Nimisha Sajayan Revels in Her Role as a Dauntless Forest Officer in ‘Poacher’

“Who will say no to Mala Jogi?” With a chuckle, Nimisha Sajayan puts forth the question that seemingly answers itself. The opportunity to collaborate with esteemed director Richie Mehta was an offer Nimisha could hardly resist. When Mehta came to her with the role of Mala, the lead in the eight-part suspense-packed series ‘Poacher,’ her assent was immediate and resolute.

Nimisha’s intricately drawn portrayal of Mala, the intrepid forest range officer from Kerala, is garnering high praise and acknowledgment for the rising star. Mala’s unyielding, straightforward approach cloaks an underlying sensitivity, and she personifies a tempest of emotions. Nimisha voices her connection with Mala: “She’s fearless, sensitive, and rides through a rollercoaster of emotions. So, why not Mala?” she reflects in response to her own query.

Mehta’s deep-seated commitment to wildlife and environmental conservation struck a chord with Nimisha. Recalling their initial meetings, she shares how Mehta expressed a devoted dedication to the cause, particularly for the protection of elephants.

The web series is anchored in an emblematic real-life crisis from the 1990s, a period that saw stalwart officers of the Forest Service dismantle an intricate international ivory trafficking syndicate. It’s a story that hinged on the majestic elephants of the Western Ghats, and one that Nimisha confesses she was oblivious to until brought to her attention by Mehta.

Nimisha, in preparation for inhabiting Mala, integrated attributes from three actual Indian Forest Service officers. She spent extensive time with one such officer, intent on comprehending his professional and personal essence. Nimisha poses a particularly poignant query to the officer, about his reaction to poaching incidents. The officer’s heartfelt reply, treating the jungle as his sanctuary and familial respite, profoundly influenced her approach to Mala’s character.

Fluency in Malayalam, Hindi, and English allowed Nimisha to gracefully navigate the linguistic demands of Mala’s character. The year 2023 stands as a milestone in her career, with her debuts in both Tamil and Hindi cinema and the pinnacle achievement of Poacher, available to a global audience on Netflix. With gratitude, she acknowledges the directors who envisioned her in their stories, a testament to her evolving success.

Nimisha’s cinematic voyage began with the celebrated Malayalam film ‘Thondimuthalam Driksakshiyum’ directed by Dileesh Pothan in 2017. Since then, Nimisha has been a compelling presence in Malayalam cinema, with riveting performances in ‘Thuramukham’, ‘Oru Thekkan Thallu Case’, ‘Malik’, ‘Nayattu’, and ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, to mention a few. Her last appearance in Malayalam, prior to branching out was in Dr. Biju’s ‘Adrishya Jalakangal’.

Her foray into Tamil cinema was cemented with ‘Chithha’, directed by SU Arun Kumar, where she plays Shakthi—a sanitation worker battling a troubled past. That performance prepared her for subsequent roles such as in Karthik Subbaraj’s ‘Jigarthanda Double X’.

Nimisha ascribes her ability to animate such diverse roles to her directors’ vision and the immersive nature of her acting process, which thrives in the space between ‘action’ and ‘cut’. In Richie Mehta’s Poacher, she found the script so vividly crafted that it required no supplementary effort on her part. Her commitment to authenticity and emotional integrity forms the crux of her methodology.

Discussing her extended hiatus from Malayalam films, Nimisha elucidates that exploring variegated characters and cultures, particularly from Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, has been instrumental in her decision. The exploration has allowed her to engage with completely unique personas and narratives. Upcoming projects include ‘Lantrani’, an anthology film for Zee 5, and ‘Dhaba Cartel’, another Netflix series featuring an ensemble cast including the legendary Shabana Azmi.

Despite remaining discreet about her character in ‘Dhaba Cartel’, she openly shares her admiration and excitement for the opportunity to work alongside an icon like Shabana Azmi. With an unmistakable sense of anticipation, Nimisha looks forward to the continuation of her professional journey with a Tamil project, a Bengali film, and a British Indian project titled ‘Footprints on Water’. With undeniable talent and a panorama of milieu-spanning roles ahead, the saga of Nimisha Sajayan is one to watch with keen interest.

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