Poacher Review: Richie Mehta, renowned for the success of Delhi Crime, has once again crafted a gripping crime series with Poacher that's centred again around real-life events. The eight-episode series delves into the shocking killings of elephants in the Kerala forests for their tusks—a heinous crime given the illegality of hunting under the Wild Life Protection Act. Poacher presents a fictionalised account of real events, a captivating thriller that follows three determined individuals in their concentrated efforts to apprehend the heartless culprits behind the ruthless theriocide. While predominantly in Malayalam, the series also incorporates Hindi, English, and some Bengali, reflecting its diverse setting. Poacher OTT Release: Here's When and Where to Watch Nimisha Sajayan and Roshan Mathew's Crime Thriller Produced by Alia Bhatt Online!

The narrative kicks off in 2015 when Arakku (Sooraj Pops), a low-level forest employee, surrenders to Kerala forest authorities, revealing his involvement in a poaching ring. Neel Banerjee (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), the Field Director of the Kerala Forest Department, spearheads the investigation. Assisting him is Mala Jogi (Nimisha Sajayan), an IFS officer wholly dedicated to nature conservation, and Alan (Roshan Mathew), a computer programmer and snake expert. Together, they face bureaucratic challenges and inter-state departmental blockades in their pursuit of justice.

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Nature and Nurture

The challenge of making Poacher as effective as Delhi Crime is making the viewer realise that the cost of an innocent animal's life, destroyed for the sake of man's greed, is as important as that of a human life. Most of the episodes show an elephant corpse, desecrated by the poachers, being progressively decomposing (even a tiger turns away with what I felt was a look of disgust). Irony in that the same ivory is used to make Lord Ganesha statues is not lost on us (interestingly, it is 'Lord Ganesha' who comes to the rescue of the heroes in the final episode). Whenenever a (CGI-rendered) wild animal or bird pops on screen, they are always shown in close proximity to the humans, reiterating how the lines between the wildlife and the civilisation are blurring by the day.

A Still From Poacher

One of the major characters suffers from lung cancer, and when asked about it, he dismissively blames it on pollution. When Mala and her team reach Delhi to follow up on a lead, the first thing that gets to her is the pollution. As if to underline the correlation between rising pollution and depletion of the forests, a newspaper article is mentioned where the government of Kerala is warned that if it doesn't pay heed to the depletion of its forests, its condition will become the same as Delhi's.

Most Dangerous Animal

While Poacher effectively conveys its message about nature conservation through impactful visual examples, it occasionally veers into preachiness. Mala consistently emphasises the importance of thriving forests and wildlife, often facing indifference or counterarguments from those grappling with more immediate concerns, such as providing for their families. The underlying query persists: is conservation solely a pursuit for the privileged, especially when the less fortunate are preoccupied with fulfilling their basic needs?

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Despite this debate, the recurring visuals of decomposing elephant carcasses compellingly drive home the point that even these silent creatures merit justice. As Mala poignantly declares in one scene, the most perilous presence in the forest is Man himself.

Nail-Biting Treatment

It is not just in the social messaging where Poacher thrives, it is also a well-made gripping investigative series that has quite a few edge-of-the-seat moments. The makers use tracking shots to create a sense of tension, which also allows the actors to bring their best foot forward. Check out the scene where Neel tries to convince a fellow officer in Delhi on the phone to butt out of their investigation while pacing up and down the hall. The final two episodes are particularly nail-biting when the action shifts from Kerala to Delhi, putting the protagonists in a challenging territory while racing against time to book the culprits with credible proof.

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My favourite episode, though, is the sixth episode that focuses on Araku, played brilliantly by Sooraj Pops (of Kumbalangi Nights fame), and gives us a closer look into the poaching ring and why it is not just greed that drives the men to kill mute animals. The series affirms that the hunting is not merely a means of survival but rather Man wanting to show nature that he is at the top of the food chain.

The Character Arcs

Poacher is not devoid of flaws, though. While it largely avoids distractions, the character backstories sometimes felt a bit too obligatory for the sake of it. Even though it bordered around cliches, Mala's impulsiveness and aggressiveness to nail the culprits in the killing of the animals being linked to the regret of being a poacher's daughter made for a good character arc. However, Ayan's family troubles, the marital discord with his wife (Ranjitha Menon), felt like drama for the sake of it. If a little disclosure from his end easily solved their issues - which he eventually does - I wonder why he couldn't do that earlier. Even Neel's health issues felt like a plotline added to give his character something to have beyond his work-line. The idea was to put his character in a double race against time where he not only has to solve the case, but also do it before something happens to him. Since these portions cut in right when things get thicker, it felt more of a coerced idea here.

I also wanted to see more of Kuni Kusruti's character in the series; after being part of the action in the first couple of episodes, she gets shunted, unfortunately, before being brought back in the finale. Character-wise, it made sense; it's just that she was so good in the role that I needed to see more of her participation. Poacher London Premiere: Alia Bhatt, Soni Razdan and Shaheen Bhatt Set Family Goals at the Event.

The Performances

Speaking of good performances, we can't talk about Poacher without mentioning how fantastic Nimisha was in it. She is THE main protagonist, and she admirably leads the show, breathing fire into the role while also delivering the goods in the quieter moments too.

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Reuniting with his Oru Thekkan Thallu Case co-star here, Roshan Mathew lends admirable support, underplaying his part well to be the man who is not exactly comfortable when put in frontline action. There are times where I missed wanting to see Dibyendu Bhattacharya more on screen, since the series puts more focus on Mala and Alan; because when he is there in front, the actor puts up a commanding show of authority mixed with a certain amount of exasperation. Even without the health issues, his character feels like two drastic cases away from being Sheriff Bell from No Country For Old Men. The supporting cast is hand-picked with some wonderful actors, be it the Malayali cast or the Hindi ones.

Final Thoughts on Poacher

Poacher is an absorbing thriller with a conscientious heart, successfully merging suspense, social commentary, and stellar performances. Mehta's adept storytelling reaffirms his ability to deliver engaging and thought-provoking content, aided by fine acts from Nimisha Sajayan, Roshan Mathew and Dibyendu Bhattacharya. Poacher is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 23, 2024 12:07 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).