‘Inspector Rishi’ Review: Prime Video Series Is An Exhausting & Self-Serious Scooby-Doo Episode

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It’s safe to say that everyone reading this review is aware of the general premise of an episode of Scooby-Doo or a feature film centered around Scooby-Doo and his friends. There’s a supernatural event that’s so bizarre that it shatters the very definition of what’s real and what’s not. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby are asked to investigate it. They spend a major chunk of the running time getting scared and running around while picking up small clues. And, by the end, it’s revealed that there’s nothing supernatural going on, and it’s just a bunch of humans who are trying to protect something close to their hearts or covering up a crime by tapping into humanity’s greatest phobia: the fear of the unknown. Now, you’d think that after the first 20 episodes, the gimmick would get stale. However, the writers, the animators, the voice actors, and everyone else involved with the show had so much fun with this basic plot outline that it never got old. Inspector Rishi essentially does the same thing, but it takes itself so seriously that the viewing experience becomes tiring within the first 20 minutes.

J.S. Nandhini’s Inspector Rishi is set in Tamil Nadu’s Thaenkaadu (which I’m guessing is a fictional place), where a group of villagers are seen performing a ritual in a cave. Things take a dark turn when they all die by suicide, as a form of mass sacrifice, and that apparently awakens a creature called the Vanaratchi. The narrative moves forward by 20 years, and the show focuses on a trio of forest rangers—Irfan, Punitha, and Sathya—who are scanning the woods and their inhabitants for signs of improper human behavior, poaching, and smuggling. That’s when they come across a peculiar sight: a dead human being stuck in a spider-web-like cocoon that’s hanging from a tree. Chitra and Ayyanar are called in to inspect the case, with the titular Inspector Rishi in the lead. The popular theory is that it’s the aforementioned Vanaratchi that is going around killing people because the place is cursed. However, since Rishi is looking at it through the lens of rationale and logic, he begins to notice a pattern that points at a larger conspiracy that’s transpiring right under the authorities’ noses.

Look, I won’t beat around the bush, and I’ll say it straight: Inspector Rishi’s writing is awful. I tuned into it based on the poster. I watched the first few minutes and knew that the whole point of the show was environmentalism. I hoped that at least one of the 10 episodes was going to surprise me or subvert my expectations. Spoiler alert: It didn’t. It took the most predictable and boring route to deliver a message that could’ve been said through a short film. If this show influences someone to care about the environment, good job. But the eco-horror aspect of the narrative is so shallow that I don’t have a lot to say about it. Instead, I am going to direct my attention to the subplots and rant about them. Allow me to start with the queer love story. It’s a good thing that Nandhini has shed light on how, even in 2024, being a lesbian woman in India is considered uncommon, and there are conservative people out there who can’t even imagine a girl liking another girl. However, in a show as unrealistic as this, I can’t understand why the writer had to opt for realism and give one of the two queer characters in the entire show a cliche, sad ending. Yes, it’s “realistic,” but this is a fictional show, and queer people can get a happy ending. If fictional stories aren’t aspirational or inspirational in any way, how is reality going to change?

By the way, Nandhini’s writing is selectively realistic. While the queer woman gets a “realistic” sad subplot, the conservative straight guy gets a weirdly happy subplot. Ayyanar eloped with the love of his life, Yamuna. Then, Ayyanar’s family shamed her into oblivion. Yamuna’s father subjected her to public humiliation. And after all that, by some miracle, Yamuna’s stance softened, and she not only reunited with Ayyanar, but Yamuna also became a part of the investigation team because of her expertise in herbs. Make this make sense, please. I know I am pointing at the plot and expecting you to notice why it is absurd, like a lot of reviewers do, instead of explaining why it is so mind-boggling to me. But I don’t think there’s anything else I can do other than point at the character arcs of Chitra and Ayyanar and hope that people realize how far we’ve to go in terms of queer representation in Indian entertainment. I mean, things are so bad that I am thankful that Nandhini didn’t give Punitha (played by trans actor Vaishulisa Vallal) a proper character arc, and she just got to exist as a trans woman in this story. It feels like the makers put more effort into writing that disclaimer that tells the audience that Inspector Rishi isn’t anti-LGBTQ+ than they did on Chitra’s subplot and character arc.

If you think all that isn’t infuriating, I think Viji will get your blood boiling. To be clear, Harini Sundararajan is amazing. She delivers an amazing performance. Her screen presence is great. It’s just sad that she has to deal with such awful writing. At this point, and as pathetic as it sounds, I am used to female characters being killed off to give the male character a tragic past. Despite all the criticism that has been leveled against this trope, it keeps showing up in some form or another. So, all we can do is digest it. But when someone goes out of their way, which is Nandhini in this case, to show that the dead woman was possessive, manipulative (she used self-harm to control our beloved hero), and an overall bad person, then it feels like the whole project is ill-intentioned. That can sound like an exaggeration, but if you take a look at the treatment of the Muslim, Christian, and tribal characters, the kind of torture they undergo, and how they don’t even get a clear win at the end, my apprehensions won’t seem unfounded. Yes, you can brush all these criticisms away by saying that the plot, the subplots, and the themes reflect reality. However, at the cost of sounding repetitive, Inspector Rishi has a bloody monster in it. Realism has gone out of the window. So, why are women and minorities being treated so realistically? I have no clue, and, to be honest, I don’t want to know.

The only positive aspect of Inspector Rishi is that it looks and sounds good. A lot of care has gone into framing every shot of the show. The lighting and the colors are perfect. If I can be a little generous, I will appreciate the performances as well. I think that the whole cast is very talented, and they try to make the characters feel like three-dimensional human beings. However, the shoddy writing and the shallow storytelling keep getting in the way and infuriate me. That’s why I can’t recommend this show to you. In case you really want to watch an eco-horror show with shades of folklore, I can push you towards True Detective: Night Country (Inspector Rishi and Night Country have the same twists, by the way). That said, if you are already overwhelmed by the gloomy nature of the world around you and you want some detective adventures that are relatively easy on the senses, Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. are right there. You can choose from the classics. You can pick from the newer stuff. And since the live-action films are being reevaluated in a very positive way, you can check them out too. But don’t waste your time on Inspector Rishi.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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