In the realm of horror shows on streaming platforms, one would not usually associate restraint with the genre. However, the Prime Video series Adhura, penned and directed by Ananya Banerjee and Gauravv K Chawla, surprisingly manages to keep the excessive frights in check for the majority of its seven episodes.
The storyline draws upon the familiar I Know What You Did Last Summer formula, incorporating elements like misty hill stations, Gothic structures, old boy reunions, and murder, resulting in an engaging mix. The setting is Nilgiri Valley, an exclusive boys’ boarding school in Ooty, where the narrative shifts between 2007 and the present, revolving around a 15-year reunion of a past batch.
Adhiraj (Ishwak Singh), an anxious professor travelling from America, seeks to reconcile with his old friend Ninad (Poojan Chhabra). His former love interest Malvika (Zoa Morani) is now married to Dev (Rijul Ray), an arrogant son of the school trustee and a former classmate. Other members of the 2007 batch, including TV star Suyash (Sahil Salathia), also gather for the celebration.
Within the school’s tall towers, high-ceilinged halls, and luxurious guest rooms, a history of bullying unfolds. While Ninad endured brutal hazing during his time, the present-day Vedant (Shrenik Arora) is subjected to torment. The school’s compassionate counsellor, Supriya (Rasika Dugal), goes above and beyond to assist Vedant.
The two time periods collide, giving rise to peculiar incidents that hint at a paranormal presence. Adhiraj appears bewildered throughout, while Supriya tries to offer logical explanations for the strange occurrences, often finding herself out of her depth. Vedant’s unsettling action of popping out his green-marble eyes and smirking adds to the eerie atmosphere. A Delhi cop (Rahul Dev) sent to investigate is baffled by what he witnesses.
The unfolding events may not surprise viewers familiar with campus horror flicks, but the show’s appeal lies in its skillfully layered back-and-forth narrative. The gradual revelation of secrets is captured through slow pans (Srijan Chaurasia) and complemented by effective atmospheric music (John Stewart Eduri).
While the series employs several customary horror tricks, Banerjee and Chawla avoid excessive sensationalism and reserve the gore for the final two episodes. The possibility of a second season is evident, even though it may challenge viewers’ attention span due to the extended runtime. After all, brevity is not only the essence of wit but also of horror – those scares can only sustain interest up to a certain point.
Within the limited scope of the genre, the actors have little room to showcase their skills. Nonetheless, Rasika Dugal, Ishwak Singh, and the teenage actors portraying younger versions of the characters approach their roles with seriousness and dedication. Of note, the adorable and talented Shrenik Arora truly steals the show.