Critic’s Rating : / 5
Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga Movie Review : Could have been a taut man v/s animal tale…but is not
REVIEW: Hunger, poverty, climatic extremes force Gangaram (Pankaj Tripathi), the head of a nondescript village in a deep pocket of Uttar Pradesh, to take an extreme step in order to make life easy for his folks. The village borders a tiger reserve. Gangaram convinces the villagers to let him go and offer himself as prey to a hungry tiger, and urges them to use his remains to claim compensation from the government against a scheme, since all his other means have been exhausted without any result. Whether he succeeds or not summarises the rest of the plot.
As the end credits rolled, the only thought remained is that this one could have been a taut man v/s animal tale – the kind that many have attempted over the years, but not quite succeeded in crafting. The film smartly highlights the way human beings have encroached upon the habitats of animals, how man is way greedier than an animal can be, and how religion divides people but nature has made them all the same and more. But the film touches upon these issues very late into the runtime, almost when it’s lunging towards its climax.
A big chunk of the narrative has been used to merely set up the story, which makes the proceedings a drag. Had the length been shorter, the points the film tries to make through its dialogues laced with satire, philosophy and some political references, would have come across way more sharply. The writing and editing departments could have done a superior job had they not become a tad indulgent at the outset. While the second half has way too much pace, the first half feels sluggish in comparison. A finer balance could have worked. The sound design and the cinematography are worth praising though. However, what is worthy of being highlighted here is the music of the film. Surprisingly, it has not been promoted much but the film has some wonderfully earthy tracks, which are unique and beautifully worded to suit the situation in the film.
Pankaj Tripathi is the daysaver here. He’s pitch-perfect as Gangaram. Neeraj Kabi as poacher Jim comes a close second, and one would have loved to see more of him. Their exchanges in the jungle bring out so much about the man-animal conflict, poverty and greed, and a few other pertinent subjects that you wonder why this didn’t start a little earlier in the runtime. Sayani Gupta lends able support in her limited screen-time. There’s precious little for the other supporting actors to do.
All in all, Srijit Mukherji’s intent as a director seems to have been in the right place when he started penning this film. But somewhere along the way, he couldn’t keep it tight, and together, which affects the eventual result drastically.