By: MOHNISH SINGH
A BIG streaming site success this month has been Class, the Hindi adaptation of the hit Spanish drama Elite.
The eight-episode Netflix series about working-class students enrolled at an elite school with wealthy classmates has received a positive response from critics and audiences alike.
Exciting newcomer Chintan Rachchh has been universally praised for his portrayal of Faruq Manzoor, a drug dealer in a same-sex relationship with one of his sister’s classmates.
Eastern Eye recently spoke to the talented young actor about the response to Class, how he bagged the high-profile project, the show’s most challenging scene and his preparation for playing the demanding role. He also revealed why his parents were initially against him becoming an actor.
Your debut show Class has received a great response on Netflix and trended across social media. How does it feel?
I am overwhelmed. I have seen people raving about the show on Twitter and Instagram, but the most tweeted thing right now is that they loved Faruq and Dhruv’s character arch. I cannot express in words how happy I am right now.
Tell us about some of the reactions you have been getting for Class?
To be honest, I was really worried about how people would take Faruq as a character, but I am relieved that they are loving him. Apart from that, my friends, who I have not spoken to after quitting my engineering degree, are texting me out of nowhere. I had not even shared the trailer with them, but they are just texting me, saying, ‘Oh, we saw you on the show, you did an amazing job.’ And they are not just writing some random, stereotypical thing. They are writing long paragraphs.
Does so much acclaim and appreciation for your debut project put any kind of pressure on you?
No, in fact you feel validated as an artist, just by taking all of these things in because they are all very surreal. This is my debut show. Before that, people didn’t know me. People in theatre or in a poetry circle might have known me, but not as an actor. Some of my friends are messaging me that they didn’t know I am this great of an actor. That’s funny. So, I am just taking it all in.
How have your parents reacted to the show and your character in particular?
So, I come from a place called Rajkot in Gujarat. My parents live there and haven’t seen the show yet. My sister has actually seen it in bits and pieces. She was like, ‘Oh my god, the character you have picked up is pretty hard, but you have killed it.’ It’s really nice – you know, your friends and family validating you is something indescribable. They know you from scratch.
How did you bag this project?
I was doing my first print shoot for a brand some time in January 2020, and the same month, I got a call from Prashant Singh from Wayward Monk Casting. He was casting for Class. The brief was that somebody in India was trying to make a show along the lines of Euphoria or one of these young adult shows. So, I auditioned for the show in January, and then there was lockdown.
What happened next?
For three months, there was no response. In fact, during lockdown, the casting director contacted me for some other character [in Class] called Neeraj [Kumar Valmiki], that Gurfateh Singh Pirzada is playing now. He also spoke to me about the character of Balli Sehrawat [portrayed by Cwaayal Singh]. I auditioned for these two roles as well, but there was radio silence for two-three months. Out of nowhere in July, I get a call, and they tell me that I am in for the character of Faruq. I was like, ‘Yes, I love that character. This is the coolest character.’ I reauditioned and got a call that Netflix really liked me. So that was like my miracle moment.
Who did you share the good news with?
I told nobody about it. I was quiet for almost two-three hours. I was 21 when all this happened and was really thrilled. Bagging a Netflix project as a debutant and that too a show of such a scale was something.
What did you like most about the character of Faruq?
When I read the script and basic brief of Faruq for the first time, I thought it was amazing. If you see, it is a pretty layered character, and his attributes are very offbeat from the other cast members. It was a challenge for me, and I am the youngest member of the cast. I worked hard to make him as human as possible – Ashim Ahluwalia, the showrunner, wanted me to be as real and as human as possible, and not overact, but find the perfect balance.
How did you prepare for this role and did you meet anybody from the LGBTQI community as part of your preparation to play Faruq?
So, I had many conversations with multiple people about this part. I had a dialect coach, a person from Kashmir who has lived in Delhi for five years. Yes, I have also had friends from the LGBTQI community who have helped me out. I asked them several things, and they told me how to do certain things. I had taken all the notes and discussed them with the acting coach, too. There were also workshops provided by Netflix for us.
What was the most challenging scene to perform in Class?
There is a one-minute scene in the seventh episode, where I am just listening to music, and my mother knocks on the door and says, ‘Food is served’.
Why was that challenging?
So, if you watch that scene, I have made it very human, and am breathing intensely during that time. Faruq was caught selling drugs, but now he is just in his home, under house arrest of sorts. Somewhere, you can see the anger on his face. Another difficult scene was the confrontation with my sister Saba. She confronts Faruq, saying, “Do you like boys?” and he gives a powerful reply. I put in a lot of effort to make this scene look very human.
You dropped out of engineering to pursue a career in acting. Were your parents supportive of that decision?
No, they never wanted me to be an actor. It really started with a ‘no’ all the time. As I said earlier, I come from a Gujarati family. The society I live in really wants people to get settled in their lives. They want finite things to happen. They want security. My parents really wanted me to be an engineer, get a job, do a masters degree if I wanted to, and then again find a better job, earn more, get married, and have good kids. But after some time, they were like, ‘Do whatever you want to do, but complete your engineering. We are then all ok with that (acting).’
Class is on Netflix now