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Class Review: Fairly Gripping Elite Adaptation Gets India’s Teens And Class Struggles Somewhat Right

February 03, 2023 | by Jinal Bhatt

I don’t think I’ve ever come to a movie or series about high school expecting relatability. It’s usually just the right amount of fantasy or palatable hyperbole. And Elite, the Spanish show on Netflix, by Carlos Montero and Dario Madonna, takes the lack of it a notch higher (though none go higher than Riverdale!), by setting a murder mystery in a posh high school, and making a bunch of kids with unbelievable lives look super guilty. And yet, it struck a chord, thanks to the writing that made you feel for a slew of generally unlikable teenagers, and actors who made their characters stand out, despite a huge ensemble. The challenge for showrunner and director Ashim Ahluwalia for Class, the official Indian adaptation of Elite, wasn’t just to adapt the story and recreate that affinity, but to also mount this outrageous world of the rich and its uniquely first-world problems with a background of the Indian social landscape. Did the makers succeed then? We shall see!

Class stars Gurfateh Pirzada as Neeraj (Nano in Elite), Anjali Sivaraman as Suhani (Marina), Ayesha Kanga as Yashika (Lu), Chayan Chopra as Dhruv (Ander), Chintan Rachchh as Faruq (Omar), Cwaayal Singh as Balli (Christian), Madhyama Segal as Saba (Nadia), Moses Koul as Sharan (Polo), Naina Bhan as Koel (Carla), Piyush Khati as Dheeraj (Sami), and Zeyn Shaw as Veer (Guzmán). It is written by Rajesh Devraj, Kersi Khambatta, Raghav Kakkar,  Kashyap Kapoor, Bhaskar Hazarika, with Ashim Ahluwalia serving as showrunner and series director.


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The Plot

Class almost doggedly follows in the path of Elite when it comes to the plot, including setting that ridiculous assignment for its students where they have to partner up and make a social media profile for each other.

After their high school burns down under mysterious circumstances, three teenagers from Delhi slums are given a scholarship to the poshest South Delhi school, Hampton International. Dheeraj and Saba are the scholars determined to make the most of this golden chance, while Balli, a small-time influencer sees this as an entry point into the rich and fabulous lives of South Delhi hives.

Their arrival upturns the otherwise glass-bubble lives of the rich kids. A troubled Suhani and the sweet Dheeraj develop an unlikely friendship, Saba makes enemies of power couple Veer and Yashika and might become a pawn in their game. And Balli’s confidence catches the fancy of Koel and her boyfriend Sharan, who’re keen on bringing the spice back into their relationship. As their worlds collide, even people outside of their school, such as Dheeraj’s brother Neeraj aka Neeru, who needs to settle a bill with some dangerous people; Suhani and Veer’s father, the builder of the school that burned down and a man of many secrets; and Saba’s brother Faruq, who’s struggling with his sexuality and living under his father’s roof. All their lives are invariably pulled into the burgeoning mess, until it explodes, with the death of one student and a bunch of kids that become suspects.

Also Read: Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat Review: It Almost Happened In The First Half

Class Scores Well In Adapting The Source To Indian Sensibilities

Despite having watched the original and knowing who the killer is, I was pulled into this grim and gritty world of Delhi’s uber-rich and ultra-poor seamlessly. And the credit for that goes to the writers who’ve managed to offer a layered portrayal of Indian society.

As Neeru calls it, the caste system is the biggest scam in India. And so Dheeraj’s discrimination in school isn’t just a matter of class. His relationship with Suhani also leans into the territory of a lower caste boy dreaming of being with an upper caste girl, which perhaps is a bigger middle finger in Suhani’s father’s face than her dating a poor boy. After all, Dhruv isn’t exactly from a rich family; his mother is the school principal and his father is the swimming coach. And yet, he and his family are accorded the privilege of being in the elite social circle because of the position they hold. Balli, too, gets in with Koel and Sharan, because his social media clout and his good looks are the social currency that makes him tolerable and desirable.

With Saba’s story, Class tackles the precarious position of Muslims as a religious minority, particularly if they come from a certain part of the country, in this case, Kashmir. There’s also her brother Faruq and his relationship with Dhruv, and the danger that comes from being Muslim, queer, and from a lower class that dangles like a sword over their innocent romance. Although, I did feel like the stakes should’ve been a little higher in Faruq’s case.



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There’s a constant feeling, even while these rich upper-class kids are developing genuine bonds with Dheeraj, Saba, Balli, and Neeraj, that it is all just temporary and only as long as it is not causing them any inconvenience they cannot get out of. The entire time, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and these posh teens might just abandon it all and run in the opposite direction if it got worse. It’s something palpable in Class that I actually never felt in Elite, obviously due to just how intense and deep-rooted these discriminations run in our society. It further heightened the knowledge of just how disposable the rich and powerful think the poor and common people are for them.

Another thing, unlike Elite, is how effectively Class utilises the parental figures. The relationship that Dheeraj and Neeraj have with their father, Veer’s conflicting emotions about his father’s character, Yashika’s desperation for parental attention in that one powerful shot of her sitting by a huge swimming pool added so much depth to these characters.

The capital’s portrayal is one that left me bit conflicted; everything from the contrast between Dheeraj and Suhani’s homes to nooks where Faruq and Dhruv’s relationship blossoms works. And of course, the music, which such as the track by Prabh Deep, elevates the vibe that the makers are going for. And yet, it all still seems like a very unreal world, treading that line where it could just be fantastical or hyperbole.


For the most part, Class gets its casting right and it’s a bunch of talented actors that show promise. These actors also look like kids who go to high school as opposed to studs and models we’re used to seeing in high school dramas, thank heavens for that. The stroke of genius to not cast known faces pays off, because you are discovering them directly through their characters. The minor tweaks to their stories worked out for the most part, except perhaps Yashika being an annoying social media influencer. And yet, I often went back and forth, justifying but still bemused at just how accurately Class gripped the ‘vibe’ of what India’s elite Gen Z was all about.

Some of it made sense to me, like when Veer just walks up to Saba’s father and introduces himself. But some of it was just downright implausible, like when Yashika talks to the cop as if he’s her favourite rickshaw wala bhaiyya.

My favourite performances would have to be Cwaayal Singh who is ridiculously good as Balli,  (a huge compliment because Money Heist fame Miguel Herrán is a scene stealer as Christian in the original), Chayan Chopra as Dhruv, Piyush Khati as Dheeraj, Anjali Sivaraman as Suhani, and Gurfateh Pirzada as Neeru (again, big shoes to fill in for Money Heists’s Denver, Jaime Lorente as Nano). I particularly felt for the relationship between Dhruv and Faruq, perhaps a shade more than Elite’s equally endearing romance between Ander and Omar.

And while our Balli gives decent competition to Christian, I think Carla and Polo from Elite are a very difficult standard to crack. Carla, played by Ester Esposito, is one of my favourite characters from Elite because she is such a complex woman, constantly oscillating between ruthlessly calculating and self-destructingly caring for people she pretends not to care about. Naina Bhan’s Koel, though a good act, is yet to make me feel that fiercely for her.

Also Read: What To Watch This Week January 30 To February 3: Almost Pyaar, Class, And More


Class chooses to go for gritty rather than ape Elite. If the latter was a stylish thriller, always cold and calculating, Class gives off a warm, stuffy indie drama vibe. Nonetheless, it kept me interested, made me care for some of its characters, if not all, and didn’t feel out of place or overly exaggerated.

As someone who binged Elite and then Class right after, I see Class as a fairly strong adaptation of the Spanish source material, that doesn’t let the commentary on the social system, teenage lives, or any of the other themes it deigns to tackle, get lost in translation.   

Class is currently streaming on Netflix

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Jinal Bhatt

Sharp-tongued feminist. Proud nerd. Opinions with on-point pop-culture references about films, books, your toxic BF, the patriarchy, and the Oxford comma.

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