School Of Lies, directed by Avinash Arun Dhaware, is the latest mystery thriller based on true events that has been released on Disney+ Hotstar. Starring Nimrat Kaur, Aamir Bashir, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Sonali Kulkarni, and Jitendra Joshi the series consists of eight episodes with a runtime ranging between 33-39 minutes each.
Boarding schools can be haunting sometimes. However, in this case, it is not so much ghosts or phantoms haunting the place as it is the people residing within. The story unfolds following the mysterious disappearance of a 12-year-old boy, Shakti Salgaonkar, from the much sought-after boarding school RISE, leading to a chain of events where hidden and horrifying truths are dug up from within the school.
While finding Shakti is the main focus, there are also stories of other characters running parallel to it. The other part of the show focuses on actor Bashir, who essays the role of house master Sam, and two final-year students, Vikram (Varin Roopani) and TK (Aryan Singh Ahlawat), who are living under Sam's guidance. Kaur plays a campus career counselor Nandita Mehra, who is also out to connect with the students who had any connection to Shakti as she tries to help solve the missing case.
The series has been shot in an eerie setting with a dark-toned backdrop, ensuring you are distressed over the missing child. The plot has been structured well—addressing major issues like child abuse, bullying, underage drug use, the feeling of loneliness, and their hunger for freedom in a very effective way. The cinematography switches between dimly-lit scenes and stunning, bright landscapes of the hill station. The boarding school premises and architecture are also visually appealing, giving a rich backdrop for the children and adults, that in turn acts as a cover-up of their twisted lives.
School of Lies follows a non-linear narrative and often misleads viewers by not clearly distinguishing between the past and the present. Viewers might even feel let down at certain points where they would not have been able to segregate a flashback from the present state. However, this tactic effectively maintains the mystery throughout.
Avinash Arun's show is dark, nuanced, and full of suspense that will keep you hooked throughout. The dialogue in the ending sheds light on how conditions in a boarding school impact children, as is stated by a student: “At best it’s a compulsion. At worst, it’s a prison”.
Children’s emotions and the pressure they go through in their teenage years and how parents, amid the chaos of their own lives, ignore the red flags given by their children until it is too late have been brought to light.
The frustration of wanting to know what is happening behind closed doors is exactly what keeps us going, and automatically makes you wonder if it was a case of kidnapping or something more threatening that pushed Shakti out, or if it was merely a willful escape. That is for us to figure out after watching the show.
Series: School of Lies
Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar