Sherni (Tigress), directed by Amit V. Masurkar, revolves around a forest officer, Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) and her everyday struggle of trying to do her job in a male-dominated, laidback and corrupt bureaucratic department.
In the first few minutes of the film, you see her giving instructions to her colleagues and not being interested in talking about anything besides her work. She comes across as someone who likes keeping to herself. The next scene shows a contractor, who also happens to be a relative of a local politician, trying to bribe her. She does not confront him regarding the bribe or get angry; rather she just politely gives him a show cause notice. When a senior official, Bansal (Brijendra Kala), comes to the contractor’s rescue, by asking him if he is doing well or not, she just looks at them and gets back to her work. This scene establishes that Vidya is used to this environment and she, unlike Newton (the protagonist in Masurkar’s previous film, Newton), no longer has the idealism or passion to stand up and fight for what she believes is right.
She comes across as someone who seems to have given up on the corrupt and lazy attitude of her fellow employees. This is where the turmoil lies. She is too frustrated and tired to confront them and too sincere to not do her job. The only thing she wants is to do her job and she is unable to because most of her colleagues are either laidback or pawns in the hands of local politicians. Besides this, she also has to deal with sexist comments both at home and at work.
Her family only adds to her misery, be it her husband or her mother or her in-laws. Her husband, Pawan (Mukul Chadda), is so consumed by the daily struggles of his corporate that he is incapable of understanding her frustrations. He conveniently tells her to just do the job and take the salary without understanding the nature of her job. All Pawan can see is a secure, retirement-proof job, while Vidya is looking for growth. Her life seems to have come to a standstill and she is not happy about it.
Hers is not any other job where she can just do her part and leave; instead it concerns life and death, be it the animals or the villagers, and with it comes the expectation and responsibility to rescue and save. Vidya is not okay with seeing death every second or third day and just taking her paycheque. She is frustrated with her job, certainly, but not desensitised to the needs of those relying on her to give her best.
At one point in the film, an old man is killed by a tiger and she goes to meet his wife. She could have just asked a junior to send her the remittance cheque, but instead she chooses to go to her home and offer her condolence. She feels bad for the woman and wants to better the situation but she is also aware about the insignificance of her role in the larger scheme of things.
Her only companion in this journey is Hassan (Vijay Raaz), a zoology professor, and all they want is to save the tigress T12 from evil intentions of the local politicians and private hunters, and transfer her to a nearby national park. Being aware of the corruption in the department, they have their own little ways of taking revenge. In one of the film’s most endearing scenes, they are trying to tell Bansal about the plantation programs being the real cause of the problem but he dismisses them while looking for a little bottle. Vidya finds it and quickly puts it her pocket while Hassan catches her hiding it and lies to Bansal.
At another point in the film, Vidya and Hassan, along with a small team of diligent forest guards, are trying to figure out if T12 can go to the national park by herself as they are unable to locate her. They are standing in front of a huge mine, built between the forest and a national park, which poses a hurdle for the animals. The visual of the huge mine makes you think whether a bunch of honest people can really win against the bigger powers and save the tigress. It makes one understand Vidya’s hopelessness and why she does not have the idealism of Newton.
With Sherni, Masurkar sheds light on the lives of honest and idealistic government officers who are forced by their circumstances to become hopeless over time. Vidya Vincent is probably representative of whom Newton will turn into a few years down the line.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.