Director Amit Masurkar’s affection for the forests and its people did not end with Newton (2017), India’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, about a government officer being sent into the heart of Dandakaranya forest on election duty. This time, with Sherni he returns to the forests to hunt a tigress that is on the prowl. But like Newton it is merely a device to unpack the issues of land-use, corporate and government abuse of power, and the slow disenfranchising quality of modernity.
The trailer introduces Vidya Balan, a forest officer, who has to battle both the indifference of her superiors, and the sexism of everyone involved. The titular sherni can thus, at another less literal level, refer to her character as well. She is often the only woman in the frame. The only time we see other women is when she’s at home, being advised by Ila Arun’s character — perhaps mother, perhaps mother-in-law — to wear some bangles, and not go out looking so dull. The background score swells with folk music, excising the usual modern percussion persuasion to create tension. There isn’t even a crescendo as the trailer ends, or moments of hero-heroine-giri — a kind of lived-in, rooted quality that even Newton had, without announcing its drama or its resolution.
The film also stars Vijay Raaz, Neeraj Kabi, Ila Arun, Sharat Saxena, and Brijendra Kala. Produced by: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Vikram Malhotra, Amit Masurkar, the film premieres on Amazon Prime Video on June 18.