Sacred Games is brilliant but requires a sustained suspension of disbelief
In the first episode of the web-series Sacred Games, based on a novel by Vikram Chandra and directed by Anurag Kashyap, gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) calls cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and warns him that something terrible is going to happen in the next 25days. If his subsequent suicidecomes as a shock, it’s nothing close to what he was warning Singh about: an impending nuclear attack on Mumbai! The villain? Not Pakistan, but a homegrown godman.
To describe the series as over the top wouldn’t do justice to its nuances and great acting. Sacred Games explores the symbiotic relationship between organised crime, the police, politicians and businessmen (and their spiritual advisors) in present-day India.The story, set against the gritty backdrop of Mumbai, traces the evolution of a street kid in the teeming slums of the city intoits biggest gang boss.Gaitonde, a man of many talents, charms women as easily as he wields a weapon, capable of both compassion for his friends and utter ruthlessness towards those who dare cross him.
But he never forgets his humble origins and, through his tumultuous life,that remains the source of his deepest insecurity. He fears nothing more than being forgotten, of dying unremembered.Gaitonde learns to turn his fear into his most potent weapon. He realises that everybody is afraid of something and if he can use that weaknessto his advantage he can manipulate and control anyone. He becomes the leader of a criminal gang, is imprisoned and regains his position in the underworld although he’s forced to flee broad.
Gaitonde has ‘father issues’ too. He is riven by guilt towards his father, who goes to jail for a crime that he (Gaitonde) committed – the lad murdered his mother when he found her in bed with her lover. But it’s the third father figure in his life that turns out to be more than he can handle, Khanna Guruji (Pankaj Triapthi), a spiritual leader who has planted a nuclear device somewhere in Mumbai and that’s set to go off soon. Guruji wants to cleanse the world of sin and Mumbai seems the logical place to begin.
Netflix India has released two seasons of the series, a third is in the works. Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane have done a great job of directing and editing the episodes. The series owes a lot of its appeal to the clever dialogue and witty lines written by Varun Grover. The soundtrack, composed by Alokananda Dasgupta, is riveting. The cinematography is splendid, with an eye for detail and an appreciation for the kaleidoscope that is Mumbai.But the standout is the acting. Siddiqui and Khan are brilliant, ably supported by Radhika Apte, KalkiKochlin and Triapthi. As for Ganesh Gaitonde, it’s almost as if Vikram Chandra had Nawazuddin Siddiqui in mind when he set out to craft this outlandish but thrilling tale.