‘Inspector Rishi’ series review: Naveen Chandra headlines a mostly engaging but predictable investigative horror

Naveen Chandra appears in ‘Inspector Rishi’
| Photo Credit: Prime Video

Diving into the intricate quest of uncovering the truth is a captivating journey that many exceptional detective stories embark on. Following the trend of captivating crime dramas like Suzhal: The Vortex and Vadhandhi: The Fable of Velonie, Prime Video brings yet another Tamil series. ‘Inspector Rishi’ aims to captivate audiences by seamlessly blending reality with fiction.

This installment sets itself apart by integrating the investigation into an enthralling folk horror story, a genre mashup that thrives on the subjective nature of supernatural beliefs. Nandhini JS, the brains behind Inspector Rishi, finds joy and challenge in crafting this mix. In the forest near Coimbatore known as Thaenkaadu, a string of bizarre killings puzzles the police. All the victims are found in a similar state: hanging from trees, cocooned in strands from a unique glowing spider, without any signs of assault or poisoning.

The local villagers suspect a vanaratchi, a forest spirit, is committing these crimes. However, the protagonist, Inspector Rishi Nandhan (portrayed by Naveen Chandra), sees this as a distraction or message from a more menacing human collective. Assisted by Forest Officer Sathya (played by the notable Srikrishna Dayal) and Forester Irfan (Kumaravel), they work beyond their conservation duties to solve the mystery. Despite stories from two female guards, Kathy (Sunainaa) and Selvi (Saranya Ravichandran), who claim to have witnessed the ghostly figure, they remain skeptical about the paranormal explanation.

As the series of unexplained deaths continues and more accounts of supernatural incidents emerge, Rishi and his junior officers, Chitra Lokesh (Malini Jeevarathnam) and Ayyanar Moorthy (Kanna Ravi), struggle to maintain their logic. With a backdrop of unresolved personal issues and the lingering effects of an old injury, Rishi’s troubles seem to pile up.

Inspector Rishi (Tamil)

Creator: Nandhini JS

Cast: Naveen Chandra, Sunaina, Kanna Ravi, Elango Kumaravel, Srikrishna Dayal, Malini Jeevarathnam and others

Episodes: 10

Runtime: 40-60 minutes each

Storyline: Police and forest officials join forces to investigate a spate of enigmatic murders in a forest, where some believe a spirit is at fault

Nandhini’s screenplay is solid, handling with care the interplay between the horror undertones of the case and the personal lives of the characters; whether it’s Ayyanar coping with marital issues or Chitra dealing with the pains of love as a queer woman. The balance between their personal lives and the central mystery isn’t perfect, with some forced exposition in the early episodes. Yet, the outcome of these story threads, particularly Chitra’s, remains intriguing even when the horror and crime-solving take a brief step back.

The character of Chitra, sensitively written by Nandhini, is brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Malini as a lonely, heartbroken lesbian. A scene that draws a metaphorical parallel between the castaway nature of vanaratchi and society’s outcasts is particularly noteworthy.

Breaking away from typical horror clichés, the vanaratchi presents an original and captivating mythological element within a forest setting. This benefits a series that deliberately avoids expected horror tactics. However, ‘Inspector Rishi’ could have been more compelling as a detective thriller. The narrative often leads Rishi to react to terrifying events rather than solve them intelligently. Despite some intriguing twists towards the end, many of the plot points are foreseeable to a keen observer.

Still, ‘Inspector Rishi’ doesn’t set out to revolutionize the genre. It becomes apparent mid-series that Nandhini has chosen a more traditional narrative style, and subsequent genre twists and revelations confirm this approach.

What makes this series refreshing is how it navigates familiar territory with a classic touch, without becoming overambitious. Coupled with engaging performances, excellent set design, and music, the ten-episode series is a welcome offering for audiences to comfortably binge-watch.

Inspector Rishi is now available for streaming on Prime Video.

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