Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has once again helmed the segment with Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who plays gangster Ganesh Gaitonde) and director Neeraj Ghaywan has filmed the story of Saif Ali Khan (who plays cop Sartaj Singh). Ahead of Sacred Games Season II launch, they along with screenwriter Varun Grover and showrunner Vikramaditya Motwane give us a lowdown on the high-budget crime thriller, which this time has chunk of its action set on foreign shores.
After the success of the first season of Sacred Games, was there a pressure on you while working on the second season?
Neeraj Ghaywan: There were multiple pressures — from the pressure of working with the people whose work you look up to; not failing them since you admire them and working with a star, Saif Ali Khan. However, he was a sweetheart.
Varun Grover: During the first season, we didn’t know how big this will get. The Season I trailer still has got around one million hits while the second season’s trailer has touched 12 million within two weeks of its release.
Vikramaditya Motwane: The pressure was mainly in terms of time. We had more than a year to write Season I. We had to deliver this season within a year. This involved writing prep, shoot and post-production. We had to strive for better quality in less time.
The dialogues of last season had a life of their own as they became fodder for memes. Will this season be generating that too?
Neeraj Ghaywan: Sadly, my world does not have much humour. How much ever I tried, I couldn’t have it as Sartaj is in the middle of a serious investigation.
Anurag Kashyap: Neeraj’s world is emotionally so potent. He had it harder. His one day is my one year. Voice-over helps my narrative and I keep finding humour as I have more freedom. I love to find humour in any kind of space.
Varun Grover: The popularity of these lines was surprising. Some stand-up comedians even asked me if we wrote them keeping memes in mind. Some random lines too became memes. For instance, Radhika Apte’s character screaming at Sartaj over the phone: “Tum mordon ko aisa kyun lagta hai ki har aurat ko bachana hai (Why do men believe that they have to save every woman)”.
Some characters who had died in the previous season are back.
Anurag Kashyap: Every character died at the right time — just when you were falling in love with them. Some of them are alive in Gaitonde’s timeline, which is in the past, and not in Sartaj’s timeline.
Varun Grover: Whichever characters are required for the plot, are there. Otherwise, they are not coming back. Those who are crucial to Gaitonde’s journey will be there.
The killing of Anjali Mathur (played by Radhika Apte) was unfair and abrupt.
Neeraj Ghaywan: I agree. However, the unannounced killing of her was the whole point that the writer wanted to show.
Varun Grover: We had a split verdict over her death, otherwise we were on the same page. Till the time we edited the scene, I argued with Vikramaditya to save her. But the bullet was in her head not hand, leg or tummy that we could show she had a surgery. With the story of 12 days remaining, we could not have shown her up and solving the case after being shot in the head.
Vikramaditya Motwane: We wanted Sartaj to be on his own, without any support system, as much as possible. Also, when you are working on a tight schedule, you have to take such calls. We didn’t have the luxury of mulling over it and we couldn’t work out a middle ground.
In this season, the sociopolitical narrative gets more intense. Is it intentional?
Anurag Kashyap: We obviously have to put the show and time in context. It’s built around how power has always used religion; the role of religion in a whole lot of things and how it gets misused.
Vikramaditya Motwane: Now you understand a bit more of what’s sacred in the game. Understand various links. It’s opening up a bit more. In the season one, we had to hold back a few things. The novel on which the series is based has a similar narrative.
Varun Grover: The same thing if you had watched 10 months earlier, probably wouldn’t have had the same impact. Things have changed too.
Neeraj Ghaywan: The timelines are merging. The story is coming to a point where the resonance becomes stronger. What you see gets amplified because it is more contemporary.
There are some interesting scenes. How did you shoot the scenes showing Saif Ali Khan running up to the terrace of a four-storied building and having a fight in one take, or Nawazuddin Siddiqui swimming in the ocean?
Neeraj Ghaywan: We had five takes of the scene with Saif and we ended up using the first one. The idea was to make a double to run half the way up the building. But Saif ran all the way up himself.
Anurag Kashyap: The scene with Nawaz was shot at the sea near South Africa. At seven degrees, the water was freezing. I knew if Nawaz touches water, he won’t do it. We almost threw him into the sea and told him that to get the towel he has to swim to the shore.