told about the “simple” process of placing an inquiry. The premise is excellent and extremely well setup. But having said that this ain’t all a rosy ride.
The screenplay has its share of shortcomings as well. There are moments where the film is uneventful, almost absorbing on the silence of the place where it is set in. Some portions in the first hour did feel repetitive especially when you had established the issue, it did feel needless to show the same scenes again. Another minor drawback was the ending which seemed disjointed and almost rushed. Although it was a logical one but it gave me an impression that the makers wanted to just get on with it at the end. Also, the scene involving two men taking a dump and having a philosophical take on the rich vs poor debate just seemed far fetched for me.
But there is much to love in the screenplay as well. The issues which are raised through the running minutes of the film, make for a good satire which is subtly and not in your face(like how Janhit Mein Jaari was). Also, the humour is dry and the film doesn’t wish to be funny intentionally(no puns intended). The message again highlighted through a monologue at the end is good and quite relevant and for that the film needed to find the right takers instead of just panning the film(something which happened with Anek too). I guess the mindset of the audience at the moment is not to watch thought provoking stuff and simply invest their time in over the top stuff(which is not necessarily wrong provided it is done well). In other words, the screenplay is not as sharp as it could have been but in no way is it bad.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
This is largely a conversational film. For me personally, the conversations were interesting and engaging in parts and it had me invested in them. The long periods of silence did create an ambience as well but I felt it was a touch overdone. The music is excellent and blends beautifully with the drama. The BGM is sparingly used which makes for a good viewing experience. Also the drama does rely on the voices of insects and animals from the jungle which creates a nice little atmospheric presence. The cinematography is beautiful and it wonderfully captures the jungle and the surroundings. Director Srijit Mukherji has done a good job here as per me contrary to what other critics had to say. Yes at times the drama does get overindulgent but still the subtlety with which the director presents an issue was wonderful to watch and witness.
The performances are excellent. I am a fan of Sayani Gupta since a while now. And it was refreshing for me to see her in this unconventional role of Lajjo. She is quite brilliant and puts her best foot forward here. Neeraj Kabi as Jim is well restrained and definitely makes his presence felt. But the star of the show is Pankaj Tripathi who shines as Gangaram. The persona of a poverty stricken common man is wonderfully captured by him here and he adds a bit of calmness which differentiates his role from Kaagaz. It was a splendid performance which was the highlight of the film.
Despite its shortcomings, Sherdil is a good satire backed by solid performances. Available in a theatre near you and soon to be out on Netflix.