Sacred Games (Season 1 – 2018) – Review

Sacred Games is an Indian crime-drama web tv series by Netflix directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. The series is based on Vikram Chandra’s thriller novel of the same name. The novel was adapted by Smita Singh, Vasant Nath, and Varun Grover. The series consists of eight episodes which were made available on Netflix for streaming on 6 July 2018.

The series tells the story of Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a righteous and jaded police officer, whose paths intersect with Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the self-obsessed notorious gangster boss. Sartaj, who is at conflict with the questionable moralities of the police force, when receives a cryptic message from Gaitonde and learns about the lurking attack on Mumbai, starts his own investigation to prevent the attack.

The series chronicles a diabolical plot, one depicts the efforts of an honest police officer caught between corruption, dirty politics, and deadly conspiracies, and still has all the will to do the right thing, another one sets in the flashbacks of past exploring the rise of all-powerful Ganesh Gaitonde, a mob boss with delusions of grandeur, operating out of a Mumbai ghetto called Gopalmath, and how they both become part of these sacred games.

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Overall the plot is intimidating, and as the trailers had suggested, which were released a couple of months before, it is truly intense, darker, grittier than ever, and maintains that thriller vibe throughout. According to one interview, the Gaitonde’s gangster life portion has been directed by Anurag Kashyap, and it’ll definitely make the audience remember his previous directorial film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). And the other part following the present day story of Sartaj’s character showing the underbelly of the society has been directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. Structurally, it is a well-put story, and well-shot as well. The lightings, costume design, camera angles, background score, and instrumental music are remarkable.

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Undoubtedly, the casting of characters is top notch, and this can be seen in their grounded and compelling performances. The role of a brash and brutal gangster is not new for Nawazuddin, but here it feels totally different from his previous portrayals, he steals every scene he’s in, and unknowingly audience loses the moment when they start feeling for an unquestionable baddie. For Saif Ali Khan and his character Sartaj, this series has become a point of redemption. It’s a stellar performance by Saif, he has literally embodied the broken persona of a mistreated cop who can go to any limit to set things right. Along with leads, the supporting cast is also impressive. In particular, Radhika Apte as the investigating RAW agent, Neeraj Kabi as Sartaj’s commanding officer Parulkar, Jitendra Joshi as constable Katekar, Jatin Sarna as Gaitonde’s henchman Bunty, Girish Kulkarni as Minister Bipin Bhosale, and Kubra Sait as Kukoo. Every single character in the series has their own character arc which creates the emotional gravity, and it’s just moving.

At its heart, it’s the raw and scary story told in a brilliant way, the story of Mumbai city where all this drama plays around religion, politics, corruption, and Bollywood. There are multiple themes run at a time in a story, one of which is a theme of corruption in the system, it gives a closer look at how it is crumbled from inside, and even if one tries to rebel will eventually have to compromise at some point. Another theme is the theme of religion, “The biggest business in the world is religion. Under the garb of faith, they make fools out of all of us.” when Gaitonde delivers this line, it firmly hints that what is going to come ahead, the catastrophic consequences of religious polarisation. For an international audience, India’s communal divide appears akin to the US’s institutionalized racism. Most of the parts of the story play in parallel with real-life past events which makes it relatable and interesting. The use of symbolism throughout the series can be seen, either in visuals or in monologues.

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There are intriguing endings to every episode, and in no time, the viewer goes for the next one, just like that. From the starting point, there are many characters been introduced one by one, episode by episode, and we actually need to keep track of them, as their paths are definitely going to cross somewhere ahead in the story. It is the mix of likable and unlikable characters, the good and the bad ones, which are going to intertwine in the interesting, upsetting and uncomfortable series of events.

At last, “streaming is liberating”, as it is the web tv series, there are no constraints of the censor board. Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane waste no time in exploiting the opportunity offered by a platform free of censorship to make a powerful and hard-hitting statement. The series doesn’t hold back while portraying an unapologetic content like a real gangster life, scenes of gore and bloodshed, sexually explicit scenes etc. Plus the brilliance and thoughtfulness of makers keep it understated and yet impacting.

Finally, with no doubt, on the global platform, Sacred Games has successfully made its mark and has earned the prestigious position among top international web tv series. Even the Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 91% approval rating based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3 out of 10. On IMDb, it is on the 25th rank as a top rated tv series, with an astonishing average rating of 9.4 out of 10.

Verdict : Without any second thought, just watch it, and get lost in Sacred Games.

Rating : 4.6/5

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