Sacred Games: A critical review

The year 2018 gave Indian connoisseurs of web-series an indigenous alternative to the likes of Narcos, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad in the form of Sacred Games.

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When a web-series opens with a dog being thrown from a high-rise to its death, murder, and expletives, all in less than 2 minutes, one is already intrigued. That is how Sacred Games introduces itself to its viewers, in all its gory, expletive-riddled and unforgiving scenes. The year 2018 gave Indian connoisseurs of web-series an indigenous alternative to the likes of Narcos, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad in the form of Sacred Games.

Story

The fast-paced story takes hold of you right from the beginning, with the introductions quick and crisp. Here is a story which involves an idealist policeman, Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), who tries to make his way through the corruption-infested police force, and Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a gangster whose own morals trump that of the politicians, corrupt police and his rivals. Add to that the idea of an international conspiracy being mentioned every now and then, and you have Sacred Games. The ingenious usage of two simultaneous timelines detailing the past and the present is impressively done and is reminiscent of a well-written novel. The series’ special emphasis on historical events from the perspectives of Gaitonde is the icing on the cake, complete with expletive-laden terms for politicians or events. A unique feature of Sacred Games was its strong references to Hindu mythology and culture, not unlike a Dan-Brown novel, which although were unfamiliar to foreign audiences, were a certain favorite amongst Indians.

Cinematic elements

The star actors, viz. Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte (as a R&AW officer) are not the only ones worth remembering in this series, for the supporting actors like Jitendra Joshi (in the role of Katekar, Sartaj’s aide), Kubbra Sait (as Kukoo, Gaitonde’s love interest) and Jatin Sarna (as Bunty, Gaitonde’s trusted gang member) also left a significant imprint on the minds of viewers with their impressive characters. Every character had well written out roles and dialogues, which aptly matched their respective backgrounds. There is a sizeable influence of Anurag Kashyap’s direction which is quite conspicuously seen in the entire series, with all the unfiltered realism of Mumbai and its underworld-police-politician- religion nexus starkly visible in every episode. In fact, the dialogues are so well rooted in the local dialect that the subtitles and translations have not really been able to keep up with the true nuances. Notable examples would include the puns cracked by the police in Marathi or the slangs used for religions or their followers, which would sometimes be incomprehensible to Indians as well.

The craze surrounding Sacred Games has refused to simmer down even after several months have passed since its premiere episode was released last year in July, as has been evident in memes and references still floating around in every nook and cranny of the Internet. And now, since the second season trailer has hit the Internet, fans (inclusive of me) are impatiently waiting.

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