A Netflix original series made in Bollywood has been in the reckoning ever since Netflix India opened its doors two years ago. However, to think that they would come up with something like Sacred Games in the first try is extremely surprising.
The thriller, starring Saif Ali Khan as the cop protagonist Sartaj, is based on a novel from 2006 by Vikram Raj and revolves around a mental battle between Sartaj and a gangster who thinks he is god. Ganesh Gaitonde, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is such a rich multi-layered character that one can watch the series only for his antics. He is deceiving, mysterious and twisted by passion all at the same time. His narrative plays over the entire series, which provides a second core to the show as Sartaj is trying to figure out a giant scheme that will destroy the city. The city in question here is Mumbai, picturized so beautifully that after a few episodes it easily immerses the viewer in its spectacle.
The series also has some very strong female characters. We have a RAW officer Anjali Mathur, played by the talented Radhika Apte, who accosts Sartaj. While on the other side is Kanta Bai, the brains behind Ganesh’s gangland operations. There is also Kuku, who brings glamour as well as unexpected twists in Ganesh’s life as he falls for her. These characters are dominating in their own territories without hamming it up, as is so often the case in Bollywood. One can see how this will definitely open up an entire new strand for female Indian actors in the future.
There’s also a vivid difference between home grown production and depictions of it done internationally. This difference is centre stage throughout the series; the streets are real, the characters are extremely local as is the colourful language. The show flows around the hardened molls gangsters, corrupt cops and small nooks of the city. It is the perfect antidote for the cultural misnomers and stereotypes that shows like Homeland have spread in the past. The religious undertones aren’t muted either but exposed fully in the gangster’s rise to power where he doesn’t like killing Muslims initially, but soon realizes that Hinduvata and the exploitation of it in politics is where the big bucks lie!
Sacred Games lies somewhere between guns and god, its treatment as well as twists promise to be a riveting watch as long as its stars provide acting of this same mettle throughout the series. One could however watch it just for the dreamy visual mystery it dips the city of Mumbai in. We’d rate it a strong 8/10, and definitely classify it as binge-worthy!