A giant leap for homegrown Indian content
The future lies in streaming. And Netflix India’s first home-grown web series ‘Sacred Games’ serves as a testament to the said prophecy. Sticking true to author Vikram Chandra’s critically-acclaimed novel with the same name, celebrated directors Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap alongwith writers Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath whip up a delicious cocktail, offering us varying interpretations on the glorious labyrinth that we know better as Mumbai.
To be honest, Mumbai plays the fourth wall supporting the three actors of the primary cast featuring Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte. Specifically between Saif’s character Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde, essayed by Nawaz. Through their parallel perspectives, we learn how the two feel about the city. While one loathes it, the other lusts after it. How Mumbai embraces and ruins all remains a myth, unsolved.
A mysterious phone call by Gaitonde to Sartaj, informing him about a potential threat lurking to endanger Mumbai, sets the latter on a cat-and-mouse chase, opening a can of worms highlighting Gaitonde’s rise and fall in the Mumbai underworld, spanning across 25 days. Gaitonde confesses to Sartaj that they share a karmic connection. While Gaitonde is the shrewd, unscrupulous gangster with no bounds, Sartaj is the upright, righteous-to-a-fault policeman. Radhika Apte joins Sartaj on his mission as RAW analyst Anjali Mathur. That’s the least of the plot we can give away for now. Sigh.
To say that Nawaz is the scene-stealer in the show is quite repetitive, so we’ll do without the cliché. But it’s an absolute delight to see Saif reinvent himself, with the show. The actor sports an unflattering belly, to play a distraught policeman, coming to terms with his corrupt colleagues and a broken marriage. Thankfully Radhika’s accent isn’t as unbearable as it was in ‘Lust Stories’, earlier this year. But she does couple grace and authority to give us a standout performance, while looking straight out from a Fab India ad.
To give credit where its due, the biggest accomplishment that ‘Sacred Games’ achieves is the stupendous cast put together by casting director Mukesh Chhabra, even for smaller, supporting parts. Whether it’s Neeraj Kabi playing the manipulative DCP Parulkar, Luke Kenny playing the fundamentalist Malcolm Mourad, the pretty Kubbra Sait playing Kukoo, or Marathi actor Jitendra Joshi adding heft as constable Katekar, each actor is top-notch.
DOPs Swapnil Sonawane, Sylvester Fonseca and Aseem Bajaj capture colourful visuals of Mumbai, ranging from dilapidated dump yards to the glitz and glamour of urban high-rises. The editing by Aarti Bajaj is sharp and crisp with each episode ending on a cliff-hanger. Alokananda Dasgupta’s music adds to the mood. Action Director Vikram Dahiya stages intense actions sequences, high on thrills and shock-value.
Motwane and Kashyap exploit the creative liberation that streaming brings to give us a no-holds-barred web series, worth every minute. Cusswords fly at the drop of a hat, sexual scenes are explicit and brazen and there is no pressure of dumbing down content. ‘Sacred Games’ is a beacon of hope for storytellers who dare.
Watch our exclusive meet-up with the team in the video below.