Word about this new original Indian web series has spread like an epidemic. You can’t escape the memes either. Sacred Games. Currently available on Netflix. It made me so curious that I had to see it. And once I began watching the episodes over the weekend, I was hooked.
Sacred Games (Season 1) is an eight-part thriller based on Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name. It traces the journey of two men in the city of Mumbai. One, a ganglord with a conscience (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who gets entangled in the web of politics. The other, an upright Sikh cop (Saif Ali Khan) who is trying to walk his narrow righteous path when the world around him is crumbling to corrupt forces. How do their lives intersect? Why does the gangster tip off the honest cop about impending doom in the city of Mumbai?
It is for the first time that I’ve seen such a slickly produced Indian series. Directors Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap are at the top of their game. Yes, the language is coarse and replete with profanity. The series has nudity and violence (on one occasion so gruesome that I screamed aloud). So strictly not recommended for the squeamish or the prude. But having said that, I have nothing but abundant praise for the quality of writing that the trio of Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath have come up with. Scene after scene, you are left gasping at the execution of their craft. Aarti Bajaj’s editing and Alokananda Dasgupta’s background score enhance the impact even more.
What makes it top class viewing is the ability of each performer- big or small- to get under the skin of their character. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s body language is impeccable and just when you feel you have seen it all, he springs up another unexpected emotion. There is one scene where he finally reaches a club where he had been denied entry at first. He confronts a rich gangster. In that one moment when he places his hand on his hip and changes his stance, he conveys clearly that he has arrived. Saif is subdued and brilliant. He speaks fluent Punjabi and his portrayal of a cop who is past his time, but determined to hold on to his middle class values is spot on. Supporting him in each scene is Jitendra Joshi, playing Inspector Katekar, whose Marathi dialogues, humour, and mannerisms endear him instantly. Radhika Apte as a no-nonsense RAW agent depicts her frustration at being sidelined to a desk job beautifully. Neeraj Kabi playing Parulkar, the spunky Rajshri Deshpande playing Subhadra, Kubra Sait as Kuckoo, Jatin Sarna as Bunty, Geetanjali Thapa as Nayanika, and Girish Kulkarni as Bipin Bhosale are all so adept at their craft, that it is tough to choose who is better.
Another aspect that I loved was the intricate art work done with the opening credits and how each episode is named after a character from mythology. The eight episodes of Season 1 are named: Ashwatthama, Halahala, AtapiVatapi (the title I adored), Brahmahatya, Sarama, Pretakalpa, Rudra and Yayati. All so meaningful when you watch the story.
Overall, this is a ground breaking series. It is a script which drags you into a heady cocktail of ambition, religion and politics. And be prepared to binge watch. It is an addictive story, which moves at a rapid pace, keeping you completely engrossed. I hear there are plans of producing four seasons of this show- eight episodes each. I hope my favourite Pankaj Tripathi will be somewhere at the forefront of the next season. Impatiently waiting for Season 2.