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Sacred Games: A passage to the dark side of India

  • Published at 05:01 pm July 26th, 2018
Sacred Games poster
Sacred Games poster Netflix

From India’s finest in the genre, comes a thriller rivaling the best of its kind

Worry not, there will be no spoilers in this review. 

From India’s finest in the genre, comes a thriller rivaling the best of its kind. 

Enter Sacred Games, a Netflix India original series that seems to have taken the internet – and indeed the world – by storm. It may not be flawless, but the compelling storyline, stellar performances, crisp editing, and fitting soundtrack seal its status as a must-watch.  

Based on Vikram Chandra’s book by the same name, the series has been directed by crime genre maestro, Anurag Kashyap (Gangs of Wasseypur, Black Friday), and the prolific Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Trapped). Coming to the screen 12 years after the book was published, it still manages to remain relevant, even more so, given the criminal and political scenario in India now.

Sacred Games stars Bollywood A-lister Saif Ali Khan as Inspector Sartaj Singh – a low-performing officer struggling with being abandoned by his wife, trying to find meaning in a seemingly empty life. His career has him gauging the depths of his morality with corrupt officers around him catching him between a rock and a hard place. Critics’ favourite Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Ganesh Gaitonde – a former don of the criminal underworld who disappeared for 16 years until resurfacing mysteriously, only to warn the aforementioned Sartaj of an impending doom that is about to befall the city of Mumbai. Also in the cast are Radhika Apte, Neeraj Kabi, Jitendra Joshi, Jatin Sarna, Anil Charanjeett, Rajshri Deshpande, and a slew of others – all providing both a screen presence and the convincing performances required to make a grand story of this scale work.  

The story begins with a glimpse into the almost pathetic professional life of Sartaj Singh caught in a dilemma, ofstanding by the truth or lying for his unscrupulous cohorts. As he mulls over his choices, an anonymous phone call from Ganesh Gaitonde himself shakes Sartaj out of the stupor of his otherwise vapid life. 

What follows is the aforementioned and intricately woven parallel timeline – one focusing on Gaitonde’s humble beginnings, and his transformation into one of the most feared and vicious underworld leaders of all time (narrated to perfection by Nawazuddin himself), the other story focusing on Sartaj as he races to uncover the mystery of the clues given to him by Gaitonde. 

While the first depicts Gaitonde’s journey through the sensitive entanglement of religion, politics, corruption, and crime that prevails in India (including touching upon a few socio-political issues and events of the last three decades), the latter sees Sartaj  increasingly involved in a similar mix of matters considerably above his pay grade. This includes involvement with RAW, stumbling upon a conspiracy involving the very highest levels of criminals, politicians, and other influential people, and dealing with the repercussions of his own impulsive – albeit altruistic – pursuits. 

It is nothing that has not been done before, but rarely with such skill and never such finesse. The direction, editing, and other technical aspects have been executed with near-pinpoint precision. 

Admittedly, the characters sometimes seem larger-than-life, and some of them do experience their share of uncannily fortuitous circumstances, but the other elements of the show more than make up for it.

To conclude, Sacred Games is definitely worth a watch, especially since there are no better alternatives at this time. Remember to watch it in Hindi, though (subtitles for those unfamiliar with the language); not only because it preserves authenticity, but also because the English dubbing is greatly subpar.

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