The good first. Director Rohan Sippy creates the perfect ambience for a murder mystery with a structure that works.
First, a verbal exchange between Juhi Adhikari (Huma Qureshi) and Rhea Rajguru (Bhagyashree’s daughter Avantika Dassani making her debut). You can’t quite tell who’s behind bars and who’s the visitor.
Second, the story begins with Darjeeling as the backdrop.
The background score straightaway plunges in and says, this couple may be in bed but all’s not well between Juhi and husband Neil Adhikari (Parambrata Chatterjee). In Juhi’s class, the camera captures the resentful look of one student, Rhea Rajguru and soon, the tension sets in. The stage makes it apparent that it goes way beyond Hindi professor Juhi pulling up Rhea for plagiarism. Rhea specialises in playing victim, she’ll wrap even a peon around her finger to get her work done, and it doesn’t bode well for the Adhikaris.
Screenplay writers Althea Kaushal and Avita Dutt introduce the main players and their characteristics without much ado: Rhea’s keeping a close watch on Juhi and unsettles her with sharp observations about her habits; Juhi has aced English literature and Hindi, giving preference to the latter. Sprinkled with Wordsworth’s words, you meet Juhi’s influential father Anand Tyagi (Rajit Kapoor), a man of letters in English. He dotes on his daughter but goads her to give priority to the international language over Hindi.
Third, Neil Adhikari is killed.
Fourth, the cops start their interrogation.
Following the same pattern, the interplay between Juhi-Rhea, Neil-Rhea and Rhea-Tyagi weaves intrigue over just what this disgruntled student is after. You know she’ll stop at nothing.
With each episode, Neil’s death comes closer. And the interrogation takes its turns.
Limited to six episodes, every segment unravels a little more, making it an engaging watch. The air of foreboding prevails with rain and general eeriness in the relationships. Aided ably by confident first-timer Avantika Dassani who keeps Rhea edgy and on the brink. Huma, Parambrata and Rajit are all proven actors, they simply slip into their parts.
And now for the not-so-good. The foundational thought of parents (mothers and fathers) with a past that ominously intrudes into the present, has been done to death (an intentional pun), only unfolded in different ways by different makers.
The whole crux of childhood trauma triggering off sociopathic tendencies is not a new premise either. We’ve been watching this right from 2012 when the Bhatts made a successful Raaz 3.
Juhi tells Rhea at one point, “Don’t make bad kismet the bahana” for murderous behaviour. I agree. Let’s move on and find better bahanas for making a murder mystery. Especially with a last scene that seems to promise a second season.