Rating :- 4.5/5
It’s been a while since a genuinely good non-soap opera show came out of India. There are a lot of words you could use to describe Sacred Games. The one that I’m going to go for is bold. Utterly different from anything we’ve seen come out of Indian cinema or TV, the show is pretty much fearless. It does not shy away from anything. The very first scene sets the tone of the show, almost telling you to proceed with caution. If you can’t handle the graphic violence this is most certainly not for you. But if you can, it’s a pretty great watch.
The shows pans seamlessly back and forth in time connecting a modern day police officer and a mob boss whose career spanned across 20 years, between the 70’s and the 90’s, when the mafia ran riot throughout Mumbai. The story lines of these two men are from different eras. One is a narration from the past (directed by Anurag Kashyap), and the other which is set in the present (directed by Vikram Aditya Motwane ). As it happens, both lead up to the same threat. A ticking clock behind this threat lends itself to a sense of urgency and intrigue that makes it impossible to look away.
Even though the show is fictional, there are times when it seems very much real. Sacred Games tackles the dark underbelly of Mumbai and leaves it exposed. It’s a story that strips away all the glamour and reveals the filth that lies beneath. It’s about how the mafia has its finger in every pie in the city, from Bollywood to politics. It’s about how anyone can be bought. It’s about how the bad cops are awful and the supposedly good cops aren’t particularly sharp either. It’s about gang wars and their fallout. On a side note it’s also about sexism. It’s unafraid to go after our history as a country, touching upon some particularly sore subjects, and making quite a few controversial remarks along the way.
The show features powerful, layered characters. Saif Ali Khan’s Sartaj Singh, a cop trying to do the right thing in a very corrupt world, allowing his judgement to get clouded by emotion on more than one occasion. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde is the leader of a major gang, who rose from nothingness to control half the city, a truly detestable person with a twisted need for revenge, who often kills simply because he can. Radhika Apte’s Anjali Mathur, a RAW agent, who often gets sidelined by the men she’s working with despite her brilliance at her job. In many ways she is precisely the opposite of Sartaj Singh, staying calm and focused throughout, and for the most remaining part, unemotional about her job. There’s a slew of minor characters who are no less important to the show. Constable Katekar, played by Jitendra Joshi, is perhaps one of the most easily lovable character of all. He’s Sartaj Singh’s partner who constantly has to choose between his job and his family.
There is some great acting on the show. Nothing over the top, no unnecessary dramatics. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is particularly good. He dominates the screen every time he is on it. It takes a lot of work to get the audience to genuinely hate a character, and he’s done just that. Saif Ali Khan is also surprisingly good, playing the part of a good samaritan in a broken system excellently. Radhika Apte however tends towards a monotone and doesn’t always seem to do justice to her role.
There are a few things that didn’t quite work though. There was some amount of unnecessary sentimentality from Sartaj Singh which didn’t do anything for the plot and could easily have been dispensed with. The show also couldn’t quite escape the whole item number bit. Although to be fair, that was more to illustrate some of the harsh realities of Bollywood than anything else.
Sacred Games is excellent, and the likes of it have not been seen in India ever before. It’s a very binge worthy, edge of the seat, “I did not see that coming” kind of show. I personally can’t wait for season 2.