Even before creating Poacher, the wildlife preservation series on Netflix which is being watched avidly, director Richie Mehta was a Nature lover.

Says Mehta, “I’ve always respected our natural environment, and some of my happiest memories as a child are playing in forests surrounding where I grew up ,in the suburbs of Toronto. Also, while I was researching DELHI CRIME, I went through the trauma of that urban experience, but while shooting it, it was more of a scientific process of executing my vision, hence not as emotionally draining for me since I had already undergone the worst part of it, when I was learning about the details of the crime.”

Then,something happened to Richie Mehta. “One day during the shoot, I learned of the last Northern Kenyan White rhino male passing away, effectively meaning that the sub-species was now extinct. I broke down when I learned this, and felt so much pain at this news. Knowing that we have caused the demise of an entire species, I could not fathom it. And I was surprised at how deeply it affected me. I then made a promise to myself that if I could make another project after DELHI CRIME, that I would move from the asphalt jungle to the organic one.”

Even before Poacher , Richie had created ‘dread’ flags about eco-devastation. “ Before DELHI CRIME, I was directing a documentary in 2015 titled INDIA IN DAY backed by Google. In that film, people all over India were meant to shoot footage of their own lives on their phones on one particular day Oct 10, 2015, upload it via google to me, and I would take it and assemble it into a feature length documentary that profiles a day in the life of the country. One of the pieces of footage I received was of an ivory raid in Delhi. I was confused : did this happen today? I called the NGO that submitted it – the Wildlife Trust of India. They told me that the Kerala Forest Department ,supported by other government organizations, as well as WTI, executed the largest ivory raid in Indian history in Delhi, on that day, after a year-long investigation into the biggest wildlife smuggling ring in the country, and figured they would send me this footage, since it was my shoot day!

This revelation changed the course of Richie Mehta’s life. “I was flabbergasted. I always loved elephants, and cared deeply for wildlife conservation, but passively, from afar. And I knew that google would never let me show this, as it was a crime scene. But I told the person at WTI –her name is Divya Bhardwaj– that I couldn’t use this footage for this documentary, but if she gave me a few years, I would come back and try to understand the entire case, and the issues it addresses, and do a full piece on it. POACHER is the result.

Mehta also wrote a note to himself in Delhi Crime as a reminder of what he needed to do. “In episode one of DELHI CRIME, I have a scene where Rasika Dugal’s character finds ivory from a random traffic stop – this was meant as a note to myself to work on this ivory case afterward. After DELHI CRIME released in 2019, I began to research this, and as I did so, its importance increased day by day. I realized that this wasn’t just about saving elephants from assassination, but it addressed dozens of issues ranging from our relationship to all other life on Earth, to indigenous peoples and how they are integrated (or segregated) in society, to what the law of the jungles truly are (both the natural and asphalt one), and how they are ingrained in us. I realized that this story concerns everything that I hold dear.”

The characters in Poacher are deeply committed to eco-preservation and yet flawed in their own way. “It’s what makes them relatable, and what makes their idealism more accessible. Superheroes have superficial flaws, but real heroes have very real flaws that can gnaw away at them. POACHER is a story about real unsung heroes trying to do the right thing, while grappling with issues that would affect us all.Mukesh Chhabra and his casting team led me to our cast. Nimisha was his suggestion, and after I auditioned her I knew he was right. She effortlessly embodied Mala as soon as she spoke her first lines, even taking her into directions I never anticipated. Aruku (Suraj Pops) is a great example as well. Mukesh’s team, led by Sanjay Bishnoi, knows me and my style really well, and my brief is always the same – I’m not looking for someone to play the character, but to be them.”