Class of ’83 director Atul Sabharwal reveals that of all the actors he approached, it was only Bobby Deol who was in sync with the emotion of the script. This gave him the confidence to cast the actor in the lead role of Dean Vijay Singh in the Netflix film. The Red Chillies Entertainment production marks the digital debut of Bobby.
Class of ’83 has been adapted from Hussain Zaidi’s book Class of ’83: The Punishers of Mumbai Police. Set in the 1980s, the film revolves around cop Vijay Singh, who gets a punishment posting as the dean of a police academy. Along with his classes, he trains a secret squad of young police officers to kill members of a crime ring who are apparently dangerous to Bombay.
Also starring Anup Soni, Joy Sengupta and Vishwajeet Pradhan, along with newcomers Bhupendra Jadawat, Hitesh Bhojraj, Sameer Paranjape, Ninad Mahajani and Prithvik Pratap, Class of 83 is currently streaming on Netflix.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Atul Sabharwal got candid about the casting process and recreating the 80s on screen.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Q. How challenging does it become to establish a certain era on screen?
Very challenging depending on the means that you have. Apart from Vijay Singh’s character, which was the first thing I fell in love with, my main attraction to Class of ’83 was also the charm of creating the period which I sort of grew up in – the 80s. So it was challenging but also so much fun that it never struck as a challenge. It was rather an opportunity to live through that experience. And of course, we had a very resourceful production house in Red Chillies and very good technicians to recreate it.
Q. The film has Bobby Deol in a completely new avatar. How was it getting him onboard?
We thought of everybody who was within that age group and we went to everybody. But sometimes when you get feedback from an actor, you realise who’s the most in sync with the emotion of the script, who doesn’t want to change anything in it. It was only Bobby who gave us that confidence that he would like to do it the way it is written without changing anything. When he talked to me, I could see that in the years that he has spent in this industry, he has gone through most of those emotions. Of course, he’s also a father of two teenage children. So, he’s in that age and frame of mind. When we had that interaction, it cemented in my head that he is the best choice among those that are available to us.
Q. The film also has a whole bunch of newcomers – Bhupendra Jadawat, Hitesh Bhojraj, Sameer Paranjape, Ninad Mahajani and Prithvik Pratap, apart from other actors. Take me through their casting process.
The casting of actors like Annup Sonii and everybody else was based on the screen test that they gave. But casting of the cadets was something that gave me nightmares right from the start. More than the fact that it’s a period film, the fact that if these five go wrong, the whole film would go wrong. That was something both I and Abhimanyu Ray, the casting director, were conscious of.
We tested people not just individually, but in a batch of fives, and we kept rotating them until we shortlisted 15. We didn’t assign any particular part to any actor. They were testing and reading for all the characters. So there was a lot of elimination rounds. Finally, this is the group of five which emerged from those 15 shortlist actors. Sometimes, it’s not just the acting talent, but also the chemistry an actor can create as a couple, or as a group of friends, which becomes important. And these five boys stood out.
Q. Give me five reasons to watch Class of ’83.
Watch it for the Bombay that will never ever be what it was. Watch it for Bobby Deol. Watch it for the great story and the ideology that it represents of the policemen of that era, and watch it because I’ve made it.
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