The Netflix version of Elite, Class, is unexpectedly good, with the stellar performances of the ensemble overshadowing the plot.
Even the smallest trigger might result in a loss of judgement or even a crime when the desire to survive is extremely high, causing emotions to run wild and all rationality to be distorted. With nothing to lose, three scholarship students from the other side of the tracks are joining the prestigious school of young people who control their own world. What transpires when these two bleak worlds meet? Everyone is a suspect as conflicts erupt in the school and secrets become more buried.
Back in 2008, Miley Jab Hum Tum introduced me to the world of teenage drama obsession. Then, about five years later, I was exposed to another level of teenage drama with Gossip Girl. What a cultural shock that was. I assumed it was because it was America and the culture was different from ours. Now, a decade later, we have Indian content, which took me back to what I witnessed in my early 20s with a desi touch.
South Delhi is the setting for Class, the Indian version of the Spanish Netflix show Elite. As if the memes weren't enough, the show has helped to perpetuate the popular culture stereotype of kids as spoilt brats. Three kids from a public school get a scholarship and join the elite Hampton School in South Delhi. However, they're getting admitted to a new school has a motive because their school was set on fire.
The three kids are misfits, of course; one is a wannabe influencer named Balli, another is a Dalit named Dheeraj, and the last one is Saba, a Muslim girl from an orthodox family. In the first one, too, there was a Muslim girl who went to a new school and clearly said she was a minority. The rest of the students start looking down on them from the get-go. But everything changes in an instant, and those three students' lives become intertwined with the brats'.
The series starts with Dheeraj, Saba, and Balli entering the world of Hampton like kids in a candy store, but it's all a maze with no end. On the first day of school, their classmates make fun of them right away by calling them cleaners, waiters, and other names. The series establishes the privileged background with a scream and how, no matter how much we talk about India's progression, money can never buy class, despite being filthy rich. There are open mentions of how "Dalit Lives Matter" are all just dialogues on social media, and the privileged class does not want anyone whom they consider below them around.
The series created by Ashim Ahluwalia shows that the name "Class" has more than one meaning. But are we ready to watch it? Yes, thanks to the international exposure that Netflix has provided over the last five years. Before watching Class, I wondered if they would openly show gay sex, threesomes, and people jerking off. The makers did not leave any stone unturned in doing so.
Class is delightfully opulent and somewhat trashy at the same time. The show is both socially conscious about wealth inequality and an all-out soap opera about sexual impulses that are out of control. It walks the line between the two genres deftly. However, it hardly offers anything new that we have not seen earlier, given that it's also a licenced adaptation.
I have not seen Elite, but Class reminded me of another Spanish series, Control Z, Gossip Girl, and OC, among others I watched earlier. But Ahluwalia has made this make-believe world seem so real, beginning with the setting of Delhi, where class discussions are imminent. On the other hand, by bringing most of the newcomers in, the characters are without baggage, like paintings on a fresh canvas.
The young cast includes Gurfateh Pirzada (Neeraj), Anjali Sivaraman (Suhani), Ayesha Kanga (Yashika), Chayan Chopra (Dhruv), Chintan Rachchh (Faaruk), Cwaayal Singh (Balli), Madhyama Segal (Saba), Moses Koul (Sharan), Naina Bhan (Koel), Piyush Khati (Dheeraj), and Zeyn Shaw (Veer).
Each actor is given a top-notch plotline, which makes them gripping, along with the flaws they wear on their sleeves. Piyush, Cwaayal, and Madhyama, as the "outsiders," bring that vulnerability of where they belong and how they have been thrown to the pack of wolves. Cwaayal as Balli emerges as an opportunist who knows the right way to blend into the crowd. However, Piyush as Dheeraj and Madhyama as Saba bring new members into the filthy world of the Hamptons with their siblings, Gurfateh as Neeraj and Chintan as Faaruk. From a love triangle to a threesome, these kids leave no stone unturned in experimenting with their sexual desires, and of course, drugs are involved too.
There are two scenes from the series that have stayed with me. In one of the scenes, Saba, who wears a hijab to school, is asked by the principal if that's how she plans to attend school every day. It shows that she was admitted to show that the school is the same for all religions, classes, and creeds. On the other hand, when Dhruv talks to Faaruk about his sexuality, the latter says people still don't accept it. To which Dhruv says Delhi is quite progressive; however, his parents, knowing about his sexual orientation, say it's a hormonal issue and put him into psychiatric treatment. It's a bold approach, for sure. But the rest of the series follows the usual pattern of checking off boxes and focuses mostly on being gay and having sexual desires.
But Anjali Sivaraman, Chintan Rachchh, Zeyn Shaw, and Madhyama Segal are the actors who really brought the show to life. The events in the story give it more depth, and Balli, played by Cwaayal Singh, is the object of desire for the top students and a driving force for the plot.
Class deserves a chance, not for the plot but for the performances that overpower everything. The cliffhangers don't do much to keep you interested because, after a while, you'd rather know who killed the student than get involved in his or her family life.
But the class in session will keep you hooked on the actors who have blended into these complicated roles effortlessly.
Class on Netflix is a surprising good version of Elite. The plot isn't as important as the amazing acting by the show's stars, though.