'Sacred Games' Review: India Finally Has A Prestige TV Drama To Call Its Own

Ankur Pathak

Sacred Games, Netflix's first Indian original series is out and the wait, it can now be reported, has been worth it.

The 8 episodes of Season 1, adapted from Vikram Chandra's 928-page tome, chronicle the meteoric rise of Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a mob boss with delusions of grandeur, operating out of a Mumbai ghetto called Gopalmath. His paths intersect with Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a cop whose righteousness is at conflict with the questionable moralities of the police force.

At the surface, Sacred Games appears to be a standard cat-and-mouse chase but the show's probing, introspective nature turns a clichéd crime-saga to a biting commentary on the zeitgeist. Its relevance to our current moment cannot be overstated.

Take, for example, Gaitonde's reluctance to endorse a communal philosophy: A gangster who started on the streets, and lives a life revolving around murder and mayhem, is aware of the perils of religious fanaticism, even as characters — ostensibly more refined than him — are drawn to fundamentalism's many lures.

The catastrophic consequences of religious polarisation are a consistent undercurrent in the show. Directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, along with their team of writers (Varun Grover, Smita Singh, Vasant Nath) waste no time in exploiting the opportunity offered by a platform free of censorship to make a powerful statement.

"The biggest business in the world is religion. Under the garb of faith, they make fools out of all of us," says Gaitonde, firmly establishing his secular beliefs. But his beliefs, just like ours, are susceptible to subtle indoctrination.

Sacred Games is a parable of our times, a cautionary tale on the significance of preserving the country's secular fabric even as bad actors from within the system plot to tear it apart.

The references and visuals of the Babri Masjid demolition, the ensuing riots, and the 1993 bomb-blasts are ominous. But Sacred Games captures religion's dual...

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