Netflix Series: Sacred Games is India’s answer to Narcos

The opening two lines of Sacred Games go thus – Bhagwaan ko maanta hai? … Bhagwaan ko lu@d farak padta hai. (Do you believe in God? God doesn’t give a fu&k).

In between the two lines is a camera shot of a dog lying in a pool of blood – belonging to a small-town-rags to riches Bollywood actress, thrown down from a high rise by a cocaine-snorting co-actor. You then agree ace directors Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap have finally given the world, Asia’s counter-punch to Narcos.

It’s a must watch

Sacred Games (currently streaming on Netflix) is Bollywood’s quadrilingual liberation from the clutches of censorship. Four languages – Hindi, English, Marathi, Punjabi – showcasing a part diversity of India, make this story. The settings are during a chaotic period of Indian history which ranges from ex-Prime Minister Late Rajiv Gandhi’s Bofors and Shah Bano scandals to the Mumbai 1993 blasts, peak of which was summed best by Nawazuddin’s narration:

“Time hi kuch aisa tha. Kashmir me home minister ki beti kidnap ho gayi thi. Delhi mein Mandal ke naam pe bachche apne pe kerosene daal rahe they. Aur sansad pe roz Pradhan Mantri aise badal rahe they ki maano kachcha ho.”

Vikram Chandra’s acclaimed novel is all about how corruption makes politicians, police and the underworld gel smoothly – with help of effective catalysts like religion, Bollywood, guns and drugs.

“Duniya ke bazaar me sabse bada dhanda hai dharm. Bhagwan se darake chutiya banate public ka.” (Religion is the world’s biggest fraud business. Religion is the easiest mode to galvanise people or funds, it will always exist).

I agree.

Nawaz Bhai rocks

From Nawazuddin’s grim pitched narration, his blackened face makeup, to the way he holds the lungi or blurts out his dialogues; Sacred Games Season 1 is stitched together by this ever shining diamond. As told in a recent interview with Rajeev Masand, Kashyap directed the flashback story of Nawazuddin, and unlike Narcos, never glorifies the criminal who grows amongst the sewage and slums of India’s maximum city – Bombay aka Mumbai. That is a Kashyap trademark, he stays honest, never glorifies criminals aka Sanju. Aside from the quality story, editing, direction, camera work and performances, Nawazuddin is the star of Season 1.

Nawaz’s character Ganesh Gaitonde is suitably enhanced by some memorable dialogues.

Bunty – ‘Mere chokre log aapke liye jaan dene ko taiyyar hai.’

Ganesh Gaitonde – ‘Kaam seekh pahle. Jaan jab mere ko lena hoga, main le lega.’

Or when he says to his transgender love.

Mera to bas ek hi sapna hai ki ek din tu mere liye do cigarette jalaye aur ek mujhe de mere bistar pe.’ – The dialogue a tribute to Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi from movie Deewar.

Watch out for Jitendra Joshi

The third attraction of Sacred Games is Marathi actor Jitendra Joshi and his character of Constable Katekar. Watch him love his wife, mush at the name of his favourite heroine, rebuke his son from watching too much tv, advice his senior or get irritated at a Muslim mother staring at him for days in search of his lost son. Or when he says that today was the ‘first time I behaved like a cop’. Or when he investigates a house calling it a ‘duplex jhopdi’. Jitendra Joshi is a treat to watch and his demise is the first dying character you feel bad for, in Sacred Games.

High repeat viewing value

Sacred Games has high repeat viewing value – just like Narcos Seasons 1 & 3. It is the little things that you start discovering in your repeat viewings. Those Radhika Apte’s eyes, storing her boss’ number as ‘BOSS DK’, Saif’s extra weight – put on for his loser inspector profile, Neeraj Kabi’s natural stance while talking (dot-like how an average policeman stands), Girish Kulkarni’s jig when watching a Mithun imposter dance; The list of such observations is endless. Also high are the instances when the series makes you think repeatedly for its main leads. Radhika Apte’s RAW agent character “Anjali Mathur’s constant scrutiny at office, Nawaz’s obsession with a transgender (am guessing is that a first time on web? kudos to the makers), his aversion to communal tactics till his wife (who was originally his maid) gets killed, the mystery behind Saif’s dad and his connections, the popular on-screen goddess daily turning to off-screen whore, Bollywood girls from small towns – what all they need to do to make it big and much much more.

Any drawbacks?

Sacred Games will naturally get compared with the best of Narcos, as unfair as it may sound. Narcos is a matured three season series, whereas this one has just debuted. Yet the Narcos opening credit song keeps coming to mind and from the land of Bollywood, Kashyap and makers would have done well to put a ‘Bandeh‘ (Indian Ocean classic) like track (in movie Black Friday) in opening credits. Also, the sex, glamour, glitz and locales of South America are missed. Since Narcos invests a lot of time initially glamourizing Pablo Escobar, it helps the audience stay glued. Sacred Games that way is a lot darker, grimmer, dirty lanes, wild doggie positions, on your face slums and projects each of India’s (read: third world countries) reality. The global audience may feel confused and a tad too much similarity in the initial 1.5 episodes. But they need to hang on. The series changes gears after that.Just as Saif Ali Khan tells his superiors to hang on:

Sir main jahaan bhi hoon, apna kaam kar raha hoon. Aap bhi kar lo please. Janam sudhar jayega.’ (Sir, wherever I am, I am fulfilling my duty. You please do your duty too. Your life will become more live worthy)

Rating: 9/10

IMDB Viewers current rating: 9.5/10

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