Review: Pankaj Tripathi’s ‘Sherdil- The Pilibhit Saga’ Is Marred by Flat Writing

Review: Pankaj Tripathi’s ‘Sherdil- The Pilibhit Saga’ Is Marred by Flat Writing

'Sherdil- The Pilibhit Saga', directed by Srijit Mukherji, released theatrically on 24 June.

Movie Reviews
3 min read


Review: Pankaj Tripathi’s ‘Sherdil- The Pilibhit Saga’ Is Marred by Flat Writing

Sherdil- The Pilibhit Saga isn’t a film one can easily forget and I don’t mean it as a compliment. It’s not everyday one winces seeing an actor of the caliber of Pankaj Tripathi perform. The unfading memory of seeing Neeraj Kabi in dreadlocks defecating with Pankaj Tripathi with loud farting sounds filling up the theatre; the philosophising while squatting on one’s haunches. One will remember it as an opportunity squandered!

Sherdil is about a man who is eager to give up his life for a larger cause. In this case, to rescue his villagers from hunger and poverty.

Pankaj Tripathi as the sarpanch Gangaram in a still from Sherdil.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Gangaram, the sarpanch decides to take advantage of a government scheme wherein a monetary compensation of Rs 10 lakh will be given to the family of the person killed by a tiger in the jungle.

When all other efforts fail, he decides to resolutely give up his life and offer himself up as the sacrifice.

What could have been a taut, gripping satire on the human-animal conflict is reduced to a verbose, excruciating watch with the narrative tone constantly shifting due to bursts of farce and flat writing.

The in jungle-philosopher-cum-poacher Jim Ahmed (Neeraj Kabi) named after Jim Corbette says, at one point, that we must respect the silence of the jungle. Sadly, Srijit Mukherji doesn’t heed the advice of his own character.

Neeraj Kabi in a scene from Sherdil.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

This is a film bursting at the seems with dialogues, like most Srijit films are. The stillness required to convey the gravity of the situation, the silent moments that only Pankaj Tripathi can so masterfully use to convey the deepest of emotions are all stuffed with dialogues and and loud animal noises.

The disconnect is jarring and the film never recovers from this flatulence. When Gangaram first walks into the jungle waiting for a tiger to eat him, he talks aloud to himself.

It’s as if we are not trusted to read Tripathi’s expressions and draw our own conclusion.

Gangaram’s desire to want to be a leader and save his impoverished village, the urge to achieve greatness even at the cost of giving up his own life is an interesting aspect of his personality but Sherdil doesn’t have the intelligence or competence to explore it.

Another scene, wherein Gangaram contorts his face in an attempt to anger the tiger so he attacks reduces this man to the level of a village buffoon. Later he is made to wax eloquently about the neglect and apathy that his people face. The film can’t even decide how to treat its own protagonist.

Pankaj Tripathi in a still from Sherdil.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

The story is inspired by real-life incidents where local families near the Pilibhit tiger reserve reportedly sent their elders to the forest in order to fall prey to a tiger so they could receive monetary compensation. It’s a stark reminder of institutionalised neglect and poverty that pushed people to such a frightening brink however Sherdil is just unable to build up the urgency and hold our attention. Neither the atmospherics, nor the writing or performance can save this one.

Rating: 1.5 Quints out of 5

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