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Netflix’s ‘Class’ is a class apart from its Spanish inspiration

Indian adaptation of ‘Elite’ made itself comfortable in Netflix India’s number one spot for nearly one month

<p>Class&#x27; cinematography and color, which heavily feature dark undertones, complement its exploration of heavy themes like body-image issues, income disparity and religious discrimination.</p><p>Courtesy of Netflix</p>

Class' cinematography and color, which heavily feature dark undertones, complement its exploration of heavy themes like body-image issues, income disparity and religious discrimination.

Courtesy of Netflix

The Hindi entertainment industry has had its fair share of remakes and adaptations of film and television programs from around the world. From “Laal Singh Chaddha,” a remake of “Forrest Gump,” to an adaptation of the British miniseries “The Night Manager,” these reinterpretations have starred some of the biggest names in the industry. But what sets “Class” — Netflix’s Indian adaptation of its Spanish show “Elite” — apart is its special ability to cater to teenage and young adult audiences. 

“Class” stars eleven up-and-coming and extremely talented actors. The show follows a similar premise to its Spanish counterpart, where three students, Balli Sehrawat (Cwaayal Singh), Saba Manzoor (Madhyama Segal) and Dheeraj Kumar Valmiki (Piyush Khati), join an elite Delhi high school, the fictional Hampton International, after their old school burns down in a mysterious fire. They are tasked with adjusting to a tight-knit group of affluent students and navigating their new environment. As the show’s protagonists get more involved in this new world, they discover dark secrets and scandals that ultimately lead to the murder of one of their classmates.

The series is executive produced by Ashim Ahluwalia, who co-directed it with Gul Dharmani and Kabir Mehta. When Netflix approached him with the project, Ashim signed on because he felt that socioeconomic inequality in the school setting served as a microcosm of the world beyond the school walls, according to an interview with the Hindu. 

The show’s cinematography and color contrasts complement its settings and themes. Having dark undertones for scenes shot in the fictional Nurpur Khatola, the protagonists’ previous school, sheds light on the lives and struggles faced by underprivileged individuals. These undertones are contrasted with brighter colors of the scenes in more elite and opulent areas. As the story progresses and leads up to the murder, you can see the tonal values shift from light to dark. In general, the set designs and the cinematography of “Class” are more dynamic and dimensional than Netflix’s original show.

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The show has also been gifted with a soulful score. The soundtrack, composed by Aditya N. and Nayantara Bhatkal, complements the scenes well, engaging the audience further. Ashim “gave us the freedom to experiment with his brief and our sound, but at times he would ask us to remove even a tiny hi-hat that didn’t make sense to him in the scene,” Aditya N. said in an interview with Rolling Stone India, adding that this collaborative effort between the director and the singer paid off in producing some of the most beautiful songs made for a TV show, such as “Girta Sambhalta” and “Khidki.”

“Class” also stands out because it is one of the few Indian shows to portray a gay couple without making them caricatures. Dhruv Sanghvi (Chayan Chopra) and Faruq Manzoor (Chintan Rachchh) steal the show’s spotlight with their on-screen chemistry. The characters have become fan favorites among Indian audiences cheering for them on social media. Chopra and Rachchh deserve credit for powerful acting, but the credit must also go to the five writers who did an incredible job in getting the audience invested in Dhruv and Faruq’s love story without judging their sexualities. 

Saba and Veer Ahuja (Zeyn Shaw) also impress as a couple, balancing a perfect level of comfort and discomfort that feels like a genuine relationship. They possess a certain Elizabeth-Darcy dynamic, and the audience is here for it. 

The acting of “Class” outperforms that of the original series. Ayesha Kanga, Anjali Sivaraman, Khati, Naina Bhan and Singh all portray their characters with energizing on-screen presences. But there could have been more on-screen time and character development devoted to Yashika Mehta (Kanga), who is dealing with parental neglect, a break up and academic competition, all while trying to be a social media influencer. 

The eight-episode series tackles various subjects on top of the murder investigation, touching on the caste system, body-image issues, income disparity, queerness, religious discrimination, drug abuse and more. Unfortunately, there are just too many plot points, and the show fails to give these topics more than a surface-level treatment. In terms of plot, the show’s Spanish counterpart better explores its complex themes. 

One of the most common critiques of “Class” is that the plot is too far removed from reality.  While problems like cyberbullying, body-image issues and drug abuse showcased in the series do happen at elite schools, artistic freedom is still used to exaggerate these issues.

After debuting as the number one Netflix series in India and staying in the top position for four weeks, Netflix has renewed “Class” for a second season. Since the show is an adaptation, it is likely to follow the original storyline present in “Elite,” but it will still be interesting to watch how Ahluwalia decides to adapt the plot to the Indian context.

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