Updated: July 2, 2021 8:39:39 am
Director Amit Masurkar’s latest movie Sherni, which released on Amazon Prime Video on June 18, was an eye-opener on social and political realities that complicates the man-animal conflict in areas that fall beyond the grasp of our sight and mind. After watching Sherni, one realises the extent to which Malayalam superstar Mohanlal’s blockbuster Pulimurugan was ill-informed and backward.
The 2016 action drama revolves around Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan, who is celebrated for his skills in hunting tigers in his hamlet, which shares borders with a jungle. The highlight of the film was the way Pulimurugan tracks and kills tigers that have caused harm to humans. Director Vysakh and screenwriter Udayakrishna uses the hunting scenes to demonstrate the heroism of the protagonist, who seeks vengeance against wild animals.
Pulimurugan has been hunting tigers since he was 10. His father gets mauled when he trespasses into the territory of a big cat. Young Pulimurugan is out to avenge this wrong and is out for the blood of the tiger that killed his father. Note, it was Pulimurugan’s father who wandered into the deep jungle and crossed path with the tiger. The hero, however, wants the tiger to pay for the mistake of humans. The underlying message is that human life is more valuable than all other species in the world.
Sherni, on the other hand, takes a very holistic and compassionate look at the man-animal conflict. A man-eating tiger is not the villain, but ignorance is. The film shines a light on the source of conflict that is pitting animals against humans. It is the rampant deforestation for commercial reasons, it is unchecked mining operations, it is well-paved roads cutting across jungles, and it is the corrupt political system that worries more about the optics of a conflict than the lasting consequences of ill-convinced policies. Writer Aastha Tiku’s screenplay clearly shows us who pays for all this trickle-down effect of unchecked development that doesn’t take nature into account.
If Pulimurugan were to inhabit the premise of Sherni, we wouldn’t be singing hooray for his hunting skills. We would instead find him despicable and intolerable, just the way we feel about the celebrated hunter Ranjan Rajhans aka Pintu (Sharat Saxena) in Sherni. While for Pulimurugan, taking down tigers is a mix of personal vengeance and a sense of public service, for Pintu it is a sport. Shooting a tiger from a safe distance gives Pintu’s ego that much-needed boost. The motives of these two hunters are poles apart but what they have in common is the ignorance about the consequences of their actions. The hunters think they are the solution but in actuality, they are part of the bigger problem.
Sherni makes us realise that we don’t need hunters like Pulimurugan or Pintu. The heroes we need are officers like Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) and teachers like Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raaz), who know an act of killing is not the solution to all problems but educating people is. Unlike Pulimurugan, Sherni is not one-sided. It is not self-absorbed in the troubles of humans sharing habitat with wild animals. For a change and refreshingly so, Sherni gives us the account of horrors faced by the wild animals in sharing the earth with inconsiderate humans.
One of the achievements of Sherni is the way it has changed the narrative of how we see heroism. The plethora of complex problems that common people face everyday cannot be solved with sheer brute force. It takes a strong will, enlightened mind and a lot of care and respect for all living beings.
After you watch Sherni, you won’t be rooting for Pulimurugan ever again.
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