School of Lies Review | A Deeply Unsettling Drama With Brilliantly Etched Characters

School of Lies from Avinash Arun has this eerie vibe of a mystery thriller in the beginning portions. But as the series progresses, we are, in a way exploring the numerous shades of the title of the series. The shock we feel is not really about what happened to a particular individual. It’s more about the recurring pattern of trauma that sort of affects you emotionally.

The series is set against the backdrop of a boarding school named RISE. A young boy named Shakti Salgaonkar goes missing from his dorm, and his housemaster Mr. Samuel asks the house seniors to check for him. As the school couldn’t handle the situation on its own, the mother of the kid and the police got involved in it. We see how the investigation to find Shakti progresses and what unfolds within the campus during that period in School of Lies.

SPOILER ALERT! I use the green signal to recommend good content to those who follow my suggestion. This is perhaps the first time I felt conflicted about that idea. This BBC production created by Avinash Arun and Ishani Banerjee is not trying to make it a tale that talks about hope or the triumph of goodness. Multiple characters in the series are scarred for life, and if you look at the structure, you see how a “sexual predator” is created, perhaps in the reverse order. It might sound problematic, but the series is, in a way, empathizing or exploring a single character through multiple characters at different stages of their life.

Varin Roopani, as Vikram Singh, has carried the impulsiveness of the character very effectively. From being seemingly annoying and arrogant, he manages to maneuver the audience to feel for the character through his performance. Aryan Singh Ahlawat, as TK, is pretty much playing second fiddle for a larger part of the story. But as the story reaches the finale, you sense TK’s vulnerability, and Ahlawat pulls it off convincingly. Vir Pachisia, as Shakti Salgaonkar, is given a character with a maturity level that feels a bit odd. But as we discover that character over the course of the series, that clarity in his actions seems legit. Aamir Bashir as the frequently conflicted Sam sir, was terrific. Nimrat Kaur, as the dilemma-driven school counselor, was also great towards the end. Even though the roles were relatively small in terms of run time, Divyansh Dwivedi as Chanchal, Sonali Kulkarni as Vikram’s mother, Geetika Vidya as Shakti’s mother, and Jitendra Joshi as Anirudh did a wonderful job in their respective roles.

Avinash Arun is known for his cinematography style that uses color grading and setting very extensively to create the ambiance for the story. He creates the mood of a slow-poison thriller through the locations and less frantic shots. Another thing I liked about the series was how they went for a less gory approach for a violent and deeply unsettling theme. Co-written by creator Ishani Banerjee, the writers’ ability to navigate us toward characters rather than predict the possible climax was commendable. At one point, Nimrat Kaur’s character is put in a spot where she has to make a decision. But the dilemma in her head is so high because of her own life realities. The series’ quality lies in its ability to make us think about the possible future of almost all the characters in the story.

There is a sense of numbness when you finish watching School of Lies. It’s not a fantasy that you can ignore that easily. The characters have flaws and vulnerabilities that are familiar to us, and hence there is a sense of helplessness. With the script restructuring the mysterious elements skillfully to channel that disturbing energy towards the end, School of Lies is an affecting drama that will stay with you for some time.

Final Thoughts

With the script restructuring the mysterious elements skillfully to channel that disturbing energy towards the end, School of Lies is an affecting drama that will stay with you for some time.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.