‘Entertaining and engaging’ is the best way to describe India’s first Netflix Original web series titled ‘Sacred Games’. Released online via Netflix worldwide on 6th July 2018, this series has garnered accolades from critics world wide. What made this web series go viral as soon as it was released and how it became the flavor of the season in India? Let’s review it!
‘ A cat and mouse game’ played between a ruthless Mumbai gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and an upright Sikh cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) is what this intriguing series is all about. Gaitonde, a mobster who was out of sight for 16 years is back to set the city on fire, challenges Sartaj to save it in 25 days. This warning then causes a chain of reactions which brings to life a lethal mix of political, criminal, and religious elements. Adding spice to the basic plot is an interesting mix of characters which includes a female RAW agent, a transgender, a crooked cop, a hotheaded gangster, a wily politician, and a honest constable. It showcases a countdown to the catastrophic event after which the only survivor will be Trivedi. This series has been directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap.
2. Original or Adapted?
The 2006 best selling novel also titled ‘Sacred Games’ written by Vikram Chandra, that inspired the creation of this entertaining web series.
‘Phantom Films’ has produced it with Netflix serving as the distributor. The executive producers are Kelly Luegenbiehl, Erik Barmack, and Vikramaditya Motwane.
There are three writers who wrote an engaging and superb script containing brilliant dialogues, Varun Grover, Smith Singh, and Vasant Nath. The total of 8 episodes have been divided among the three. So, while Grover has written the first and the eight, Singh and Nath have written the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh. Furthermore, the episodes have been intriguingly titled as follows:
Episode 1: Ashwathama
Episode 2: Halahala
Episode 3: Atapi Vatapi
Episode 4: Brahmahatya
Episode 5: Sarama
Episode 6: Pretakalpa
Episode 7: Rudra
Episode 8: Yayati
As for the quality of writing, it can be easily be compared to an international series like ‘Narcos’ and seems that Gaitonde character has been shaded with Escobar’s traits. The three writers brilliantly manage to bring to life the political, criminal, and religious fanatics, which is a key element of the book. In addition, with the online medium providing freedom to the writers have written dialogues which includes the use of profanities, thereby adding to the realism of the story.
‘Aarti Bajaj’ is the editor of this series. She has worked with Anurag Kashyap in editing his movies such as ‘Dev D’ and ‘Gulal’. With regards to this series, she has done a brilliant job in ensuring that the entire story unfolds at a pace that a thriller should. In fact, not once during this 8 episodes do you feel as if the story is lacking pace, full credits to Aarti for this.
‘Swapnil Sonawane, Sylvester Fonseca and Aseem Bajaj’ are the cinematographers of this series. So, while Sonawane was used by Motwane, Kashyap used Bajaj and Fonseca. In terms of the overall cinematography, while the Sonwane/Motwane captures the story realistically while, the trio Fonseca/Bajaj/Kashyap bring in a certain edginess which makes it a real exciting watch. For example, in a scene towards the end of series where Gaitonde is assaulting a few criminals in jail, suddenly the colour red is added to the background. It is tricks like this used by Kashyap/Fonseca/Bajaj which adds an edge to the realism exhibited by Sonwane/Motwane.
‘Realistic and Stylish’ is the best way to describe the direction of Motwane and Kashyap, The directing responsibilities was divided as follows: Motwane focused on the Sartaj character story which captures present day Mumbai while, Kashyap captured the Gaitonde story set in a period when ‘Mumbai’ was known as ‘Bombay’. It is then the contrasting styles of the directors (i.e. one realistic and subtle and the other instinctive and stylish) which makes series a real engaging watch.
7. Musical Score
‘Haunting’ is the word that best fits the brilliant score given by Alokananda Dasgupta in this series. Furthermore, the best part of the score is that it enhances the suspense and thrill in the story, and takes it to another level. The fact that every episode consists of a sound that is different, is another factor which makes the musical score of this series interesting.
8. A Word On The Performances Of The Star Cast:
‘World Class’ would be the best way to define the performance of entire cast. Here is then presenting a few observations on the performances of a key characters:
a. Saif Ali Khan as Sartaj Singh:
‘Sincere’ is the word that best describe the performance of this suave star. Playing a ‘Sardar’ the actor brilliantly portrays a man struggling with personal issues such as divorce and insomnia. He also manages to give you a sense of ‘integrity’ that his character possesses.
b. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ganesh Eknath Gaitonde:
‘Class Apart’ would be the best way to define the performance by this great actor. Playing a ruthless Marathi Brahmin gangster, Nawaz not only shows the ‘ugly and inhuman’ side of his character but the ‘human’ side too. It is the ability of this actor which highlights the ‘human in the mobster’ which makes his performance remarkable.
c. Radhika Apte as Anjali Mathur:
‘Realistic’ would be the best way to describe the performance of this brilliant actress. Playing an ‘intelligence officer’ she brings to life a certain ruthlessness this job demands. Not only through dialogues but through body language.
d. Neeraj Kabi as DCP Parulkar:
‘Brilliant’ would be the best way to describe the performance of Neeraj Kabi as DCP Parulkar. Playing a crooked cop, the actor brings out the ‘sliminess’ and ‘arrogance in the character quite beautifully. He pulls out the shady character needed quite well.
e. Jitendra Joshi as Constable Katekar:
‘Adorable’ is a word that best describes the performance of this talented actor belonging to the Marathi movie industry. Playing the role of Sartaj Singh’s confidant, Joshi manages to bring to life the ‘charming’ quality of this character in a very ‘matter of fact’.He was shot by a bullet in Mumbai’s 26/11 attack and is still ailing from it. The fact, that he is a Marathi actor who speaks the language, lives in the city, and understands the life of a Mumbai cop ensures that his performance is so true to life. Perhaps, it is this ‘likability’ factor the actor infuses in the character which makes him such a favourite with audiences.
f. Jatin Sarna as Bunty/Deepak Shinde:
‘Volatile’ is the word which describes the performance of Jatin Sarna as Deepak Shinde also known as Bunty. Playing a hotheaded gangster of the Gaitonde’s gang, Sarna brings to life a character who is ‘religious’ and ‘ruthless’ and ‘stubborn’, an extremely lethal combination. Using an aggressive demeanor to good effect, this actor brilliantly enacts a character who is a ticking time bomb all ready to explode.
g. Kubra Sait as Kuku:
‘The Soul of Gaitonde’ would be the best way to describe the transgender character of Kuku played excellently by Kubra Sait. Gaitonde who is madly in love with her beauty, and Kubra who quite brilliantly illustrates this with her regal poise.
h. Rajshri Deshpande as Subhadra:
‘The Spine of Gaitonde’ is how this character named Subhadra the wife of Gaitonde played brilliantly by Rajshri Deshpande can be defined as. Playing it with a lot of toughness, the actress essentially shows us how exactly she serves as the guiding force to Gaitonde’s power. In other words, this character proves that ‘Behind Every Powerful Man There Is A Woman’.
With the web series having done really well and season 2 being planned, here is hoping that more such successful Indian series are made and produced by quality streaming giants such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.