ELLE Digital Cover Stars: A Class Apart


If my co-workers had to describe me, perhaps the aptest way would be ‘walking pop-culture encyclopaedia’. A huge chunk of my time goes on Netflix, finding a show that will go beyond entertainment and add some perspective to my social lens. Netflix’s Class tick-marked everything on my checklist. Directed by Ashim Ahluwalia, the official Indian adaptation of Élite delivers a powerhouse storyline. Class debuted among the top 10 shows on Netflix in more than 13 countries! A show that tells a tale packed with conflict, sex, teenage angst, betrayal, and revolt successfully made itself the talk of the town, and an enormous credit for that goes to its talented cast.

Connecting with the cast over a Zoom call, we’ve got them to talk to us about their characters, future plans, and everything else. 

On Chayan: Full look by Jack and Jones, shoes by Skechers; On Chintan: Full look by Jack And Jones, necklace by Misho Designs, shoes by Skechers; On Ayesha Kanga: Full look by Only, earrings by Bling Sutra, shoes by Skechers; On Gurfateh: Full look by Jack and Jones, watch by Fastrack, shoes by Skechers.

Chintan Rachchh

A curly-maned, indie-clothing rocking guy, Chintan, aka Faruq Manzoor, describes himself as an actor and a walking handbook of Muztar Khairabadi poems. For Chintan, his character has many layers for the audience to unravel: a young, queer Kashmiri boy who shifted to Delhi with his family and somehow ended up selling drugs to rich kids. He knew he had to make the character more human than just existing through the lens people have already created around Omar Ayuso (from Elite). When he did his research on the original show, he was quite surprised by the queer representation on the screen. That made him realise that he had to present Faruq with a sense of normalcy where being queer is just an attribute. “There aren’t any rules when it comes to my work; I am 23 right now, and I want to experiment in every genre, be it completely filmy or some contemporary movie.”

Chayan Chopra

Chayan’s only concern for Dhruv’s character was not to stereotype him—the portrayal had to be authentic and relatable to the new generation of queer folks watching. He feels that mainstream media often fails to distinguish between the meanings of sexuality and gender. “I knew as a cishet man I won’t ever be able to understand the struggle queer people go through, but I feel comforted knowing that people can see themselves in Dhruv. Farooq and Dhruv are just two regular dudes in love, which has nothing to do with their gender, and receiving all the love is truly amazing. I would also give a special mention to Chintan (Rachchh) because our personal friendship is a big reason for the chemistry to be the way it is,” shares Chayan.

On Chayan: Full look by Jack and Jones; On Zeyn: Full look by Jack and Jone, necklace by Misho Designs, watch by Fastrack.

Gurfateh Singh Pirzada

A broody, serious boy who had nothing to do with this bunch of school kids suddenly became a fan favourite. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Gurfateh on Netflix—he has showcased his talent in the movie, Guilty. What makes him relate to Neeraj is the constant struggle to prove himself and the feeling of being an outcast. “If I had to look back at my 18-year-old self, I would tell him to keep doing what he is doing, don’t listen to others because everything you are dreaming of will work out.”

Ayesha Kanga

It’s been a long wait for us brown girls who have been aching for our own version of a ‘Material Girl’, and Yashika, played by Ayesha, definitely gets the ball rolling. Indians, as an audience, have always enjoyed the good girl trope, but Yashika of Class is more than that. Ayesha knew her character was someone people would love to hate. “Yashika is not a mean girl for the heck of it; she has been abandoned her whole life, and this little social media validation is something that keeps her sane but in a toxic way. The way people have reacted to me is thrilling and very satisfying; whenever someone points out the crying selfie scene and feels seen, it is the best compliment I have gotten.”

On Ayesha: Full look by Only, earrings by Bling Sutra, watch by Fastrack.

Zeyn Shaw

Everyone loves a good character arc; one coming through a budding love story is highly appreciated. When people saw Zeyn on screen, it gave birth to a new internet crush for us to obsess over. Playing the character of Veer Ahuja (based on Guzmán Nunier Osuna from the original show), who is so loved by everyone, came with its fair share of pressure. Zeyn knew he had to put in extra work to set himself apart from the regular bad boy gone good trope. “I was one of the last people to be locked for the show, and I seriously had to struggle in the starting days to play this douchebag persona because I am very shy.” 

On Zeyn: Full look by Jack and Jones, necklace by Misha, watch by Fastrack.

Cwaayal Singh

Playing a teenager at this age was, as expected, a huge challenge for Cwaayal, aka Balli. “I had to rewind to my teenage years to take up a few things like being carefree, witty, and charming and share it on the screen for everyone. Apart from personality notes, I also had to look at how the physicality was written; the first shot of me being semi-naked made me do a lot of calorie burning”. In comparison to Balli, he is quieter and calmer as a person. One thing that was constantly on his mind while shooting was the audience’s reaction. He felt that Balli might be too much for everyone in India, but getting all the positive responses makes him more confident for the upcoming season.

On Cwaayal: Full look by Jack and Jones, watch by Fastrack.

Naina Bhan

Naina not only portrayed Koel Kalra but realised she had a lot of takeaways from her character. To be able to play a convincing 18-year-old with unusual kinks so that people would buy it was a whole different dynamic. For Naina, all of this was a foreign concept, so seeing the character come to life was a gift that kept on giving. Koel was cunning, ambitious, and knew how to get things done. According to Naina, portraying someone like this was a dream come true. “The reason why I was even drawn to acting was that I’m a cinema enthusiast. I aim to become an executive producer and pick up stories I resonate with.”

On Madhyama: Full look by Only, earrings by Zillionare, watch by Fastrack; On Naina: Full look by Only, rings by Bling Sutra, Golden Window; On Moses Koul: Full look by Jack and Jonas.

Madhyama Segal

Coming from a classical dance background, acting was something Madhyama always thought about but never pursued. While preparing for her role, she knew she didn’t want to blindly replicate any attributes from the Spanish version of her character, Nadia. “My significant takeaway from Elite was to portray the character’s chemistry with Guzmán (Veer) because they are such a loved pair on-screen. I wanted to give Saba’s character more of my touch rather than being a reflection of Nadia and be authentic and fresh. I know that my life experiences are way different from Saba’s, and kudos to our director, Ashim, who knew what he was doing because Saba didn’t fall into the cliched Muslim girl trope. Her aura is more than that—she is a regular schoolgirl aiming to make a future for herself.”

Moses Koul

When he met the director, Ashim, Moses got a compliment that felt good but also added to the pressure; after all, it is not every day that you get called David Bowie! He recalls, “I don’t know if he meant it or said it just to encourage me, but I immediately jotted that down on my Notes app. Because for someone of Ashim’s stature to validate me was crucial and helped me understand his vision.” Coming from a musical background, acting felt comfortable to Moses, thanks to the similarities of both jobs. “There are rhythms, beats, and pacing to be matched between the characters and dialogue. Sharan is simply a guy who is  terribly in love with someone who doesn’t return the feeling, and that destroys him. I always compare him to a dark, hip-hop or rock track that is extremely moody or a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking ballad.”

Piyush Khati

With a modelling background, Piyush always wanted to pursue acting on a global platform. He has always dreamed of being loved and appreciated by the audience. “Right now, I am still processing what’s happening but enjoying it. I relate to Dheeraj on so many levels. Being an introverted kid from a small town who shifted to a big city like Delhi, I have seen this unsaid class division that people from small cities feel. Looking back, I would pat my younger self on the back for not stopping for anything. In the place I currently am, I still have a lot to learn and evolve as an individual and an actor.”

On Piyush: Full look by Jack and Jones, necklace by Misho, watch by Fastrack.

Anjali Sivaraman

Anjali’s character Suhani is an integral part of the show, and what makes her so relatable is her struggle with bullying and mental health. For Anjali, this is also her own struggle. “What pulled me towards Suhani are the life experiences we share on parallel lines. I have always been very vocal about my struggle with mental illness. Suhani, like me, might look strong and rebellious from the outside, but when one sees her closely, she is quite vulnerable. If I had to give Suhani some advice, it would simply be to slow down and stop rushing over things that aren’t in her control. Everything will be fine if you take one step at a time.”

On Anjali: Full look by Only, earrings by Ishhaara, shoes by Skechers.

Elle India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Photographer: Madhu Akula (Atisuto Creatives); Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Cover Design: Sanjana Suvarna;  Words: Ekta Sinha; Hair and Makeup: Daniel Bauer Academy; Bookings Editor: Alizaa Fatmaa; Brand Coordinator: Aangi Nahta; Production: Cutloose Productions; Assisted by: Komal Shetty, Twinkle Rawal (styling); Location Courtesy: Istituto Marangoni Mumbai.

- Digital Writer


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