No Netflix venture had ever garnered such earth-shattering responses from India ever. There is nothing like it and chances are there will not be. Sacred Games, the phenomenal India-based Netflix original from last year arrived for its second run on August 15. To put briefly, it surpassed its own legacy in all senses and set a benchmark all while remaining somewhat faithful to the source material.
Adapted from Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel of the same name, Sacred Games immediately continues from where it had left off in season one. An intertwined tale of gangsters, terrorists, burdened policemen and the impending doom of a megacity we know as Mumbai, the show’s second season almost had it all perfectly cooked. The story of Sartaj Sing (Saif Ali Khan) and the flashback of Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawajuddin Siddiqui) both served their purposes and even set course for an uncharted territory above personal gains or loses.
Gaitonde is found sailing towards Kenya after escaping imminent death in the final episode of the first season, soon to be running errands for RAW agent Yadav Madam (Amruta Subhash). In the present times, Sartaj Singh, in-charge of a special probe, is dissecting the remnants from the bunker where the first season ended. From there on the story unfolds forcing the goodwill of Sartaj to play higher stakes to save not only his city but humankind.
Pankaj Tripathi’s excellent performance as will surely leave the audience spell-bound. Gaitonde’s relationship with his ‘third father’, Guruji, has been portrayed throughout eight episodes as intriguingly as possible.
A godman, adored and idolised by many is on with his plan to ‘purify’ earth and has armed a terrorist group with a nuclear bomb for erasing Mumbai from the face the of earth. Should his plan succeed; a global warfare will soon take place to put an end the to the world. Pankaj played this supreme role with utmost precision giving a shout out to similar figures throughout history.
In the contrast, Sartaj discovers the connection between his father Dilbagh Singh (Jaipreet Singh) and Gaitonde where Batya Abelman (Kalki Koechlin) played a pivotal role, serving as the unofficial protégé of Guruji. Now deep down the cult of Guruji, his unconfident characteristics shatters giving birth to a conscious patriot.
What has elevated the show from its linear progress in the season one is the presentation of geopolitical tensions and focus on subplots placed across the narrative. References including 1947’s Partition, Indira Gandhi’s Emergency era, Babri Masjid demolition, 1992 blasts, 9/11 and 2008’s Mumbai attack were spot on. Nods to modern day issues of religious intolerance, extremism as well as suppression of Muslim community were put cleverly. The detailing in this aspect was superb right from Sartaj’s kada to Hizbuddin’s hate-fueled propaganda materials. The entanglement of power, politics and religion has been shown subtly.
Aside from the narrative of the story, the hype surrounding it has taken the sub-continental audience by storm. Not only in India, but Sacred Games has a wide section of followers from Bangladesh who treat it as a cult hit. The political messages and the realistic representation of South-East Asian conflicts are key attractions along with the gripping fiction attached to it.
Whether Sartaj is able to stop the bomb or not that remains to be seen in season two. The open ended yet true-to book approach of the show-runners now supposedly put them in a dilemma as the adaptation of nearly one thousand page long novel is complete with season two. However, Netflix authority should not take hasty measures by pulling the plug on such a popular show set in India.
Neeraj Ghaywan, replacing Vikramaditya Motwane had been pitch-perfect for directing modern day saga of Sartaj while Anurag Kashyap directed the phenomenal tale of Ganesh Gaitonde. Both benefitted from the intense script written by a team led by Varun Grover based on the novel.
To take the points away one can say the second season lacked the actions ad twists (although there are plenty) that was shown marvelously in the first season. The pacing of the middle part seemed a little sluggish. But make no mistake the new season did not lack visual brilliance as well as the much necessary grittiness which in collaboration with the top notch acting of the ensemble cast. It has raised the benchmark for Indian thrillers be it movie or webseries to an extent that can only be compared with groundbreaking Netflix sagas like Narcos, Money Heist and so on.
Sacred Games is now available on Netflix.