It takes intelligence to enact someone so dim-witted, and Pankaj Tripathi is a genius. The recent “Koffee with Karan” episode comes to mind, where Sonam Kapoor mentioned that Bollywood has completely stopped taking risks. While we agree with her to a large extent, we tentatively add that maybe it is the mainstream Bollywood actors who don’t take risks. Because looking at the OTT space, there is a wealth of content from the Hindi film industry, from actors who are not as busy as they deserve to be. “Sherdil” is an example of what happens when excellent actors come together with a good script and make the story the most important part of the project.
The film is about Gangaram, a man who plans to get killed by a tiger so that his family and village can claim compensation for his death through a government scheme. The chilling part of this is that Srijit Mukherji’s film “Sherdil” is actually based on real events. In 2017, police officials accused some villagers of setting up the elderly as bait for tigers so that they could take compensation for their deaths. The villagers then responded, saying that the elders had actually volunteered for it, so that their families could get out of poverty. These are events that absolutely break our hearts. But the makers of “Sherdil” chose an execution for it that is not centered on pity. In fact, it is a critique of the circumstances, the absolute apathy of the officials, and the desperation of the villagers that makes them choose this path. Let us find out what happens in the film.
Why Does Gangaram Go To The Jungle?
“Sherdil” starts with Gangaram making his way to a government office and asking the officials for the benefits of some scheme. This moment right here is such a perfect satire on the way the government constantly rolls out schemes for the poor as straws for them to grasp, instead of providing them with a long-term solution.
Gangaram is the ‘Sarpanch,’ aka the ‘Head,’ of the village Jhundao. The village is located on the outskirts of a forest, and it has been suffering for a while now due to wild animals straying into fields and destroying the crops. Gangaram goes to find out if there is any relief fund for the villagers. But the officer is less than helpful. He tells Gangaram to just apply for the “Prime Minister Relief Fund. When trying to understand what that is, Gangaram comes to realize that it is going to be a long bureaucratic process, and he doesn’t have much faith in it. When he is leaving the place dejectedly, he sees a notice that says that if a person is killed by a tiger, his family would be granted an amount of a million rupees as a relief. This sets Gangaram thinking.
When Gangaram returns home, he tells his wife that he is dying of cancer and he is only left with three months to live. The next day, he tells his village that he has an idea that could solve all of their problems. He says that he would go into the forest and wait for the tiger to kill him. Then the villagers could retrieve the body and place it in the fields. This way, they could prove that a tiger attack had killed him and subsequently claim the million, which would solve all of their problems. Gangaram plans to die a martyr, for the well-being of his village. His wife is completely against it, but he convinces her by saying that it is better than him dying of cancer. Even though they are horrified by the idea, the villagers agree with Gangaram’s plan because they know that this is probably their only way out of their situation.
He goes to the jungle but has little success in finding the tiger. He faces a fair share of troubles, like rationing out his food and the general peskiness of living in the wild. One particular night, as he is sleeping on a tree, he spots a leopard making its way toward him. Gangaram can only die at the hands of a tiger, so he makes a run for it when he ends up getting caught in a trap laid out by a hunter. As the animal makes its way towards him, it is shot down by the said hunter. This is the introduction of the character of Jim Ahmed, a poacher who is working illegally in the forest. He wants to kill the tiger that Gangaram wants to be eaten by.
Both of them strike up a friendship as they come to an agreement to help each other. What Jim is doing is against the law, but Gangaram is not exactly following the code either. Through their friendship, Gangaram comes to question some of his long-held beliefs about man, animals, and nature. As they track down the tiger together, they come very close to its territory and decide to spend the night in that place. The next day, Gangaram wakes up and is looking for Jim when he comes face-to-face with the tiger. Having found what he was looking for, Gangaram starts talking to the tiger, asking it to kill him. But Jim is positioned right behind Gangaram, in the bushes, aiming at the beast. Right then, a bullet is fired that lets the tiger escape. It was from a police officer’s gun. They shoot Jim as he is escaping and arrest Gangaram on suspicion of him being in cahoots with the poacher. Right here, Gangaram has lost not just a friend, but also his only way of rescuing his village.
‘Sherdil’ Ending Explained: Does The Tiger Kill Gangaram?
After Gangaram’s arrest, when he is presented in court, he tells the judge the real reason he was in the forest. A reporter covers his story, which leads to a nationwide outrage over the circumstances of the village that pushed a man to take such extreme measures. It is covered by all the news outlets and social media platforms. There is a hilarious satire of what news debates look like these days, with the arguments getting as absurd as Gangaram’s circumstances themselves. He was acquitted by the court, and we can assume that Jhundao is being covered by some relief schemes now that it is in the national spotlight. Gangaram himself, becomes something of a celebrity, by getting brand endorsements and having his journey documented in a book. As he is being escorted to retrace his journey in the jungle, to make it something of a tourist attraction, he asks for the car to stop, so that he can relieve himself. And as they say, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, and “Sherdil” does a great job with its dark comedy by having a tiger attack and kill Gangaram just as the camera closes. Therefore, Gangaram is killed by the tiger, but not as he wanted. We doubt he would receive the million as per the scheme, but we can rest assured that his village and family will be taken care of by the government and his own money from his celebrity status.
Final Thoughts: What Works For ‘Sherdil’?
It’s not a fast-paced film by any means, but it is a tight script. Sayani Gupta was such a delight to watch, and Bollywood made us angry with her utter under-utilization, even though we were not fans of her brown-washing. The monologue in the court did feel a little out of place, but it is entirely forgivable. “Sherdil” is about a very bright person who has just been pushed into a corner. Pankaj Tripathi is so adept at carrying a film on his shoulders, and his interactions with his wife deserve a place in the movie hall of fame. It is almost as if the failure of “Darlings” to tickle our “dark comedy” bone has led to the immediate presence of better ventures in that genre, as a way of renewing our faith. Love this venture and hope to keep seeing more of it.
“Sherdil” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Srijit Mukherji.