Mithya review: Huma Qureshi, Avantika Dassani thriller is a tale of fatal attractions

Stories set in hill stations-brimming-with-dark-secrets are in danger of becoming tropes. Mithya, directed by Rohan Sippy and produced by Applause Entertainment, is perhaps the third or fourth that I’ve seen recently, where the picturesque locations become as much a part of the twisty atmospherics as the situations themselves.

This one, which has Anvita Dutt as one of the writers, gets in some fresh strokes for its folks as they go about their business in scenic Darjeeling. A teacher of Hindi ‘sahitya’ is at the heart of this pulpy tale, and it’s a real pleasure listening to Huma Qureshi as Juhi Adhikari do justice to the passages that she reads out to her class, in which new girl Rhea Rajguru (Avantika Dassani) quickly identifies herself as trouble with a capital T.

Within a few minutes of their interaction, it’s evident that the student is here to provoke, and when accusations of plagiarism are slung across the room, things quickly spiral out of control, leading to murder and mayhem.

Apparently ‘Mithya’ is based on British 2019 series ‘Cheat’ which coasts on the simmering hostility between a university professor and a sly student who clearly has learnt the art of pushing her buttons. Like the two ladies in the British series, we see Juhi and Rhea at loggerheads right from the beginning: the former has ambitions of becoming head of her department, and the latter is out to target the older woman for what, exactly?

While we wait for the climactic moments which give us the relevant back stories and results in a blood-soaked body, we get startlingly risque encounters between a male teacher and the said student. These are pulled off convincingly, especially one in which cell phones are used to capture pictures of aroused private body parts: clearly, ‘Succession’ is not the only series which can use ‘*ick pics’ as plot points.

Infidelity, long-term guilt, and a burning desire for revenge make great companions for a story like this one, and ‘Mithya’ works best when it locks those in, even when its beats turn predictable quite soon. If there’s a beloved pet cat meowing loudly in the frame, you know what’s going to happen to the poor creature. Juhi’s father (Rajit Kapoor) and mother (Avantika Akerkar) are fond of quoting Wordsworth to each other with an air of being very pleased with themselves. Their loving relationship is obviously too good to be true: come on, out with the secret! Juhi’s husband Neil (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) who is also her colleague, has no qualms about entertaining young female students when he is home alone, and plying them with glasses of expensive alcohol. Of course, we know what happens next.

This telegraphing of punches, and underlined obviousness becomes quite frequent as ‘Mithya’ progresses, and you don’t even need to be an alert viewer to twig on to the darkest secret which comes spilling out. To sustain suspense over eight episodes requires tighter writing, and a razor-sharp execution, both of which go missing every so often.

You wish that the two principal antagonists weren’t pushed into maintaining their fraught positions so faithfully: you need to give them a chance to relax before they move on to their next face-off. You want to tell Huma Qureshi to lighten up a little. And Dassani has a mobile face, but is made to narrow her eyes too much. The one actor who manages to make little shifts, between being morally duplicitous and righteous to just the right degree is Parambrata Chattopadhyay: he is a husband and wants to be a good father, but he is also a man whose flesh is weak.

This tale of fatal attractions leaves us poised on an uneasy cliffhanger: will the second season address the weaknesses of the first season? I’m interested enough to return.

Mithya cast: Huma Qureshi, Avantika Dassani, Parambrata Chatterjee
Mithya director: Rohan Sippy

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