Poster of Pankaj Tripathi’s film Sherdil.
Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga seems to be leaving no stone unturned to punctuate its credibility. The writing is very poor, showing a lack of consistency. The story unfolds in flashback which complicates the film. The film lacks clarity from the very beginning.
Ishita Sengupta :- Till now no one would have relied so much in Bengali artists like Pankaj Tripathi. Within a week, two films of this actor are being released, a short film and a feature film. Both the films have been directed by Bengali directors. Abhiroop Basu’s Laali, whose story is based on a Kolkata laundryman, works alone without any helpers or family. The entire responsibility of this film rests on the shoulders of Pankaj Tripathi. Pankaj Tripathi is in the main role in this film. He is a superb actor. In this film, he played the role of a man who is struggling with isolation and abandonment.
Then there is Srijit Mukherjee. Lion’s heart: The Pilibhit Saga (Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga). On one side there is Mukherjee who spoils the bane bane, on the other hand there is Tripathi who kills his acting in a wordless scene. However, this time Mukherjee has achieved what even Basu and other filmmakers could not achieve. He has made a film in which Tripathi also looks bad. This proves to be true for the entire casting of the film (Tripathi, Sayani Gupta and Neeraj Kabi). To be honest, the director has tarnished a serious issue like the Pilibhit crisis.
The film is so bad that it cannot even be called a ‘film’
In 2017, many publications presented the issue as a painful aspect of poverty. There were increasing incidents of tigers attacking elderly people in and around Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh. On investigation, it was found that the villagers were deliberately sending old members of their families to die in order to claim compensation from the government. These people were very poor and deceiving the authorities became their only recourse to survive. To save his family, he considered it appropriate to sacrifice a family member.
In a country like India where discord wears the cloak of religion, caste and class, the story of Pilibhit encapsulates the fight for existence and throws light on a scenario where hunting is shown as an important way of life. Which reveals another aspect of the hunter. The film on this subject provides a good background for satire. Mukherjee certainly used it, but the film he ultimately made is so bad that it would be wrong to give it film status. The film looks like a school play whose script was written in a week and a day’s practice for acting was taken.
Set in a fictional village Jhundav (the film is shot in North Bengal), Sherdil the film revolves around Gangaram (Tripathi) who is tired of trying for the betterment of his people. The animals of the forest are eating their crops, which is prompting the villagers to commit suicide. Their trouble has only increased due to the lack of rain. Being the Sarpanch of the village, Gangaram has certain duties and responsibilities. Gangaram thinks of a plan to get compensation after coming to know about the impediment in getting government compensation. He deliberately plans to make himself a tiger victim to claim compensation of 10 lakhs. He lies to convince his family that he has cancer and has only three months to live. He says that it is better to sacrifice one’s life and become immortal than to die in oblivion.
The film lacks continuity
Sherdil seems to be leaving no stone unturned to punctuate his credibility. The writing is very poor (Screenplay credit is given to Mukherjee), which shows a lack of consistency. After getting the news of Tripathi’s incurable disease, his family easily forgets it, as if he is complaining of a common cold. The story unfolds in flashback which complicates the film. The film lacks clarity from the very beginning. After some time, Mukherjee’s habit of forgetting reminds him how difficult it is for him to follow the plot.
This aimlessness is clearly visible in the characterization of the characters of this film. Gupta is seen in the film as a skeptical wife, but her skills were not put to good use in the film, and Sohag Sen, who plays Gangaram’s mother, also disappointed. In this film, the hero was not given even the slightest attention. The film was given the name Sherdil because the village sarpanch is a brave man who risks everything, even his life, to save his people.
Mukherjee portrays Gangaram as a village fool who chooses this path to help the people. It is insulting to a large extent as it exposes the filmmaker’s own urban outlook. When Gangaram goes to the forest, he is seen in curiosity like a child, he is surprised to see what happens there. This ignores the fact that he grew up near the forest. And because of this he should have known about that forest. But this is not the case in Mukherjee’s world.
Srijit Mukherji making one bad film after another
Similarly take another character Jim Ahmed (Kaabi) Shikari. He is shown named after Jim Corbett and like Jim Morrison (not really) who uses words like “silence” and “whispers.” He meets Gangaram in the jungle and they have a nonsensical dialogue about religion in what can be called one of the worst scenes in the history of Indian cinema. And that’s the problem I have with Srijit Mukherji’s films.
When someone’s job is to write on films, then watching useless films is also a part of their profession. But evaluating the work of Mukherjee, who has made one bad film after another, becomes a frustrating exercise as directors seem confident about their work being good. Even in Sherdil, where he treats folly as bravery, the cameras are shot as if he considers himself the best director. Rock music has been used in the background of a romantic scene between a husband and wife, which seems absurd.
After KK’s death, Mukherjee shared a short clip of KK’s song for Sherdil. This is probably one of the singer’s last songs. This film is dedicated to him, which is a good thing. But no other recent film would have humiliated the dead, the living and the animals so much at the same time. If Sher Dil was a prestige battle between a director and an actor, Mukherjee won it. As a Bengali, I apologize to Pankaj Tripathi and everyone involved. Click here to read the news in English Click do it. (The author is a senior journalist, the views expressed in the article are the personal of the author.)