Poacher Review: Nimisha & Roshan Deliver Career defining Performances

pocher review

In a poignant scene from “Poacher,” forest division officer Mala Jogi (Nimisha Sajayan) is asked if she has ever witnessed elephants in their natural habitat – free from chains, untouched by human contact, simply majestic giants roaming in their domain. Her response captures the moral compass of this eight-part Malayalam wildlife crime drama, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video from February 23.

Crafted by Richie Mehta, known for the acclaimed first season of “Delhi Crime” (2019), “Poacher” offers a distinctive procedural lens following a team of forest range officers and activists in Kerala as they unravel one of the nation’s largest ivory poaching rings. What sets this procedural apart is its focus on elephant poaching, a crime often overlooked in the grand scheme of organized crime, lacking the immediate impact on human lives seen in trafficking or arms dealing.

For instance, in an early episode, a minor ivory dealer explains to a female police officer (Kani Kusruti) that they are mere artisans who craft items from raw ivory for a livelihood, claiming innocence in directly harming elephants. However, she chillingly elucidates that ivory originates from the tusks of elephants brutally hacked, tortured, and left to perish in the forests – a truly barbaric crime.

This stark reality is “Poacher’s” most compelling facet – it forces viewers to confront their own entitlement and apathy towards violence that doesn’t directly affect them. “This is their punishment for sharing the planet with us,” remarks a character regarding elephants owned by powerful individuals and religious trusts, cautioning against provoking these influential figures.

Yet, the series also delves into the complexities of the man-animal conflict. In a scene, Mala elucidates how elephants are the architects of the forest, crucial for Kerala’s air quality. However, a man she apprehends retorts about his child starving due to their crops destroyed by rogue elephants, illustrating the nuanced challenges faced in this conflict.

Director Richie Mehta drew inspiration from real 2015 events, emphasizing the noble efforts of wildlife crime fighters. Nimisha Sajayan embodies this nobility as Mala Jogi, deftly navigating the pressures of a male-dominated profession. While her portrayal is commendable, there are moments where a more seasoned actor could have added depth to the character.

Roshan Mathew impresses as Alan, a computer programmer infusing urgency with a sense of warmth for the cause. Dibyendu Bhattacharya shines as Officer Neel Banerjee, balancing personal conflicts amidst the investigation. Kani Kusruti leaves her mark, despite the risk of typecasting.

Cinematographer Johan Heurlin Aidt, known for “Delhi Crime” and “Leila,” creates an atmospheric narrative. Editors Beverley Mills, Susan Shipton, and Justin Li enhance the storytelling, complemented by composer Andrew Lockington’s score.

While “Poacher” follows the familiar crime drama formula of a conflicted investigator unearthing a significant case, it occasionally feels formulaic. However, its true strength lies in its intent. A promotional trailer featuring executive producer Alia Bhatt mourns the slaughter of a young elephant, asserting that a crime remains significant irrespective of the victim. Each episode opens with a haunting crime scene, showcasing the fate of a majestic tusker’s carcass. CGI animals serve as silent witnesses, reminding us that nature is a shared heritage.

“Poacher” deserves attention for its mission to redirect focus towards coexistence over conquest. It’s a series that challenges our perceptions and compels us to reflect on our relationship with the natural world.