Produced by: Phantom Films
Series: Netflix (16 episodes in two seasons)
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap & Neeraj Ghaywan
Written by: Varun Grover, Dhruv Narang, Pooja Varma & Nihit Bhave from a story by Vikram Chandra
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Amruta Subhash, Neeraj Kabi, Pankaj Tripathi, Kalki Koechlin & others
MUMBAI—First, an admission: I have not watched “Sacred Games” part one. That series had polarized the audience and media like no other, with a range from awesome to awful and atrocious as verdicts.
However, from amidst the mélange of opinions, one sensed that the series had something to say in a pretty forceful manner, even if, like so many other web shows, it took undue advantage of the lack of censorship on the OTT platform to include visuals and cusswords that were thrown in for gimmicky effect and global appeal.
The thin storyline is promising: A cop (Saif Ali Khan), stewed to the gills of the corruption in his police force and someone so disturbed he has to consume sleeping pills, gets a phone call from a don of sorts, Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who tells him to save Mumbai within 25 days. The police have little to go on.
Season 2 Episode 1 begins with a woman’s murder. The police procedures, headed by Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte), are interspersed with flashbacks of Gaitonde way back from the 1990s, in places as assorted as Mumbai, Croatia and Maldives. We are introduced to a “spiritual guru” (Pankaj Tripathi) and his aide (Kalki Koechlin) and, unlike TV serials, there is no punch at the end of each episode (this reporter watched two).
The statutory warning is that it is meant for the 18+ audience due to nudity, sex, violence et al. but we barely have seen anything of that kind so far, though it was apparently seen in abundance in Season 1. However, while the technical impact is solid (Aseem Bajaj’s camerawork is magnificent) and so is the overall atmosphere – the guru’s Ashram scenes were superlative, the writing, despite being a tad frenetic, ends up actually as a drag.
The sub-titles in English use needless quantum of the “F” word, even when there is no need as per the actual Hindi lines. Several scenes have little explanation offered: some may look on this as very cinematic, but a momentary explanation of the relevance would have worked wonders.
The performances are alright. Saif Ali Khan, technically the hero, is barely seen. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is omnipresent, however, and is his usual self. From the other actors, no one really makes a mark as the onus is on being themselves and not on excelling or standing out in some way. In his own way (the man is also becoming a tad predictable now), Pankaj Tripathi stands out as the guru, and one can well guess that this man is going to play a crucial and very probably ruthless role in the story to come.
When Kashyap directs, one expects a noir, very pseudo-intellectual treatment. Happily, that is eschewed her, and this emerges as a straight thriller—an inferior “24” as it were, but a superior gangsta drama to the films of Vishal Bhardwaj or Ram Gopal Varma. And yet, in the final pace at which the story unfolds, it is still a drag.
Pity. And I hope that the episodes to come are different. And I intend to watch Season 1 someday…soon.