Sacred Games 2 cast: Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Amruta Subhash, Pankaj Tripathi
Sacred Games 2 director: Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Ghaywan
Sacred Games 2 rating: Four stars
Issme drama hai, sex hai, dhokha hai, and a liberal dose of history, mythology and philosophy as well. Sacred Games season two, which is way bigger and also better than the first, has all the above-mentioned attributes in abundance. Season one, which came out last year — and set the template in place for Indian web shows — left many burning questions unanswered: Who is the third father of Gaitonde? Is Anjali Mathur really dead? Is Trivedi the lone survivor, also who is Trivedi? Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), what about him? Why was Jojo (Surveen Chawla) in the bunker? Also why are the subtitles out of sync and almost an entire minute delayed. Oddly for a supremely fluid, well-functioning streaming service, this technical glitch distracts from the wholesome viewing experience. We can almost predict the memefest that shall follow. Netflix, don’t say you were not warned.
The eight-episode second part begins right where we left off the first one. Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is saved from the clutches of death and is found sailing in the waters of the Arabian Sea, enroute to Kenya. He is roped in by Yadav Madam (Amruta Subhash), a RAW agent who trains him as an asset and uses him to fulfil the cause of the ‘nation’. The once-mighty, all-encompassing, megalomania-riddled Gaitonde is now reduced to a yes man for the extended hand of the Indian state. Juxtapose this with Sartaj Singh, who is now heading a special investigation team to untangle the bunker mess. Sartaj and Gaitonde have often been mirror images of themselves, standing on the positive and negative spectrums of a number line, at times even facing the same dilemmas. While Gaitonde is grappling with his place in the new world order, Sartaj is finally coming into his own and his newfound sense of responsibility. Gaitonde finally gets to meet his self anointed ‘third father’, the Guruji (Pankaj Tripathi), whose voice is the beacon of light and direction for him. Simultaneously, Sartaj discovers the connection between his father and Gaitonde.
The eight-episode season two is divided between Gaitonde’s past, and Sartaj’s journey in the present. We are taken through Gaitonde’s stint in Kenya, his run-ins with Isa, his dabbling in Bollywood and his ultimate foray into spiritual bliss under the aegis of Guruji. Sartaj deals with his inner demons, his failed marriage and the truth about his constable father. Not to mention there is the race against time to uncover the imminent threat that could eliminate the biggest metropolis of India.
The season has a new entrant in director Neeraj Ghaywan, who has replaced Vikramaditya Motwane, though Motwane continues as executive producer. Writer Varun Grover, who has adapted the screenplay from Vikram Chandra’s eponymous novel, has also joined the ranks of executive producer for this season. New cast members like Amruta Subhash, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin and Pankaj Tripathi, make this show truly binge-worthy.
We see the same template of naming the episodes after a mythological or historical reference, starting with Matysa, and ending with Radcliffe. The show is replete with mythology, right from Gilgamesh to Shiva, Mahabharata and Ramayana, making it a delight for history and mythology buffs. Major historical events too find their place of pride, right from the Partition, Emergency, Mandal Commission, Babri Masjid demolition, 1992 blasts, 9/11 and 26/11.
All these historical incidents, events and references come together seamlessly to highlight the nexus between power, politics and religion and how the trifecta is often used to strip humanity of its core essence. Tripathi’s spectacular turn as Guruji, in the sublime golden settings of an ashram in Croatia, is a major throwback to Bhagwan Osho Rajneesh, and Batya (Kalki Koechlin) could easily pass off as Sheela. Tripathi delivers as the seeped-in-evil-but-clad-in-subtle-mustard-garb-godman who speaks in soothing mellifluous tones. All of this, he does successfully with a straight face and earnest belief — unlike his trademark look, of him enjoying a private joke at the expense of the public at large — even the scene where he is making out with Gaitonde. In addition to this, religious motifs, themes and iconography are everywhere for us to see and clearly the makers want the message of religion-bred hate and intolerance to sink in. The Mandala as the icon of the ashram, the kada worn by Sartaj, the cilice worn by Jojo on her thigh and the hate-filled Islamic propaganda materials used by Hizbudin are all used well to that effect.
Sacred Games season one’s strength was in the writing and the detailing. Here, there’s a new group of writers led by Grover, who build on the original narrative quiet compellingly. Kashyap and co have had a field day in weaving in current pop culture references. Right from Gaitonde roping in a ‘Ram G Varma’ to direct his biopic, to a thin, curly-haired starlet who comes to Jojo for a break in Bollywood and hails from ‘Himachal’, Bunty’s ‘Mithun dance’, the tongue-in-cheek references are hard to miss. There’s one about the citizenship of leading star as well. The show, if nothing else, can be used as a capsule of modern history or a Cliff notes equivalent for Gen Z, to inform them of a world that exists outside of Instagram.
The show is a grim warning, and a reflection of the dark turbulent times that the world and our country is currently facing. The bomb is literally upon us, and if we don’t get our act together, well, we might not have a Sartaj Singh to save us. The eight 50-minute episodes are intense, layered and keep you on edge. Part one was the beginning of the slow burn. By part two, it has simmered to near perfection. However, there are moments of predictability – the sheer number of bodies dropping, the inane violence, and the scene where an honest ‘Muslim’ cop has to prove his allegiance time and again.
By the time part two ends, one feels that one is a participant in this ‘theatre of the absurd’, and all hope is lost. But it is the necessary poison that we all need to partake if we wish for our future generations to even see the light of the day. Oh, but, all is not lost. Seeds for season three have been sown.
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