Sacred Games(8-part series on Netflix)
Starring Saif Ali Khan,Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte
Directed by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane
Rating:** ½(two a half stars)
The bleak bleeding people of Anurag Kashyap’s desperately criminalized kingdom never seemed more doomed than they do in this sprawling saga of the Mumbai’s underworld brought in a 8 -part series of one hour each.
There is nothing sacred about Sacred Games. Not even the source-text from which the series is adapted. The characters and the time frames are yanked out of their original context to appear more ‘relevant’. It’s a world of irredeemable immorality infused with a sense of fatal selfimportance that comes to two kinds of people in this world : the genius and the delusional.
No points for guessing which category Kashyap’s people populate as they frantically kill maim and copulate…. Not necessarily in that order. By the time I reached the fourth episode of this exhausting life-sapping peregrination into the province of perversion I seriously began to wonder when Kashyap’s world would open up and walk into the sunshine.
The nocturnal nose-bleeding and coarse-breeding of his characters is beginning to get repetitive and also annoying in its arrogant assertion of a sullied lifestyle that probably exists in the underbelly. But do we have to keep visiting the scummy stratosphere as Kashyap scavenges the armpit of civilization over and over again in search of …only he can tell us what!
What we see on screen are characters we’ve seen in Kashyap’s cinema repeatedly. Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan play against each other as sociopath and law enforcer who soon find themselves exchanging each other’s moral ground in the dark corners of the frames where the camera lurks with sinister designs.We are constantly reminded of the thin line that divides wrong from right as the characters tear into the innards of their brutish selfinterest.
We’ve seen this conflict between Nawazuddin and Vicky Kaushal in Anurag Kashyap’s aptly titled Ugly. Scared Games is no less sordid and squalid in mood .The space and freedom afforded on the internet adds to the profusion and profanities and perversion . You will hear a lot more ‘chu..’ and ‘maderc..’ in Sacred Games than you would if Vikram Chandra’s novel had gone to the big screen.
This torrent of imprecations is not necessarily an indication of the maturation that the Indian visual medium has achieved in its transition into a post-censorial nirvana
The series has some very strong performers struggling to make sense of a city that has lost its equilibrium. I wish there was more of Neeraj Kabi and Aamir Bashir as morally ambivalent cops. Super-talented actors like Girish Kulkarni, Pankaj Tripathi, Shalini Vats and Geetanjali Thapa are frozen in their tracks by the rush of guttural realism that is splashed on them like unwanted colours during Holi.
And little Sunny Pawar who stole the show as young Dev Patel in Lion would have done the same to Nawaz if he had been given a bit more footage. Radhika Apte plays the third most important character.A RAW agent in austere clothes and stern sandals, Apte’s Anjali is on the prowl as she constantly looks into the distance with a faraway look, as if she was trying to recall how many times she has been in this kind of critically paranoiac situations.
Sacred Games could have been much tighter edited. The characters wallow in their squalor , revel in the drama of deviation and sink into their moral morass . While Saif Ali Khan looks distinctly discomforted in his Sardarji avatar, Nawazuddin is very much at home playing the smirky sociopath. But I’ve seriously begun to wonder if he can play anything else.
By the time Nawaz got down to having frenzied anal sex with a transgender-dancer-seductress named Cuckoo(played with much pouty enthusiasm and very little poignancy by Kubbra Sait) I lost hope of the narrative getting a firm grip over Vikram Chandra’s novel about a terror threat over Mumbai.
When Chandra wrote the novel the concept of Mumbai being destroyed was chilling.Now it seems like the city’s potential to self-destruct is stronger than any extraneous threat . Sacred Games says and does nothing that makes us sit up and stare in wonderment. It is all in a day’s work…or maybe a few days’ work, considering the running time of show that tries to keep pace with characters who just don’t know where to stop.