Everyone’s working overtime in Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga but it’s never clear why. The visibly intelligent and intuitive Pankaj Tripathi passes himself off as a dim-witted villager who hasn’t heard of the internet. Neeraj Kabi, sporting Rastafarian dreadlocks and a rumbly voice, poses as a charismatic poacher.

Writer-director Srijit Mukherji’s attempt to mount a satire about the human-animal conflict is about as successful as the exertions of Gangaram (Tripathi) to become a tiger’s lunch. As the sarpanch of a village on the edge of a tiger reserve, Gangaram is saddened by the frequent destruction of the harvest by marauding animals. The local bureaucracy’s apathy towards the situation inspires Gangaram to offer himself up for sacrifice.

He will be eaten by the tiger, the villagers will find his body, claim compensation from the government and everybody will go home happy.

As hare-brained schemes usually are, it’s doomed from the start. Instead of a tiger, Gangaram runs into the poacher Jim Ahmed (Kabi) in the jungle. As committed to poeticising as to wiping out the tiger population, Jim transforms Gangaram’s way of thinking.

Sayani Gupta has the thankless task of playing Gangaram’s scowling wife Laajo. But the real relationship here is between clueless villager and Jim Corbett wannabe.

Srijit Mukherji’s screenplay finds its satirical tone too late into the movie. Sluggishly paced, poorly written and cursorily performed, Sherdil doesn’t come even close to such films as Sherni and Ajoba in examining the precarious equation between impoverished humans and endangered species.

Sherdil – The Pilibhit Saga (2022).