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Poacher actor Nimisha Sajayan: When it comes to forgiving people who have done wrong, I am like Mala

Actor Nimisha Sajayan, who plays the lead in the upcoming Amazon Prime Video web series Poacher, breaks down the Richie Mehta series and her character

Poacher actor Nimisha Sajayan: When it comes to forgiving people who have done wrong, I am like Mala
Nimisha Sajayan in a still from Poacher

Last Updated: 11.33 AM, Feb 20, 2024


Based on Malayalam actor Nimisha Sajayan’s stellar filmography, which includes Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, The Great Indian Kitchen, Nayattu, Jigarthanda DoubleX and Chithha, one could argue that just casting her for the part means half the job is done. Her portrayal of Kerala forest officer Mala in her latest web series Poacher , which is directed by Delhi Crime creator Richie Mehta, is a testament to this.

Her character lends the emotional quotient to the lives of the real-life heroes in the series, which deals with the biggest ivory raid the country had seen and more importantly the far-reaching ramifications of poaching. In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Nimisha breaks down her character, working with Richie Mehta and explains why it’s a pertinent series.


Poacher is a series about real-life heroes, who are trying to protect something larger and their actions are almost always for the greater good. Throughout it, it makes it clear what the consequences are to our ecological balance if elephants are killed. Was that also the hook for you to be part of this project?

For me, they are more like unsung heroes. That’s what I felt like when I read the script. Because when other things happen, it’s all over the news, but when it comes to forest department officers and NGO workers, people don’t talk about it. Through the series, we have tried our best to show what their contribution is. It also talks about how interdependent we are with the other species, for our existence. It doesn’t concern just one species but as a whole.

I said yes to it because it was a Richie Mehta project; I was looking forward to working with him. When I read the script, right from the first episode, I was excited. By the time I reached the last few episodes, I was delighted that I got to be part of this project at this stage in my career. It’s not something that is pertinent to just Kerala or India; it’s got a universal subject. I was excited about that and more importantly, about the awareness that it would create once people watch it.

Nimisha Sajayan and Dibyendu Bhattacharya in a still from Poacher
Nimisha Sajayan and Dibyendu Bhattacharya in a still from Poacher

Your character of forest officer Mala represents forest department officials that have played a major role in busting the illegal ivory trade market in 2015.

Actually, there aren’t enough women forest officers. When I met Richie, he told me that when he had talked to the people, there were only men who were on the case. When he asked why there weren’t any women, they said that it was all men. So, the character that I had played was a male in real life. Richie made the character a woman because he wanted to point out the difference.

The backstory of Mala’s character is interesting because she is this lone, brave crusader against poaching and it stems from all the ‘sins’ that her father had committed to the animals. That’s also why the scene where she calls her mother all shaken up, has such an impact, because it almost makes her realise she is human. What went through your mind while performing that scene?

The thing that I admire about Mala is that when all of us are born, we attach certain tags to each person in our life – father, mother, sister. If someone we haven’t given this tag commits something wrong, we know it’s wrong. Our reactions to these would be extreme. But for the ones close to us, we always forgive. In this case, Mala hasn’t forgiven her father. That tag doesn’t exist for her. And as a person, when it comes to this, I am more like Mala. If my father or my mother does something wrong, it’s wrong as far as I am concerned.

Nimisha Sajayan in a still from Poacher
Nimisha Sajayan in a still from Poacher

There’s another scene where Mala talks to another person in a van and explains what will happen if elephants die. At the same time, the script also accounts for the other side of the argument – with statistics and anecdotes of human-animal conflicts. Did that balance throughout the series help you shape your character better?

It was a very well written script; I didn’t have to take too much effort. This particular scene in the van, where Mala talks about animals to Vijay Babu (Ankith Madhav’s character) and the other gang member is among the only three scenes where you would see her vulnerable in the series. The reason for the statistics is that we have to spoon-feed the audience about certain aspects. In terms of emotions, you don’t have to.

The character is also fleshed out in the sense that she is spending time away from her mother, and all for a greater cause for which she would never even be recognised for. In that sense, does it also paint a picture of how people should be?

I wouldn’t say she’s an ideal person; she is trying to make up for the sins that her father had committed. So, this battle is very personal to her; not a single life should be lost under her watch. She is someone who wants to accomplish whatever she can to fulfill that and this case was just that.

A still from Poacher
A still from Poacher

There are certain predicaments towards which people are apathetic – it’s one of those aspects where ‘if it hasn’t happened to you, it’s not going to affect you’. In that sense, this comes through as a story that had to be told, especially in a way that reaches a wider audience.

After the first few scenes, people would think, ‘If an elephant is killed, how is it going to matter to us?’ That would be their reaction; but its impact becomes clearer in the final few episodes. So, it’s told in a way that people gain awareness of how it’s going to affect them as well as the future generations.

Richie’s best quality is how he tries to convey all of this in the most simplistic manner. Everyone will understand the message that the series is trying to propagate.

Roshan Mathew and Nimisha Sajayan in a still from Poacher
Roshan Mathew and Nimisha Sajayan in a still from Poacher

Though it has Richie at the helm and a host of talented actors such as Roshan Mathew and Dibyendu Bhattacharya, your character is the driving force of the series. Did that come with some extra pressure?

Let me correct you there, this is not mine or Roshan’s series. It’s the elephants’. From start to the end, the word that we have used the most is elephants. It’s about them; it’s not about Roshan, me or even Richie. In the final episode, you will get to know why.

In terms of challenge, I struggle when it’s a Malayalam script; it would have been easier for me if this was in Hindi because that’s the language I am more comfortable in.

You haven’t done too many Malayalam films off late, Adrishya Jalakangal being the last.

In Hindi and other languages, I am getting some good roles; something that I haven’t explored yet. So, I am thinking I would do this circuit and then return.

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