When it comes to horror shows on streaming platforms, restraint is not a word that would normally apply. But the Prime Video series Adhura, written and directed by Ananya Banerjee and Gauravv K Chawla, manages to keep the schlock scares under control for most of the seven episodes.

While the plot recycles the I Know What You Did Last Summer formula, foggy hill stations, Gothic buildings, old boy reunions and murder make for a watchable cocktail. Nilgiri Valley, an elite boarding school for boys in Ooty, is the setting for the drama. The timeline moves from 2007 to the present, when that batch from the past is congregating for a 15-year reunion.

Adhiraj (Ishwak Singh), an anxiety-prone professor, is travelling from America, hoping to mend fences with his old friend Ninad (Poojan Chhabra). His former sweetheart Malvika (Zoa Morani) is now married to Dev (Rijul Ray), a former classmate and arrogant son of the school trustee. A few others from the 2007 batch, which includes TV star Suyash (Sahil Salathia), land up for the celebration.

The tall turrets, high-ceilinged halls and swanky guest rooms have been witness to bullying. While Ninad suffered brutal hazing as a student, the saucer-eyed Vedant (Shrenik Arora) is being tormented in the present. The school’s kindly counsellor Supriya (Rasika Dugal) goes beyond the call of duty to help Vedant.

Shrenik Arora in Adhura (2023). Courtesy Emmay Entertainment/Prime Video.

The two eras collide, leading to strange incidents. A paranormal element appears to be at play.

Adhiraj looks gobsmacked all the time; Supriya patiently gives logical explanations for the bizarre goings-on but often finds herself in over her head; Vedant pops out his green-marble eyes and smirks. A cop sent over from Delhi (Rahul Dev) is flummoxed by all that he witnesses.

What happens is not in the least surprising for viewers with campus horror flicks on their watchlists. But the show is interesting because of the way the back-and-forth narrative has been layered. The gradually uncovered secrets are shot with slow pans (Srijan Chaurasia) and accompanied by effective atmospheric (John Stewart Eduri).

While there are plenty of the usual horror tricks, Banerjee and Chawla avoid lurid gimmicks and keep the gore mostly low-key until the last two episodes. A second season is built in, even if it means that the runtime challenges the attention span. Brevity is the soul not just of wit but horror too – those boos only go so far.

There is not much for the actors to do within the limited scope of the genre. Yet, Rasika Dugal, Ishwak Singh and the teens playing the younger versions of the grown-ups take their work seriously. The cute and talented Shrenik Arora who steals the show.

Adhura (2023).