Review: Class of ’83

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Director: Atul Sabharwal                                                                                                Cast: Bobby Deol (Vijay Singh), Anup Soni (Manohar Patkar), Joy Sengupta (Raghav Desai), Hitesh Bhojraj (Vishnu Varde), Sameer Paranjape (Aslam Khan), Bhupendra Jadawat (Pramod Shukla), Ninad Mahajani (Laxman Jadhav), Prithvik Pratap (Janardan Surve)                                                                                                                  Original Audio: Hindi                                                                                                Genre: Suspense, Crime                                                                                            Streaming platform: Netflix

Based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s book with the same name, Class of ’83 brings out the stark naked picture of the Mumbai Police during the mid-80s and 90s in a breezy way.

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Set in the backdrop of 1982, a trio consisting of Aslam, Varde, and Shukla gets into the Police Training Centre, Nashik. The onset takes us to the typical boy’s hostel environment.

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A still from Class of ’83. (Image Source: Google)

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As his quest to nab a dreaded underworld gang-lord Kalsekar goes awry, a veteran cop named Vijay Singh is relegated to the post of a Dean at this academy. At the same time, he has to come to terms with the sudden death of his wife. These events make his life gloomy and he avoids going to the academy in the starting.

Freaked out from their academic downfall, the trio decides to sneak in the academy’s weapons training instructor Mangesh Dixit‘s house. Ill-luck, the trio encounters the Dean there and end up getting bruised. A very interesting interrogation takes place in the classroom after this incident. Filmmaker Atul Sabharwal sets up neat yet understated parallels between the real world and the academy. The latter reveres the rules; the former scoffs at them. So, it makes sense that Singh is drawn to the five cohorts struggling to complete the syllabus. For if the rules had indeed worked, he might not have met them at all in the Class of ’83.

Singh then decides to make a five-men secret squad involving these cadets, as ‘anti-bodies’ into the police system as an experiment.

“Unhe bina jurisdiction our restriction ke gangsters ka encounter karne ki freedom hogi”, Singh says firmly. (Image Source: Google)

Singh realizes that even though he followed the law diligently, he wasn’t able to play smart enough to protect himself. As a result, he fell prey to a corrupt nexus between the politicians and the underworld. And this time, he makes sure that these five picks are well-acquainted with the game along with practical knowledge.

As the Class of ’83 passes out and joins the Mumbai Police force, it takes a few years before Singh’s plans can start to take shape. Initially, the five young men swoon to blow off the gangster Kalsekar keeping in mind that he has a tip-off from the home minister, Manohar Patkar. They very systematically encounter one of the key-gang members and even manage to fool their senior officers.

Vishnu Varde from a still of Class of ’83. (Image Source: thewire)

But, like all good plans, this only worked for a while. The plot welcomes Naik gang, which is a gang of mill workers who tend to cause casualties to protest against the injustices done to them. Naik and Kalsekar are hardcore enemies. The encounter squad finds it difficult to juggle between the two. Here, carnivorous hunger takes the better of the cops, and everything becomes a fair game. Varde and Shukla fall into the trap of deceit, fake encounters, cover-ups and even colluding with the rival gangs of Naik and Kalsekar. This very scuffle gives a much-needed edge to the movie. After a point, the students except Aslam start outpacing their mentor, as the original motive becomes increasingly murky.

Clean-collared Aslam, now, carries the ball with a strong reliable information network of postmen. But ill-luck, he gets attacked by a key-gang member of Kalsekar succumbing to his injuries. Aslam’s sacrifice doesn’t get wasted as it pacifies the tussle between Varde and Shukla. The remaining four policemen come together.

Who will go straight with the jugular and against whom? Will that be Kelsekar or the secret squad? Or the Naik gang? Above all, will the Dean be able to move on from his past?

Watch Class of ’83 streaming now on Netflix.

Class of ’83 stays clear of needless sentimentality that often accompanies a film centered on honor and duty. And that’s because it knows that every bullet fired consumes two lives: one facing the gun, and the other behind it.

Above all, the film triumphs its objective of “working in the system and not for it”. But at the same time, it does a subtle commentary on the difficulties of subverting the system. At various points in the film, Bobby Deol’s character speaks about the pillars of democracy — the government, the judiciary, and law enforcement — in biological terms. In one scene, he compares them to impenetrable fortresses. This real-life hypocrisy is engaging.

Poljac’s cinematography is exquisite with palpable detailing. Deol turns in a competent performance, and so do the five young actors. Deol’s stoic yet rusty look marked by emotional phases adds a new dimension to the film. The five new faces seem promising. Their actions throughout the film keep the plot engaging and the viewers off the hook.

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Himanshi Dhawan
Likes to do MUNs and speedcubing. A Shutterbug. Capable of sniffing an Atlas 24x7.

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