“Kabhi kabhi lagta hai ki apun hi Bhagwaan hai”
When news broke that Netflix would be divulging an Indian series directed by two Bollywood titans of the indie realm – Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, and pioneered by virtuosos Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan, expectations popped overhead like confetti. ‘Sacred Games’ released yesterday, and it’s better than I would have ever thought it could be. Three episodes down and I’m already dreading devouring it up without savoring each bite – that’s how utterly delicious it is.
The two emboss together their gritty best, and we see it from the very first scene – a nihilistically hilarious yet incredibly grotesque opening shot of a dead Pomeranian dog thrown out a building in Bombay, India. Nawazuddin as unflinching gangster Ganesh Gaitonde and Saif as troubled policeman Sartaj Singh both helm this original Netflix show beautifully, with the first episode weaving together their characters in an overarching parallel plot; Sartaj must unravel the harrowing suicide of one of India’s most ruthless gangsters. Ganesh shoots himself in the piquing climax of the first episode after luring Sartaj into his nest, warning him that the time is nigh for Bombay. It’s unarguably Saif’s best performance to date and heralds a pass for the actor for international spotting (Nawazuddin’s already a familiar face).
The raw editing is another splendor, and bravo to Aarti Bajaj for brushing off his cinematic divination. The dialogues are sewn together with religious threads, each strummed with Gaitonde’s chilling voiceover throughout: “Bhagwaan ko maante ho?” It’s this oxymoronic element, where religion is constantly pinned as something that his both annihilating and cultivating through the show that is particularly exceptional. Ganesh reveals ‘Gurujis’ he sees as bhagwaans and how he eventually overthrows each of them, only to find new ones to appease his growing worldly appetite.
Strong cussing and raw verbal exchanges are ripe in the show, and it’s precisely thanks to having ‘Sacred Games’ on Netflix ( rather than as a Bollywood film subjected to scrutiny and inevitable censorship) that allows ‘Sacred Games’ to hold its own ground. Showrunner Vikramaditya Motwane gives ‘Sacred Games’ his body and soul. Adapting a 947-page novel is a Herculean task, yet each scene is crafted to his illustrious flair. Anurag and Vikramaditya directed together, splitting direction duties between the two; Anurag directed Nawazuddin’s scenes and Vikramaditya directed Saif’s.
‘Sacred Games’ is not to be trifled with. It’s one of the best shows to ever come out, and it’s only the beginning for Indian domination toplining the future of new-age viewing. I’ll be binge-watching the rest of the show post writing this up, so watch this space for more updates.