From Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer and Shimit Amin’s Ab Tak Chappan to Mahesh Manjrekar’s Kurukshetra and Prabhudeva’s Wanted, in how many films have we seen the cop-hero battling the dreaded ‘System’ from the outside? As far as originality goes, Class Of 83 scores poorly. It looks like an encore of dozens of anti-establishment and angry-cop films we have seen over the years, when in truth Class Of 83 is THE original Dirty Harry of Indian cinema. In the 1971 game-changing cop film, Clint Eastwood throws his police badge in the muddy water and deals with a rampageous killer as he deems fit.
Things are not that simple for super cop Vijay Singh (played with suspicious stoicism by Bobby Deol). Unlike ‘Dirty’ Harry Eastwood, Deol has to play the law enforcer within the rulebook. Also, he is not a made-up character buoyed by flights of frenzy. What sets Vijay Singh apart from all the other screen cops is his identity. He is a real person.
Scripted from Hussain Zaidi’s real-life encounter-cop Vijay Singh, Class Of 83 adheres closely to facts, discarding in the process all the flamboyant heroics of the way we look at cop heroes in our films. Vijay Singh is suicidal and troubled by the arrogance of the lawless. His team of young eliminators is fresh young enthusiastic and raring to act. And I do refer to both the young actors and the restless characters they play. Pramod Shukla (Bhupendra Jadawat), Lakshman Jadhav (Ninad Mahajani), Vishnu Varde (Hitesh Bhojraj), Aslam Khan (Sameer Paranjape) and Janardan Surve (Prithvik Pratap) are as impressive in their anxious righteousness on-screen characters as they are as actors.
Aslam’s murder in the hands of chain snatchers, shot with a Sam Peckinpah lunacy on a construction site, has one of the goons humming, ‘Chain churake laya hoon’ to the tune of Gulzar’s Chand Churake Laya Hoon. It is the only music you will hear in this film. No melodic outbursts in the background, no compromise with the mood of no-compromise that the protagonists wear like badges.
I wish Bobby Deol looked more driven. His body language is way too languid for an on-the-prowl cop. He is more effective in his emotional moments with his dying wife (Geetika Tyagi) and disgruntled son, than he is as a uniformed land-mower constantly battling his red-tapism. The ‘encounters’ are staged with a feral fidelity that emblazons the screen. The crusty toasted-brown cinematography (by the Norwegian Mario Poljac) pins down the sweat nervousness of lives on the brink. Class Of 83 effectively reflects the immediacy of quick justice. It is a sharp-shooting drama, lacking in newness but making up for it by making the familiar look furious fertile and disturbingly futile.