Episode 1 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 2 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 3 -|Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -|Review Score – 4/5
Episode 5 -|Review Score – 3/5
Episode 6 -|Review Score – 3/5
Episode 7 -|Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 8 -|Review Score – 3/5
There is a new “class” of television series and films in India that has created an ambitious visual standard. The camerawork, set locations, and impressive technical cues make the production look stunning. But at times, this is not matched with substantial storytelling. It is not necessarily a “style over substance” pitfall but Class on Netflix does not utilize the full potential of its exciting premise.
It seems that the creators made a genuine attempt to adapt the Spanish series Elite into the Indian prism of perception. But the recontextualization was too strict, and myopic, and failed to wholeheartedly absorb the local sensibilities of the subject matter it was trying to encapsulate.
Three lower-class students from a burned-down school are given admission into Delhi’s most expensive school by the builders who are allegedly responsible for the fire. Dheeraj, Saba, and Balli are the small algae in an ocean of ideologies, money, and entitlement, coming up against the “elite” class at Hampton International. Soon enough they win over some of the rich students and the two classes intertwined. But as history has taught us, they can never be one and the same, or equal. Suhani Ahuja, the daughter of Suraj Ahuja, a wealthy builder, dies at the end of it all and we see the events prior to it unravel in the series.
A bad habit that creative personnel in India have fallen into is remaking shows and movies scene by scene from their foreign counterparts. The Indian versions of The Office (US), Fauda (Israel), Your Honor (US), Penoza (Dutch) and many more suffer from this problem. Recently, Oliver Hermanus remade the great Akira Kurosawa’s yesteryear classic Ikiru (1952) and the transition was seamless. We got to see a whole new movie with a renewed sense of exploring similar themes through a different lens. That originality is missing from Netflix’s Elite remake.
Class takes most of the story and character arches from Elite. As a result, previous viewers of the Spanish series will be disappointed. There are hardly any surprises in the store for them. The plot twists are all borrowed and are given a very faint Indian touch. The characterization of the students too seems plastic. They talk, walk, and behave in the same manner as the students in Elite. But perhaps they can be cut some slack given the weirdly similar attitude the rich and entitled have across the spectrum.
The makers do take remarkable liberties as conveniences to bring their show together. Like the rich students going to Balli’s party or Suhani concocting with the Valmiki brothers to realize a rivalry are very out there and does not necessarily fit into the prism of reality.
For some reason, the experience feels very exclusive or alien, even for someone local who has grown up around this clash of cultures. You would have to be from that world to feel like you belong in Class’ cinematic universe. The core representation is a subset of the lifestyle prevalent in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, even if the broader themes of the class divide are more proliferated. There are some bits from other geographies as well and it must be said that there are a few exceptions in the cast. Cwaayal Singh, Gurfateh Pirzada, and Chintan Rachchh beautifully import their own reactions to the characters with some stereotypes.
Those spaces where there were no references in Elite are handled well. There is an idea by the makers to imbibe different identities in the Indian society in the characters. It is an entire spectrum, bringing some diversity to the overall appeal. Despite these large negatives, the show does manage to strike a chord. Class has some nuanced distinguishments like the family dysfunction and the dynamic between a parent and a child. For instance, if you compare the characters with their parents, you will realize the impact on their personalities. Avenues in storytelling like these make the show layered and more interesting to dissect.
Some representations like homosexuality and drug abuse were bold. Not many Indian shows can have the luxury of having those breaths in their narratives but Class relishes the opportunity. For local viewers, Class might be a tad too aloof but parts of it are very real. This tonal inconsistency tarnishes the experience on some levels, although on the flip side, that is what makes it exciting. If you haven’t seen Elite, Class is an enjoyable experience overall.
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Verdict - 6/10