Vidya Balan starrer Sherni rests on an interesting storyline and Vidya’s performance. But the slow and documentary-style narrative, longer runtime and bewildering climax ruins the impact.

Lioness Review {2.0/5} and Review Rating

Human-animal conflict is increasing in our country with every passing year, as more and more forest land is being taken for residential and other purposes. It is a burning issue but surprisingly very few films have taken up the issue. newton [2017] Director Amit Masurkar took this initiative and came up with the lioness. The interesting trailer and the overwhelming presence of Vidya Balan has created hype for the film. So does the lioness manage to thrill and enlighten the audience? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyze.

movie review lioness

Lioness is the story of a tough forest officer who intends to capture a tigress who has caused havoc in an area. Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan) has taken charge as Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in Bijaspur Forest Division. Her husband Pawan (Mukul Chadha) is away in Mumbai, while she lives alone in the accommodation allotted by the Forest Department. She is not happy with the promotions and increments she got in the last 9 years and wants to quit. But Pawan advises against doing so as his corporate job is unstable. One day Vidya learns that a tiger has been seen near a village. A few days later, the tiger kills a villager, which enrages the locals. Through the camera trap, the forest officials learn that it is a tigress, named T12, who is behind the villager’s murder. Elections are near and sitting MLA GK Singh (Amar Singh Parihar) makes it a political issue. He promises the residents of the village that he will kill the tigress thus providing relief to them. On the other hand, PK Singh (Satyakam Anand) is a former MLA who wants to come back to power. He instigates people against GK Singh. In the midst of this madness, another villager dies when she goes to the forest to collect wood. GK Singh then invites Ranjan Rajhans aka Pintu (Sharat Saxena), a self-proclaimed conservationist, but is actually a hunter. He wants to kill T12 to satisfy his hunger for prey. Vidya, however, is not in favor of killing the animal. She advises the villagers to stay away from the forest. Using camera traps and tracking the pug’s trail, she hopes to find T12, pacify her, and then release her into a nearby national park. Time is running out and it is important that he succeeds in his endeavour, before he snowballs into a major brawl and Pintu hunts the tigress. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Aastha Tiku’s story is impressive. This issue keeps making headlines all the time but it is rare to see an entire movie dedicated to it. But Aastha Tiku’s script is faded and stretched. The introductory parts are interesting but after a point, the proceedings are repeated. And the climax is the biggest downfall. Amit Masurkar and Yashasvi Mishra’s dialogues are simple and sharp. Some one-liners are unexpectedly fun and help maintain interest.

Amit Masurkar’s direction is average. It seems he likes shooting in the jungles. Newton was established primarily in a forest and so is the lioness. Some scenes are exceptionally starring. Amit also neatly explains the role of forest officer, the concept of Van Mitra, how bureaucracy and apathy of the government can mess things up etc. On the other hand, he directs a film like a documentary. Apart from this, the run time of the film is 130 minutes. It is a bit long and ideally, the film should have been less than two hours. At some point, nothing much is happening and we get to see repeated scenes of forest officials and others searching for the tigress. These scenes are going to test the patience of the audience. Also the finale is disappointing and shocking. Some questions remain unanswered and this leaves the audience confused as to what actually happened. Lastly, Vidya Vincent’s character isn’t that impressive, more on that later.

SHERNI starts on a dry note. The opening credits are shown on a black screen with no music. It makes it clear that the film is meant for a specific audience. The opening parts are engaging, introducing the audience to Vidya Vincent, her job, the hunt for the tigress, etc. The humor quotient works well too. Two scenes unfold in the first hour when GK Singh arrives at an awareness program of Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raj) and PK Singh chasing Vidya’s senior Bansal (Brajendra Kala) to his office. The latter is quite entertaining and novel, and will certainly be appreciated. In the second part, expect fireworks as the characters seem interesting enough and their conflicting motives were a perfect recipe for a captivating drama. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not handle this well. The film ends on an unfair and pathetic note.

Vidya Balan: “Entertainment is being redefined today, very honestly if it…”| Amit Masurkar

As expected, Vidya Balan gets into her character and delivers yet another commendable performance. She looks and suits the part and forgets about her past performances. However, his character is not portrayed properly. The campaign had drawn parallels between her character and that of the tigress. However, Vidya Vincent doesn’t really protest or rather, she doesn’t really roar when she sees the injustice happening around her. There are scenes where he is just a silent spectator. In the end, one eventually hopes that she will take matters into her own hands. But the makers don’t explain it well and hence the character loses its luster. Sharat Saxena is credited immediately after Vidya in the opening credits and rightly so because she has a significant part. He is very good as a passionate hunter who can go to any extent to achieve his goal. Vijay Raaz doesn’t laugh for a change and yet, he is very impressive. Neeraj Kabi (Nangiya) has a scintillating on-screen presence. Sadly, his character’s confusing actions also seem unconvincing. Mukul Chadha is decent while Brijendra Kala is dependable. Anoop Trivedi (Pyare Lal) is funny and a great find. Satyakam Anand makes a big mark while Amar Singh Parihar does well. Gopal Dutt (Saiprasad) is ruined. Ila Arun (Pawan’s mother) is fine; His track really adds to the length of the film. Suma Mukundan (Vidya’s mother) and Nidhi Diwan (Reshma; Hasan’s wife) don’t get much scope. Sampa Mandal (as a spirited villager Jyoti) is great.

The music of Bandish project is bad. ‘Monkey Bunt’ This is the only song in the film. It has moved into the background and fits well into the narrative. Benedict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar’s background score is minimal and impressive. Rakesh Haridas’s cinematography is superb and the jungle scenes in particular are captured very well. Devika Dave’s production design is straight out of life. The costumes of Manoshi Nath, Rushi Sharma and Bhagyashree Rajurkar are non-glamorous as the script demands. The VFX of FutureWorks and The Circus is great in the tiger scenes. But it’s unrealistic in the Bear sequence. Dipika Kalra’s editing is not good. The film should have been shorter.

Overall, Lioness rests on an interesting storyline and Vidya Balan’s performance. But the slow and documentary-style narrative, the long-lasting and perplexing climax ruins the effect.

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