Poacher Review: Magnificence & Cruelty

This real life incident based web series delves into the investigation of a forest’s evil. It gives thrilling visuals of the biggest elephant poaching operation and hits the audience with reality.

General Rating

In a nut-shell:

Magnificence & Cruelty

Poacher Cast/Actors: Nimisha Sajayan as Mala Jogi, Dibyendu Bhattacharya as Neel Banerjee, Roshan Mathew as Alan Joseph and Kani Kusruti as Dina.

Poacher Director: Richie Mehta

Poacher Release Date: 23rd February, 2024

Poacher Available On/OTT Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Poacher Released/Available In Languages: Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi

Poacher Season: 1

Poacher Number Of Episodes: 8

Poacher Release Pattern: All episodes released together

Poacher Episode Duration: 45 Minutes (approximately)

Poacher Critic Review:

The magnificence of the animal world and the wanton cruelty of mankind are packaged to thrill and to teach.

A majestic animal moves regally at its own pace with its own herd. It’s stopped dead with a well-aimed bullet piercing its forehead.

Thereafter, Emmy-award winning writer-director Richie Mehta begins every episode with one such heart-piercing shot that also serves to build up what led to the savagery and its aftermath in the jungle and out there in the supposedly sophisticated world of concrete. Another episode has an opening shot of a tiger looking at the dead tusker, perhaps sighing inside its head over the wantonness of it, before turning away. There’s one more with a bunch of monkeys watching aghast from a tree, yet another of insects crawling all over the decaying carcass which until a few hours ago, was a giant minding its own business in its natural habitat.

It’s 2015/17. Decades after the Wildlife Protection Act of the 1970s and much after the 90s when forest officials had complacently believed that poaching was history and they’d plugged the illegal ivory route. But a gang has been operating under their noses for over two years, the forest officers too indolent to patrol deep into the jungle. An informer whose conscience pricks him, is laughed away by the officer he confesses to. It’s your liquor talking, says the forest official dismissively.

There’s a chain of crime in place with poachers, middlemen and the rich end-user whose demand for show-off ivory is the chief perpetrator. But the poacher believes he’s the king of the chain, dealing out death as per his whim. One poacher is so brutal, he enjoys the kill, he “gets off” on the slaughter of big, beautiful animals. It’s a chain as violent and as interconnected as any international crime ring of narco, human trafficking and terror, the well-connected getting away literally with murder.

The winning mix of compassion and crime busting is exemplified by forest range officer Mala Jogi (Nimisha Sajayan) from the Kerala Forest Department who is awestruck by its beauty when a herd of elephants cross the jungle road with baby elephants between them, stops the car in the middle of a high-octane chase to let a duck waddle across the road with her brood, and goes misty-eyed watching elephants bid farewell to their slain family member. Mala’s compassion and passion to pursue the animal killers and destroy the crime chain is fuelled by her intense disgust at her late father’s life of wildlife crime. It’s equal measures of commitment and atonement for Mala.

Her partner in crime busting is Alan Joseph (Roshan Mathew), blessed with many skills. He’ll blithely pose as a doctor to save a patient from snake venom – snakes are one of his specialities. His family thinks he’s a staid computer programmer, a keen data analyst. But on the sly, he’s also a crime fighter at the Wildlife Trust of India. The warmest of all is Alan the dad who gently creates a bond between his young son who loves photography and the many creatures he captures with his camera.

Patterned on true events and real-life crime fighters, there’s also field director Neel Banerjee (Dibyendu Bhattacharya), a former RAW officer who stands as the buffer between red-tape impediments and the enthused, sleep-deprived team investigating one of India’s most significant elephant-poaching cases.

The watch-your-back operation involves the ruthless, the corrupt, the careless and the greedy that will behead animals and officers without a twitch. Paid media is around too, willing to paint criminals as poor labourers and help them escape the law. It’s demoralising on many fronts. Tough and efficient Dina (Kani Kusruti), for instance, is forced to step back by the system.

Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, English, humanity, intelligence and flaws. It’s a rich palette that Richie uses, with daubs of humour too. Like the time a Delhiwala takes off on south Indians and Neel who’s at the receiving end later remarks, “I’m not even a south Indian.” 

Alongside the intensity of the investigation, the pivotal characters battle miffed wives, moms and former boyfriends, or a hidden health issue.

Richie and cinematographer Johan Heurlin Aidti make inspired use of the subject and the terrain to capture the magnificence of the animal and avian kingdom. Aerial shots of elegant birds in flight literally offering a bird’s eye-view, a dog on a platform while the team hunts for a criminal on the train, a peacock outside a cop station, deer looking on at night, squirrels, turtles, chameleons, even a cockroach, they’re all watching us. Andrew Lockington’s background score is in sync with the mood of the camera and the narration.

However, the thrill of crime-busting and the delights of the jungle do have off-key moments. Despite muffing up so many times, a boyfriend is more or less back in favour. Riots when a culprit is raided are more dramatic than credible. When foraging for food, the team slits open a python which is at variance with the very message of ‘leave these creatures alone’.

But Nimisha Sajayan, Roshan Mathew and Dibyendu Bhattacharya bring sincerity to the fight and Richie Mehta with his team of writers lays out a jumbo-sized spread that’s all heart.

Poacher- Watch it or Not: A must for animal and Planet Earth lovers and a great way to introduce children to compassion, Poacher is a substantial family watch.

Poacher Score Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Poacher Official Trailer:

Poacher Official Trailer (Credits: Prime Video India)

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Magnificence & Cruelty Poacher Review: Magnificence & Cruelty