Adhura (season 1)
Onto the next release and I finished watching the new Hindi series, the first season of Adhura which is streaming on Amazon Prime. The Hindi film industry has been doing a great job in the webseries space. It is amazing to witness the different kinds of content that are greenlit when there is absolutely no pressure of the Box Office. Having said that, the horror genre has been lesser tapped into.
With the recent success of Evil Dead Rise and Virupaksha, you would get a fair idea on how deprived the Indian audience is as far as horror content is concerned. Yet, horror is that lone genre that continues to remain a bit of a hit and a miss. It is largely subjective and it takes tremendous amount of craft to immerse the audience in the genre. I was quite looking forward to Adhura this weekend as it did promise to be a cerebral and moody kind of a horror which is a rarity these days. And I was happy that this genre was being attempted in the first place in the webseries space, a medium that would truly work in the favour of the horror genre. That said, does Adhura manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
The first season of Adhura follows the story of a high school reunion that coincides with stranfe occurences in the boarding school campus involving a little boy. What is the mystery behind it. The story here has a brooding setting that had an uncanny resemblance to the Hindi series School Of Lies which was out last month. Both these series did talk about some valid issues related to bullying and depression but while School Of Lies was in the mystery drama genre, Adhura is in the horror thriller space. But I quite liked the layered storytelling here. The screenplay standing at 7 episodes of roughly 40 odd minutes each does make for a brisk watch which is moody and atmospheric to begin with, and faltering only in the cliched final act!
The drama does have a great premise with the dull surroundings of a boarding school being witness to bullying of a young boy. The moody atmospherics were in play from the very first scene as the drama begins with the branching of two parallel tracks that soon meet on familar grounds. There is mystery in the air even when the supernatural phenomena kicks in that does make for a compelling watch. The writing does well in creating an ambience of fear as opposed to the cliched tropes used to bits in the horror genre.
The proceedings are layered and engrossing wherein it does take a while to figure out as to what is going on and why are the things the way they stand. The drama is a slow burn and requires patience to sit through it. The stakes in the drama are tactfully raised with timely deaths that add to the thrill element in the show. It is not long before you kind of figure on what the mystery is, with a string of flashbacks that pave the way. Some of the subplots are also interesting while the focus remains on the main plot. One of the minor drawbacks in the drama is that it kind of gets repetitive in the middle with almost the same kind of events being played out but with different characters. A little more urgency here would not have hurt.
The area where the drama majorly falters is in the final act that tries to overdo the horror quotient. Had the focus been on the emotional quotient or even on the issues of young adults with respect to bullying(something that School Of Lies tapped into wonderfully well), this drama would have elevated to another level. While the drama still manages to strike a chord with the emotional quotient(with a very sensitive issue in the background), the focus shifts to the supernatural horror zone wherein bones are cracking, people are flying and getting eliminated, all of which seemed to be cliched for the genre. The twist at the end is good but the horror elements on either side of it do not quite work. A little setup at the end makes for a promising case for its second season but overall the screenplay works best when it is focused on the moody atmospherics and the emotional quotient in the drama.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are wonderfully well written and some of the hidden gems can be found in the lines. The BGM is pretty good for the horror especially in the first half of the series. Having said that, the excessive use of it towards the end does dilute the drama to an extent. The cinematography is really good and it adds a layer of intrigue in the drama. The editing is pretty sharp. The VFX are a bit of a mixed bag – good in places but the budget constraints are evidently visible elsewhere.
The costumes are well thought out and the different shades of the clothes compliment the brooding nature of the surroundings. The art design scores well too. Directors Gauravv K Chawla and Ananya Banerjee have done a pretty good job here with the mood and atmosphere of the show. They do stumble a bit towards the end but there is definitely some flair in their direction to be noticed and applauded!
The performances are pretty good by the ensemble cast even though quite a few of the characters aren’t very well etched out. Rahul Dev as Officer Bedi manages to shine despite a limited screentime. Priya Banerjee as Nancy and Sahil Salathia as Suyash are pretty good as well. Jaimini Pathak as Chandra Prakash is quite good although I did feel he was underutilized from his character stand point. Aru K Verma as Rajat and Rijul Ray as Dev manage to leave a mark as well. Anisha Pahuja as Young Malavika, Arjun Deswal as Young Adhiraj and Poojan Chhabra as Ninad are excellent in their respective roles.
KC Shankar as KC Swamy is dignified in the portrayal of the dean. Zoa Morani as Malavika does well in emoting fear as an emotion really well. Even her screen presence was pretty good. Shrenik Arora as Vedant is terrifyingly intimidating and he does a wonderful job! Rasika Dugal as Supriya is wonderfully understated with her performance and she is absolutely brilliant to watch. Ishwak Singh as Adhiraj is excellent and he delivers a heartfelt performance while being wonderfully restrained. I am so impressed by his progress from Paatal Lok To Rocket Boys and now Adhura, the growth of an actor is distinctly visible!
Despite a stumble in the final act, the first season of Adhura is a good horror show particularly when it focuses on the moody atmospherics and on the emotional core of the drama. With good performances as well, this makes for a decent one-time watch. Available on Amazon Prime.