Based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s book, “The Class of ‘83: The Punishers of Mumbai Police,” this latest Netflix India film tells the story of demoted cop Vijay Singh (Bobby Deol) who is put on a punishment posting at a police training academy and subsequently trains five cadets to secretly kill powerful gangsters in an effort to eliminate corruption in India.
“Class of ‘83” marks the third collaboration between Netflix and Sharkukh Khan’s production company Red Chillies Entertainment. Directed by Atul Sabharwal, “Class of ‘83” proudly embraces its 80s Bollywood tropes, and cinematographer Mario Poljac does a great job creating the film’s atmosphere and setting to match the era. From vintage transportation to old Bollywood movie posters, the production design and cinematography is one of the few strengths of the 98-minute film. However, the film gets too tied up in its own aesthetic and ends up compromising everywhere else.
The screenplay, written by Abhijeet Deshpande, barely scratches the surface of what the book details so well. Since the story is told over the course of a decade, the film rushes important aspects of the story that needed more attention. The development of the friendship between the five cadets is shown through various montage sequences. The villain’s introduction is made through an exposition scene by the lead – though he only appears in the final 20 minutes of the film. It seems the filmmakers have tried to cram a story that takes place over a decade into too short of a running time, so the film fails to make a memorable impact.
The biggest problem with “Class of ‘83” is its lazy storytelling. The story is told through the voice-over narration of one of the five cadets, Aslam Khan, played by Sameer Paranjape. His narration explains the progression of the story over montage sequences. There are several instances throughout the film where it felt more like an audiobook with visuals, rather than an actual film.
The casting is good, with notable standout performances from Hitesh Bhojraj as Vishnu Varde and Bhupendra Jadawat as Pramod Shukla. The relationship the two characters share is the strongest part of the film from a characterization perspective. The two start off as best friends, and seeing how their egos get in the way of their friendship is the only interesting part of the story. Bobby Deol as Vijay Singh is the kind of character audiences have not yet seen the actor play in his career, and he does a fair job considering the material he is given to work with.
Some scenes – like the first killing by the five cadets and a flashback of Singh’s past – make an impact, but they aren’t enough to save the film from feeling rushed. The climax is poorly edited, forcing the scene to a very anticlimactic resolution. Director Atul Sabharwal said in a behind-the-scenes feature that “Class of ‘83” is “a police drama which we have not seen at least [in India].” While there is an attempt to differentiate the film from a standard cop drama, the many shortcomings in the screenplay and direction fail to make the film stand out among the many cop dramas Bollywood has to offer.
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