When the world is celebrating the International Tiger Day (July 29) Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga film focuses on the man-animal conflict in a village on the edge of Jim Corbett National Park. Slowly the film widens its scope and encompasses other social issues, institutionalized government neglect of the marginalized and its repercussions

The protagonist of the prolific writer- director Srijit Mukherji’s second Hindi film – is a middle aged village headman in a remote village amidst forest. Failing in his efforts to get any help from the local lethargic Government for his poor villagers he decides to sacrifice his life to a tiger. The ultimate benefit that the Government will grant ten lakh rupees as compensation!

The tonal transitions in the film aren’t perfectly seamless, but a controlled lead performance by Pankaj Tripathi (who incorporates interesting new shades into a village bumpkin persona), a solid supporting hand from the ever-reliable Neeraj Kabi, a musical score that soars on the back of a slew of earthy songs, and an unfussy depiction of a dispossessed community drowning in its own haplessness help the film skirt around the pitfalls of conventional melodrama and rhetoric.

In delivering its humanist message, Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga, based on true events that were reported in 2017, treads the thin line between the simple and the simplistic and faces the danger of tipping over into the latter. The title obviously refers to the hero’s derring-do, but the film defies the conventions of the genre and adopts terse, direct methods to showcase a man’s despair and ill- advised bravado.

The headman Gangaram’s village, where standing crops are repeatedly destroyed by rampaging wild animals, grapples with hunger and hopelessness. On one of his many treks to the city, he spots a notice announcing government compensation of 10 lakh rupees for anybody who falls prey to a tiger while working in his field. Gangaram has a brainwave and suggests to the other village elders that he will do his people a good turn by letting a tiger maul him to death.

In the forest, Gangaram runs into poacher Jim Ahmed (Neeraj Kabi), named after who else but Jim Corbett. The latter teaches the earnest altruist a thing or two about the failings of mankind, animal instincts, and the mysteries of the jungle and, in a sudden scatological turn that is at variance with the tone of the rest of the film. The Sherdil Pilibhit Saga was filmed in North Bengal.

Source: Himalayan News Chronicle