Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Sherni’ explores the fate of two female protagonists who are engaged in an act of survival —the human protagonist from the corrupt bureaucratic and political system whereas an animal protagonist against humankind itself.
Vidya Vincent (Vidya Balan), is appointed as the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in a sensitive zone in Madhya Pradesh. It is her first field job and she seems passionate about it.
On finding that water holes in the forest are not being supplemented by the local contractor, she admonishes him, but her authority is undermined by her senior, Bansal (Brijendra Kala), as the contractor’s brother is a local MLA.
She feels challenged and tied, and shares her desire to resign with her husband Pawan (Mukul Chadda) who works in a potato chips company. He advises her to reconsider her decision, as her permanent government salaried job relives them of the uncertainty of his private-sector one.
She feels encumbered as she can neither leave the job nor can she be hands in glove with the local politicians or her succumbing superior.
As soon as she assumes charge, two locals are killed in tiger attacks. Hassan Noorani (Vijay Raaz), a zoology professor and an ardent conservationist, offers to take DNA samples to identify the tiger.
The plan is to capture it and release it in a nearby National Park so that it escapes the wrath of locals who wish to kill it for their own vested interests.
Vidya finds out that there are pockets of human settlements inbetween the forests and animals have to cross over the human-areas to go from one part of forest to the other. This encounter between them and the humans is resulting in the animal attacks.
As elections are round the corner, the local incumbent MLA, GK Singh (Amar Singh Parihar), and his opponent PK Singh (Satyakam Anand) try to fish in the troubled waters by turning villagers against the forest officials.
The forest officials are at their wits end because their efforts to catch the tiger go in vain.
The desperate villagers fear more attacks but still venture into forest for wood, as also, their livestock would die of hunger if not let to graze in the jungle.
DNA samples confirm that the animal in question is a tigress called T-12. She defeats all efforts of the forest officials to capture her and the trail of pug marks confirm she is on the prowl with her two cubs. When she makes her third kill, things go out of hand.
The MLA brings a local hunter Ranjan Rajhans (Sharat Saxena) into the arena in an effort to win public vote. Vidya can see that Ranjan is doing this only to add to his number of total kills and soon gets rid of him with the help of her senior and a respected forest officer Nangia (Neeraj Kabi).
Many village folk, including a village woman from Lagur named Jyoti (Sampa Mandal), join her in her search for tigers whose pug marks indicate their movement towards the National Park. She will have to find the tigress and her cubs before anybody else.
Will the tigress move to safety? Will Vidya’s fight for the tigress and against the corrupt system be successful?
Sherni ending explained in detail:
Rising desperation and media frenzy
When a youth is attacked in the night and his body is found near a lake, PK instigates the mob against GK Singh and forest officials, citing the tiger killing.
He convinces the villagers that the incumbent MLA is least bothered, either about their safety or their progress, and accuses forest officials of trying to save the tigress as they get paid for it.
GK also arrives on the scene and accuses PK of providing hooch to the village folk at his party and getting them drunk. Vidya is restless. She cannot be a mere spectator, therefore, with the help of Noorani, she finds out that the scratches on the dead body were of a bear and not of the tigress.
As allegations and counter-allegations are made, the Village folk burn effigies of GK and the entire episode manages to catch media attention.
A senior political leader comes visiting as the situation escalates. Nangia is called in to take over the charge and Ranjan is brought in again to lead the team, thanks to his proximity with the leader.
All of Vidya’s laments regarding the truth about the killing fall on deaf ears. The MLA wants things in order before the elections commence.
Pictures of T-12 are splashed all over media, with the news bulletins touting her to be a ferocious man-eater while the team led by Nangia sets off to comb the area to tranquilize the tigress.
Ranjan, who is looking to fulfil his own ulterior motives, defies orders and on a lead provided by two village youths, follows the tigers’ trail alone.
One of his men sprinkles the urine of a male tiger procured from a local zoo to attract the tigress, a totally illegal act. This is how they entice T-12 and shoot her down. Ranjan then instructs the guard to shoot a tranquilizer to make it seem that they had to force kill it. The hunt for the cubs too begins.
Vidya is surprised and pained to see the tigress dead. Hussain confirms it as a pre-planned murder as the tranquilizer dart has been shot after an actual gun shot.
She wants to investigate but Nangia refuses to take it up and gives a clean chit to Ranjan. Vidya is shocked to see her revered senior supporting the killers.
When he tells her to learn to pick her battles, she calls him a pathetic and a coward and, crestfallen, she leaves.
Ranjan is pronounced a hero of the moment and GK takes the political leverage. Instead of finding support from her husband, she gets an advice to quit.
Next she is seen typing a letter and signing it. She has, perhaps, decided to resign because, even otherwise, her transfer is imminent after the showdown with Nangia.
Discovery of the cubs
Soon after, Vidya is seen tearing her resignation letter, marking her entry back into action as she takes to Lagur.
She gets a call from Jyoti and her family telling her that they have found the cubs. Vidya, who was earlier guilt-ridden for having failed to protect their mother, breathes a sigh of relief to see the cubs huddled in a cave. She hugs Jyoti in joy and beseeches them not to reveal their whereabouts to anybody.
That moment her act of tearing the letter becomes clear. Perhaps her faith in her profession is restored watching the two cubs alive and safe. She isn’t ready to bow out so easily.
In that moment, she displays an indomitable spirit and the strength of a ‘lioness’ and, perhaps, the aptness of title of the film ‘Sherni’ becomes obvious.
In the last scene, she is seen inspecting animal remains in a museum. It is quite ironical that despite her ability and honesty she, now, seems to be incharge of the dead animals since she could not be the incharge of the living.