POACHER: A gripping crime thriller exploring intriguing repository on Human-Animal conflict

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Poacher webseries streaming on Amazon Prime

Released on 23rd February on Amazon Prime, ‘Poacher’ Season 1 presents a passionate exploration of wildlife conservation and protection. Inspired by true events, this meticulously researched crime thriller series has 8 episodes. It delves into the intricacies of criminal investigation, human-animal conflict, and the ivory trade.

It is created by Emmy Award-winning director Richie Mehta. The renowned filmmaker received accolades for his acclaimed project ‘Delhi Crime’ based on the harrowing 2012 Delhi gang rape case. ‘Poachers’ masterfully evokes human emotions with nature’s scenic beauty and wildlife. Further, Alia Bhatt serves as the executive producer of this series and had marketed the series with a compelling remark, Murder is Murder. The series aptly aligns with this motto, treating every life form on par with humans.

While ‘Poacher’ may not cater to mass audiences with its off-beat subject matter, Mehta’s direction ensures that it respects both the viewers’ time and the gravity of the subject matter it tackles. His skilful presentation brings forth a content-rich narrative that unfolds gradually, much like the tantalizing flavours of a slow-cooked dish.

The Storyline

The series is set in 2015 in Kerala, nearly two decades after the Indian government passed the Wildlife Protection Act 1991 prohibiting all forms of wildlife hunting. The Forest officials who believed that they had successfully contained poaching in the jungles of Malayattoor, Kerala, are caught napping. In the opening shots, we get to see a chilling incident of an elephant succumbing to the greed of poachers (humans) sending the wildlife in dismay. With symbolic representation and CGI-generated wildlife, the filmmaker has craftily presented the animal suffering at the hands of humans exhibiting predatory behaviour.

Soon, the confession of a guilt-ridden forest watcher, Aruku exposes a larger nexus of poachers, smugglers, buyers, and end users. Facing the heat for being ‘complacent’ and negligent about the massive ongoing poaching activities under their watch, the Kerala Forest Department swings into action. 

Renowned for his commanding presence, Dibyendu Bhattacharya plays the role of Field Director Neel Bannerjee. Neel takes charge of the investigation and ropes in competent Range Officer, Mala Jogi (Nimisha Sajayan). Mala has in-depth knowledge of the forest and has an impressive track record of arrests —a reason best left for viewers to discover. The investigation also involves Alan (Roshan Mathew), a computer programmer who maintains a poised presence throughout the series.

Following a predominantly linear pattern of storyline, the story resolves around these persistent forest officials and conservators, each driven by their own motivations to end the illegal ivory trade and elephant poaching plaguing the forests of Kerala. It’s a gripping tale that explores whether the investigators will succeed in solving the horrifying crimes against elephants, or will the internecine rivalries, bureaucratic and political hurdles/pressures, and the daunting risk to life take a toll on officials forcing them to budge.

The series has an ensemble star cast featuring Nimisha Sajayan (Mala Yogi), Roshan Mathew (Alan), Dibyendu Bhattacharya (Neel Banerjee) and Kani Kusruti (Dina). With stellar performances in Undekhi, Rocket Boys, Mission Raniganj, and Mirzapur among others, Dibyendu’s remarkable reputation is such that it feels criminal to divert one’s gaze; such is the impact and acting prowess he exudes on screen.

Despite the presence of a towering actor like Dibyendu, the leads have maintained their sheen and carried their characters through and through, even overcoming language barriers. The series is multi-lingual with the actors from south of India, conversing in Hindi. Several actors make an impactful performance in their limited screen time with Delhi Policewoman constable Sunita being the stand-out performer.

The filmmakers have built a nice character arc for the lead characters to give a human perspective of individuals carrying out an investigation. They aptly touch on the sacrifices of the investigators – sleep deprivation, risk to life and not being able to spend time with family members. “It’s a lifelong battle: Wildlife protection vs family”, Neel says in one of the scenes. The film has several such compelling and hard-hitting dialogues. From benign and ignorant take of poachers on killing animals to clinchers in favour of wildlife conservation and prohibiting hunting and poaching. The filmmakers have presented a rather complex investigation process in a simple but yet intriguing manner, with interest peeking at the penultimate and ultimate episodes. Additionally, ‘Poachers’ has all the ingredients to create anticipation for a second season.

The series portrays a realistic depiction of probing agencies and politicians, addressing issues such as corruption, incompetence, territorial jurisdiction disputes, and limited human resources. It avoids generalizations, providing a nuanced perspective.

Shot at real locations, the filmmaker has excellently utilised the stunning beauty of sprawling nature and CGI-generated tapestry of endangered species. The extra details provided by the platform about the wild species serve as an added bonus.

However, for those seeking instant gratification from a typical fast-paced crime thriller, it’s worth noting that this experience can be tiring and demands patience. The slow, steady build-up offers a more fulfilling and rewarding viewing experience.

The filmmaker’s deliberate use of a specific shot to commence each episode, coupled with the strategic placement of CGI-crafted animals, evokes a profound sense of empathy toward the pachyderm. The filmmakers’ approach is likely to resonate deeply with viewers making Poachers a binge-worthy detailed crime thriller series for all animal and cinema lovers, especially in the genre of wildlife conservation and protection.

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