Sacred Games season 1 received Unprecedented acclaim in uncharted territories (Netflix). The ambitious vision of the brightest minds of cinema in India and world’s premium content producer Netflix, created a cult in Sacred Games. Hence, the Herculean efforts put by the greatest of minds would never reach the skyrocketing expectations of the admirers of the show. However, in Sacred Games 2 , Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Ghaywan, Varun Grover and Vikramaditya Motwane are blinded by their blazing creativity to the expectations of the public, hence functioning completely independent of what is expected and work towards what needs to be done. As a result the second installment of this Doomsday Drama holds its ground and stands firm as a nail-biting thriller.
The story takes off from where it was left in Season 1, Sartaj is exploring the bunker Trivedi is in and Gaitonde is clueless about who has abducted him and why. Anurag Kashyap sticks to the Gaitonde’s track and Neeraj Ghaywan of Masaan fame has taken over the directorial duties from Vikramaditya Motwane, for Sartaj’s track. There is a conspicuous shift in pace in Sartaj’s story in the hands of Neeraj Ghaywan. Motwane’s measured, sure-footed approach worked perfectly for the setup in Season 1. In Season 2, with significant clues coming into the picture, the pace, rightly picks up and the tension is palpable. For most part of Sartaj’s track, Neeraj treats it like a classic investigate drama and creates a sense of urgency with minimal fuss. He handles the written material gracefully and refrains from showing off his directional trickery. All the trickery and eccentricity is left to Anurag, who is, frankly, not at his best.
The fascinating paradox about Anurag and big bugets and expansive story archs is something that haunts him in this Season after the mammoth failure Bombay Velvet, which is not to say Sacred Games is a failure, it is certainly a winner. However, Anurag is not at his best and that triggered an interesting parallel in my head. As Gaitonde sails into unknown waters, his world expands. The world around him expands as he goes from Bombay to Mombasa and Dubai but his personal world, of which he is the God, succumbs to rigidity as the leash of his third father and other powerful people around him, tightens around his seemingly invincible aura. A striking similarity between Anurag and his principal character Gaitonde is this. With his world view expanding, Gaitonde only suffers in his inability to breakout of this expanse that he does not understand. He wants to go back to the unpredictable bustle of Bombay where he is more in control, he relishes in its vibrant unpredictability, just like his director, Anurag Kashyap, thrives in telling stories that are strangled by certain exterior factors like small budgets, ungranted permissions and lack of resources. It is out of all this dearth, Anurag has created the best of his works, riding high on his spontaneity and untamed passion. Having big budgets and perfectly organised proceedings mitigates his spontaneity and things start to feel superficial. Guruji’s lunacy neutralizes this
superficiality very soon and the macabre is spread over the narrative and this is where Anurag grabs the opportunity and explores Guruji’s lunacy in his wildly original ways.
The first season relied on convenient plot twists at the end, to leave a cliffhanger for the audience and also suffered due to poor character development of Anjali Mathur the RAW officer played by Radhika Apte. In season 2 the issues are with Anurag’s track. In trying to establish Gaitonde’s neurotic state of mind, Anurag resorts to an absurdist approach and includes a track about Gaitonde producing a film about his own life. This ‘ Disaster Artist ‘ like approach comes across more as silliness than absurdity. The famous Red frames of Anurag Kashyap are overused here. Most part of the last few episodes we only see red frames bathed in blood, which is perhaps what Anurag is trying to convey. All these issues seem to vaporise as his focus shifts to Guruji played by Pankaj Tripathi, like Gaitonde realises his destiny, Anurag too finds his feet and relishes in what this demented, yet eerily calm, self-proclaimed Godman offers.
Anurag Kashyap has an irresistible urge to be political in his work. He does not shyaway from making his politics clear. The fact that the Topical issues that he chooses to be political with, remain relevant to the narrative of the show itself, do not make his politicized gaze seem unnatural or forced.
Sacred Games 2 is swarmed by new and interesting characters. The casting is absolutely brilliant for each character. Especially casting Amrita Subhash as an Intelligence officer is a masterstroke. Kalki is in a role that is eerily appropriate for the role she plays. only because of her real life name, Kalki and the fact that she wears White clothes by the end of the season as the D day nears, only adds to the oddly fascinating reference to Kalki Avatar. Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin are on overdrive. There is no stopping their complete commitment in sinking their teeth into the dark deep depths of their characters. Surveen Chawla as JoJo evokes empathy with the guilt she harbours. The telephone conversations of Gaitonde and JoJo are some of my favourite moments of the Season.
Pankaj Tripathi is a miracle. The audacity to take up a character so vague and outrageous, a character which has no reference, a character that is both mesmerizing and despicable, is commendable. He delivers long monologues with great ease and complete absence of pretence. His soothing voice is like an angel speaking the words of the Devil. It is both healing and hurting. The manner in which Anurag frames him is arresting. The already captivating performance is enhanced by some exceptional direction. The ending of Episode 5 is the best part of the season as the adrenaline pumps through as Anurag flashes colours and images of blasts on a serenely demonic face of Guruji, as he announces his great plan to his followers.
Ranvir Shorey plays Shahid Khan. He is a most wanted terrorist on the run and is planning the impending Dooms Day. We follow Shahid Khan in Sartaj’s track and Guruji in Gaitonde’s track and the point where these two mega villains meet is a social commentary on the manipulative, opportunist world we live in. The coming together of these two, Sardar Khan and Guruji is like a catastrophic dance of two maniacal worlds. When this dreaded performance reaches a crescendo, the result is a stunning cliffhanger that will leave you breathless.
Sacred Games 2 (Season 2) is irresistible. It is impossible to hold back from clicking the ‘ Next Episode ‘ button. Despite occasional tonal inconsistencies Season 2 is a phenomenal achievement. Sacred Games 2 marks itself as a bigger phenomenon than just another show. The exceptional writing team who painstakingly designed and assorted multiple narrative threads to create one ticking timebomb of a narrative, place India’s talent on a pedestal on an International Platform. No, this is not India’s Narcos, this is our Sacred Games. Aham Brahmasmi.