SPOILER ALERT. Behind the world of elites lie an aggravating reality away from hollow relationships and superficial shenanigans. Class, Netflix’s adaptation of the Spanish show Elite dismantles the patchy fabric of society and provides a social commentary by juxtaposing two contrasting worlds: the world of haves and have-nots.
After a suspicious fire burns Nurpur Khatola Government School, three students, Dheeraj Valmiki, Balram Patwal a.k.a. Balli, and Saba Manzoor, from a poor neighbourhood are enrolled in the dreamy world of Hampton International via scholarship. The more they try to blend among their hostile classmates, the more they get drawn into the pothole of lies, dark secrets, rumours, and complexes governing the world of the privileged. The ensuing chaos results in the murder of one of the students.
This adult drama show constantly moves to and fro between past and present as the police try to solve the murder mystery. With multiple plots and sub-plots, the show provides a commentary on a host of social issues. While the discussion may feel a bit too stretched and forced at certain junctures, they are nonetheless important.
1. Classism, casteism, and communalism fuel the angsty privileged teenagers and their bigoted parents bitten by a superiority complex.
The show does not hold back in reminding the audience how bigoted sentiments are deeply entrenched in society. The rich spoilt brats relentlessly bully, demean, and mock the newcomers for their background; while their parents try to whitewash their image by pretending to care about the world.
For the school, admitting newcomers is nothing more than a publicity gimmick to do the ‘we care about the world and society’ dance. On the contrary, Hampton is a life-changing opportunity for Dheeraj, Saba, and Balli to escape poverty and alter their life’s trajectory, presently affected by their caste, religion, and bank balance. Blinded by wealth and power throughout the series, we see rich kids smug about their wealth and voice their apathy against the poor and people from the minority religion.
2. The world of social media defines the perception of self among teenagers, who evaluate themselves basis Instagram likes and followers.
A chilling commentary on how the social media complex envelopes the life of young adults comes forth in a scene when Yashika Mehta, played by Ayesha Kanga, is seen breaking down. Within a minute, she picks up her phone and clicks selfies to evade her immediate reality. We also see Balli trying to win friends in the new school by boasting his 289K followers on Instagram. The students’ chatroom is another boiling pot of gossip and rumours meant to humiliate one another.
3. Homophobic discourse in society prevents closeted LGBTQ+ students from embracing their true selves. If they were to openly admit their sexual orientation, they’d be mocked by peers, while their parents would act estranged.
One of the best parts of the series is the heart-touching relationship between Faruq and Dhruv. The two inhabit the opposite ends of the spectrum; they’re united by love beyond social binaries but divided by their prejudiced society.
Dhruv’s family reduce his sexuality as a teen experimenting, and they think he should get counselling. The show blasts the ‘bade shehron‘ and ‘padhe likhein logon‘ myths to highlight how even money and education can do little to move a prejudiced mind.
4. Amidst the filtered lives of a posh society, people struggling with mental health become misfits and rebels as their challenges get dismissed time and again.
Suhani Ahuja, played by Anjali Sivaraman, was forced to go on pills from an early age by her parents, who wanted a son in her place. They keep dismissing her mental health and project their own mistakes upon their daughter. Having grown up in such an environment, Suhani does not care about her family or their reputation and openly declares she hates them. She craves love and kindness, and this is also the reason why she gets drawn towards Dheeraj and his brother Neeraj.
5. Ambition, big lies, drugs, lust, power, wealth, insecurity, and rivalry govern the dystopian setting of the series. Characters are flawed, morality is selective, and people are the agents of their selfish desires.
However, the show becomes undeniably cringe at many moments. Given how much of the drama unfolds in the elite Hampton International, it also becomes very unrealistic in its representation of Indian schools. Even the issues highlighted in the series feel forced many times. The audience is time and again reminded that the show is delving into societal problems.
Regardless of its flaws, the series is bold and inclusive. It gives a compelling commentary on the problematic moral fabric of our society.