We were all excited when Netflix announced Sacred Games as their first Indian original show. It is based on Vikram Chandra’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, and when we came to know about the casting and directors it made us even more excited. I was particularly eager to see how their joint venture with Phantom films turn out since Phantom has churned out a lot of great films the last couple of years. Now finally it’s here and I can confidently say that it lives up to its hype. I have not seen such a great combination of a tight thriller and a gritty gangster storyline for a long time. I could not put it down and had to watch the whole thing in almost one go. Quality and production wise it felt as good as the top English TV shows of this genre while maintaining the local flavour.
The best thing that the Sacred Games makers did was splitting it into two parts and then letting two of the best current Bollywood directors direct them separately since the two parts are slightly little different in tone. Anurag Kashyap handles the gritty 80s and 90s gangster storyline with ease as it’s his bread and butter and he has already done this before in Gangs of Wasseypur. On the other hand, Vikramaditya Motwane turns the present day storyline into a taut thriller, with space for a lot of character introspection and growth. Needless to say, both of them completely hit it out of the park.
I was afraid that Nawaz may overshadow everybody else and his story may become too dominant, but thankfully that was not the case. Saif not only held his own but gave one of his best performances till date. He gave a very restrained performance in many places where he could have gone louder, and it helped his trauma, helplessness, good intentions and competence shine much more. I really loved Katekar’s storyline and character so much. Rarely do we see a side character given such a complete story arc and make us emotionally invested in him. Jitendra Joshi brought his character to life with a brilliant performance that you can’t help but love him. Overall Motwane was superb in creating the tension and suspense, making it fast paced and heart thumping when needed and slow paced and character introspecting at other times. Special mention must also go to the background score which was phenomenal and helped set up the mood so well. Though I think he could have skipped the actress’ boyfriend abuse and drug addiction subplot. It felt superfluous and didn’t add much to the story.
There’s nothing much to say about the Kashyap-Nawaz combo. We have already seen that done masterfully in Gangs of Wasseypur and I didn’t expect anything less here. As a matter of fact, some scenes felt like a rehash of similar scenes in that film, including Nawaz’s reactions and attitude. It’s not a criticism, just an observation. Nawaz just lived and breathed the character of Ganesh Gaitonde and no praise is enough for him. There have been a lot of comparisons done between him and Pablo Escobar and it’s not without merit. I never found Escobar to be as conflicted or sympathetic as some people claim, he was just enigmatic. Ganesh Gaitonde had more humane qualities, especially his standpoint, criticism and handling of the religious angle was done with finesse and gave him a different dimension that we rarely see in mainstream characters.
But I do see a slight problem in his storyline. The series didn’t depict his rise to power that well. Especially how he became the king of his area, how he tamed his members to be so unflinchingly loyal, how he managed to unseat the existing don in the span of one night single-handedly, how exactly he runs his empire (the actual business, not the rival gang warfare) and exactly what he deals in; these parts are glossed over, which could have been shown in a little more detail.
The series has a plethora of great actors, and all of them played their part to perfection. In fact, it was Radhika Apte who didn’t stand out that much despite having such a major role. She was good, just not up to the level of the rest of the cast. Pankaj Tripathi was just teased here as a guest role, but in that limited part, he already made us excited about seeing him in a much more prominent role in season 2.
The story is only halfway done and it ends on a tensed note. It leaves us wanting more and especially the parts of the story it teased for season 2 for both parts of the storyline to seem even more interesting. I am eagerly waiting for season 2 now.
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Sourav is a fan of everything fantasy or sci-fi but also likes real-life dramas. An engineer by profession, he is deeply passionate about tv shows in general as well as computer games. He also loves to read, analyze and discuss different reviews, viewpoints and fan comments in forums and occasionally writes pieces to pass the time.
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