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Director Nandhini JS Interview: Inspector Rishi is a slow burn horror

Inspector Rishi director Nandhini JS sits down with OTTplay to talk about the upcoming supernatural crime series, her penchant for horror content, OTTs and constraints of budgets and more 

Director Nandhini JS Interview: Inspector Rishi is a slow burn horror
Inspector Rishi; Nandhini JS

Last Updated: 02.36 PM, Mar 26, 2024


A penchant for horror is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is something that one would genuinely lean towards to be rewarded with cheap thrills, jump scares, and make-believe of forces beyond the human world. And naturally, it is only those who enjoy such elements become the potential audience and content churners for the genre. Filmmaker Nandhini JS is one among them.

“More than the reality, I have a fascination for imaginary worlds. I had such an inclination towards horror and sci-fi films. I tend to watch a lot of horror films, even if they are bad. But slowly, I began to know more about world cinema and would watch all the genres. But horror films gave me escapism and transported me to another world,” she says.

After helming vampire romance series Nila Nila Odi Vaa for Viu, Nandhini is back to direct another supernatural horror series, this time for Prime Video, titled Inspector Rishi. But the filmmaker, who has tested the waters of streaming content even before giant platforms like Prime Video and Netflix entered India, shares her two cents on being one of the pioneers of streaming content creators.


“Nila Nila Odi Vaa was a small show and we started talking about it in 2017, a time when we did not know what web series were and people often confused with TV serials. Even Viu was an early entrant then and had a small budget. However, the issue with me is that my ideas are very big and grander with complex VFX and different genres. I wanted to enter the OTT space and we pulled off with a small budget. There is a vampire show called What We Do in the Shadows which was made on a small budget. We referred that and made Nila Nila Odi Vaa and quickly made it within five months. We wanted to do a second season, but since many streaming giants entered the market, and Viu was not able to withstand the market temporarily in India. Hence, we could not continue,” she recalls.

On Inspector Rishi

Calling the series a crime investigation drama with a supernatural element, and acknowledging that horror is a great pull for the audience, Nandhini says the genre provides great escapism, “Much like True Detective series, Inspector Rishi revolves around a series of murders which is believed to be the work of a forest spirit. A rational cop, who rubbishes the speculation, investigates the case. The series swings between scepticism and supernatural beliefs. It won’t be like Evil Dead or The Conjuring where the paranormal presence is confirmed. You will feel a sense of horror and scepticism as well.”

Nandhini clarifies that the series does not have gore and violence, though there is a presence of supernatural elements. Instead, she stresses that there is a lot of psychological horror, tickling your belief system. “It will be a slow burn suspense, and no jump scares. Instead, it will have subtlety, suspense and mystery.”

In Inspector Rishi, the filmmaker reveals that while Naveen Chandra plays the titular character, Sunainaa will be playing the role of a forest officer. “We have stayed away from how usual female cops are shown being tough. Her role is feminine, and at the same time responsible. She plays a god-believing Christian. She has untapped potential. Kanna Ravi and Malini Jeevaratnam play sub-inspectors,” she reveals.

On OTT space

Directing her second series, this time for Prime Video, Nandhini shares that boom in the streaming space has increased by multi-fold times, with many viewers gathered. She says, “Without an audience, we can’t keep providing content. Now, we have a lot of people watching content and it could be due to the pandemic. They have also started to welcome different shows and it is a positive trend for filmmakers because not everyone will get the opportunities to make films and bring them to theatres. With more platforms, and no limitations, they need content for their library and they don’t have a shelf life. Other than what happened with Viu, all original shows will have lifelong time. Of course, there are certain metrics, but there is no pressure that it should perform within 2-3 weeks. Nandhini also says OTT content can also be discovered much later after being released and still be enjoyed afresh. There is a huge audience for OTT shows, especially after the pandemic.”

Nandhini sees it as a big challenge that creators are not in control of the atmosphere the audience would be watching their content, unlike in theatres. However, she also says which is why the narrative is built longer than films to make it more intriguing. “I believe there are audiences who are still hooked on to the long format series. But with Inspector Rishi, since we cannot control the environment, we have lit the dark portions in a different way and the experience is not tampered with even when seen in daylight,” she says. Supposedly Inspector Rishi gets greenlit for the second season, Nandhini says that the titular character and his team will probe into another case in a different backdrop.

On making horror films

Time and again, as Nandhini reiterates she is a fan of the horror genre, she says that as a filmmaker she did face the challenge of budgeting issues due to VFX issues. Nandhini adds, “Often people don’t venture into horror films because of these reasons. Filmmakers want to finish the film quickly and it is not possible for everyone to spend luxuriously. Since projects are dependent on stars, and horror films have restrictive audiences, the producers are not aplenty. Otherwise, we need a star.” The filmmaker also mentions how female directors often do not venture into the horror genre and instead venture into mainstream and arthouse films because even the opportunities they get are limited to small to medium budgets.

Nandhini recalls the time when she debuted with the romantic comedy film Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru and how the scripts she wrote before were complex and required high budgets, which could not attract investors. “To establish myself, I wrote Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru because one of the producers wanted me to do a rom-com. The stories I wrote before were dark, complicated and filled with grey characters. But with OTT platforms and more successful examples, the market is welcoming,” she adds.

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