We have reached a stage when genres such as horror and suspense thrillers have to be no-holds-barred. Or else, movie and OTT watchers couldn’t care less. Thankfully, though, the streaming platforms don’t seem to be following any diktat regarding self-control or moderation.
Not all of them are watchable, but it feels good to know that to an audience exposed to the best from around the world, at least some bold filmmakers are making all-out efforts to experiment with newer tactics in horror and suspense movies. In this case, web series.
Using state-of-the-art technology for graphics and storylines getting quirkier, many directors no longer follow the staid whodunit formula that made the Ramsays (in)famous in the 1970s.
Also, a series has enough time to develop and follow up on sub-plots, and add an extra dimension to characters for them to look believable.
Produced by Nikkhil Advani’s Emmay Entertainment, ‘Adhura’ is one of Amazon Prime’s first forays into Hindi horror, and is written and directed by Ananya Banerjee and Gauravv K Chawla.
It keeps the scares well within the stipulated setting, which has all ingredients in place – ploys to frighten, shock, horrify and disgust you using a variety of visual and auditory leitmotifs and devices.
Adhura is set in an elite boarding school with a secret so dark that it shakes up the lives of everyone connected to it. When things begin to take a turn in the quaint Nilgiri Valley School in Ooty, as a bullied boy starts to display strange behaviour patterns that leave everyone concerned, mysterious occurrences are wrapped in a shroud.
Professor Adhiraj (Ishwak Singh) is visiting India from the US with an agenda: he needs to catch up with old friend Ninad (Poojan Chhabra) and his former girlfriend Malvika (Zoa Morani), who is married to his former classmate Dev (Rijul Ray).
A reunion of the Class of 2007 is being planned and the celebratory spirit of the batch is on full display as others, including TV star Suyash (Sahil Salathia), come in from far and wide.
This nostalgic gathering turns into a nightmare when Adhiraj Jaisingh meets a 10-year-old troubled youngster Vedant Malik (Shrenik Arora) of the current batch. Soon, dark secrets from the past threaten to emerge.
We get to know that the shy and meek Vedant is being bullied by Sarthak, Kabir and Dhruv. How the story unravels and what are the riddles that need to be answered are on everyone’s mind as Vedant and Adhiraj’s past and present collide. The result is disaster.
In the middle of all this, mysterious events take place and matters get more and more complicated: disappearances, troubled students dealing with their personal traumas, and the Class of 2007 introspecting to make sense of their own inner devils that appear to be all the more fearsome. That children could also have dark secrets is not unknown.
There are two timelines – 2007 and 2022 – that alternate and overlap, as secrets tumble out. What is certain, though, is that anybody and everybody associated with the school is going to be affected by the secrets as, and when, they come out.
Amid moments of tension, a few nerve-wracking sequences amplified by the creaking of doors, and a great many other psychological elements, emerge, as viewers begin to wonder about the deep-seated relationship between Vedant and Adhiraj.
Despite being clueless about their relationship at first, you do want to get more invested in the story for more fodder. Waiting impatiently for it to unravel, you will get annoyed and edgy at time as some irrelevant delays are contrived for the real action to stretch.
That Adhiraj and Vedant have an entwined past is not enough to hold your interest. But then, just when you start getting impatient, you do get a glimpse of their conjoined history. You get to know that while Ninad suffered brutal hazing, and Vedant is being tormented in the present, their counsellor, Supriya (Rasika Dugal), does all that she could to ease matters for them.
The mysterious Ninad is missing in action. But he does have an important role to play in untying the complex entangled ends, How does he help? Therein lies the key to the riddle.
Going back ‘n’ forth in time, ‘Adhura’, though complex, is layered, and gives the viewer an immersive experience when the past nostalgic associations threaten to turn scary, taking us through a maze of secrecy and unknown fears.
As a supernatural horror thriller, ‘Adhura’ does have all the elements in place; what it could have done without are the cliches that abound.
Web Series: Adhura
Directors: Gauravv Chawla and Ananya Banerjee
Cast: Ishwak Singh, Rasika Dugal, Shrenik Arora, Rahul Dev, Poojan Chhabra, Medha Agrawal, Zoa Morani, Priya Banerjee, K C Shankar, Mridul Ahluwalia, Samridhi Chandola, Preet Bharadia, Chinmay Chandraunshuh, Sahil Chhabra and Arjun Deswal
Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Duration: 8 episodes of 45 minutes each
–By Arnab Banerjee