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HomeMoviesInspector Rishi Review: Exceptionally Well-Mounted And Engaging Show

Inspector Rishi Review: Exceptionally Well-Mounted And Engaging Show

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A still from Inspector Rishi. (courtesy: YouTube)

A one-eyed crime branch sleuth dealing with a troubled past and a series of bizarre murders is the pivot around which Inspector Rishi revolves. The Amazon Prime Video series blends the conventions of a police procedural with the chills of a supernatural horror drama. It does a nifty job.

The series opens in the heart of a dense forest where a mass suicide takes place in what looks like an occult ritual. Scores of people jump into a pit of fire. Twenty years on, the region witnesses mysterious deaths that are blamed on an evil spirit. Each of the victims is found in a gossamer web spun by an insect.

The police and the forest department are understandably baffled by the killings. They have very few tangible clues to work with. The leads that they follow frequently go cold. Malevolence, murder, mischief – they are able to rule out nothing as they grope in the dark. Inspector Rishi might invite comparisons with two other recent Prime Video Tamil-language thrillers (Suzhal: The Vortex and Vadhandhi: The Fable of Velonie) that probed the spectral zone between and around myth and reality, fact and fiction. But it definitely isn’t stuck in the same generic groove.

Writer-director Nandhini JS transports the audience to a world where the mysteries that lurk in a lush forest collide with the mendacities and consequent misfortunes of mankind. The series is adroitly crafted, brilliantly lensed, competently acted and consistently taut (which is no mean feat for a series that spans ten episodes). There is, however, a distinct disconnect between how Inspector begins and how it ends. The first five episodes of the thriller are near-flawless. The clash between rationality and fanciful obscuration is examined in a clinical yet compelling manner.

But once the haze begins to lift and the focus moves from the mystifying to the more mundane, the impact of the story lessens considerably, especially because the script stops short of going beyond the obvious and predictable.

Episode 6 is devoted almost entirely to filling us in with the details of Inspector Rishi’s past. He narrates his story to a forest beat officer, Kathryn Sobhana (Sunaina Yella), who has been assigned the job of being the police officer’s guide in the woods she knows like the back of her hand.

What Inspector Rishi occasionally lacks in terms of elemental narrative force is amply compensated for by the fabulous camerawork (Bargav Sridhar), the first-rate production design (K. Kadhir) and a sound design (by Tapas Nayak) that provides the show a firm aural dimension.

Not to forget, the top-notch musical score by Ashwath plays a significant part in accentuating the turmoil that humans face when they are in the grip of fear and befuddlement.

What Inspector Rishi does with great skill is probe the myths and ingrained belief systems that inevitably exist on the boundaries of a world of human greed and exploitation. It places opposing worldviews alongside each other and observes their dynamics as they play out from the perspectives of divergent minds. Inspector Rishi Nandhan (Naveen Chandra) is sent from Chennai to Thaenkaadu forest, 50 km from Coimbatore, to get to the bottom of the truth. His arrival does not go down well with Sub-Inspector Ayyanar Murthy (Kanna Ravi). Temperamentally never on the same page, the two men take time to get used to each other.

Sub-Inspector Chitra Lokesh (Malini Jeevarathnam) holds the balance between Rishi and Ayyanar but her own life isn’t all sorted. The three cops charged with cracking the case have their own issues to deal with even as the difficult assignment leaves them with little time for anything else.

Ayyanar’s marriage has been messed up by the superstitions of his parents, who he is unable to stand up to even as he cannot live without his wife Yamuna (Mishaa Ghoshal), a woman not prone to easy emotional manipulation. Chitra, who bonds with Ayyanar despite being nothing like the orthodox man. Her life itself is an act of rebellion – a fact that impacts her approach to work and her relationships.

The sharp-minded, highly observant Rishi struggles with a frequently recurring migraine and an eye that he lost in the line of duty. But he dives headlong and with his wits about him into a serial killing case that hangs somewhere between the familiar and the perplexing. No matter what the people of the mountain town believe and what his colleagues surmise about the likely perpetrators, he does not budge from his line of rational thinking.

Rishi is dismissive of the stories that he is told of Vanaratchi, a spirit who watches over the forest. Working with the Forest Range Officer Sathya Nambeesan (Srikrishna Dayal) and the latter’s seasoned go-to man Irfan (Elango Kumaravel), he digs his heels in. The man has come off an emotional rollercoaster that ended in tragedy. He believes that “our brain is capable of intense imagination and we can see things that aren’t really there”. Kathy, who is a forest guard raised in an orphanage, isn’t so sure. Having suffered in one relationship, Rishi is on the verge of finding another.

Nandhini’s script draws much of its strength from the conflict that it stages between the illusory and the tactile in a story that inevitably uses obfuscation in order to keep the audience invested. What the characters see on the screen and the pointers that they discover and attempt to decipher in the light of their own individual perceptions add intriguing layers to the narrative.

Like the inspector of her creation, the director of the series is required to strike a balance between two conflicting experiential domains and mindspaces in which a search for the concrete in the indefinable poses a set of challenges. She hits the right spots frequently enough to make this a series worth watching. Its stray flaws notwithstanding, Inspector Rishi is an exceptionally well-mounted and engaging show.


Naveen Chandra, Sunainaa, Kanna Ravi, Srikrishna Dayal, Malini Jeevarathnam, Kumaravel


Nandhini JS

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