Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui takes a long puff from his vape pen, on a day packed with interviews ahead of his return in season 2 of popular Netflix series, Sacred Games. Wearing a checkered shirt and a tired look on his face, he managed a smile when asked about his effortless portrayal of Ganesh Gaitonde, his character in the series. “Gaitonde is not a real-life character unlike some of the roles I have played in the past. So, creatively, there was a lot of freedom as long as I stuck to the script, I could toy with him in season one. People often see me during promotions of other films and yell ‘Gaitonde! Gaitonde!’ as if I’m him in real life,” says Nawazuddin Siddiqui. When he was in Hyderabad for promotions of Manto (2018) fans kept yelling ‘Gaitonde’, “much to the annoyance of my director (Nandita Das)”. “It is of course a good feeling because it means I have been able to execute a complex character and make him so believable in real life,” he adds.
Siddiqui, who set the bar quite high last year, insists that the expectations do not affect him. “I have gathered a loyal following but I block that out while acting as I don’t want it to affect my performance. I just do my best on the sets and leave the rest for the others to judge,” he says. The actor, however, stresses on the importance of character discipline that he had to follow in the second season, knowing the parameters he had to act within after last year’s breakthrough season. “It definitely helps that I played the role previously. But I had to keep myself on a tight leash so that I don’t go overboard and play to the gallery. I had to make sure I did not take advantage of the fact that I knew the character so well. Gaitonde is now framed in people’s heads and I had to act within those parameters,” says the 45-year-old actor.
The plot of the show unfolds backwards, picking up from where it left, showcasing various stages of Gaitonde’s life and his relationship with Dilbagh Singh (Sartaj Singh’s father) and other characters in the show. The story also showcases Gaitonde’s rendezvous with Guruji, a spiritual guru played by Pankaj Tripathi and his relationship with Jojo (Surveen Chawla).
Among new faces like Kalki Koechlin and Ranveer Shorey, who are on board this time, is actor Amruta Subhash. She starred in Gully Boy, earlier this year. Playing the character of a RAW agent, Subhash says how eye-opening it was while researching for the role. “It is intriguing because in most professions, if you do well, you get appreciation from your peers. A RAW agent is a secret agent and the only thing driving her/him is love for their country. I really want to salute all RAW agents after playing this character,” she says. Subhash, who appears in the first episode of the second season, says that the kind of character she plays, immediately commands Gaitonde’s respect. “Very few people stand up to Ganesh Gaitonde and my character does that. She is a dominating woman. He does not like her but respects her,” says Subhash.
When asked as to which character does he miss the most, Siddiqui, without blinking, says, “Cuckoo. I miss her a lot.”. “However, you will see more of my love interests as and when the story unfolds,” he says. The actor also says that the story unfolds at a faster pace in comparison to season one. “There is a lot more action. A lot of questions might be answered this time around,” says Siddiqui, about the second season which has been shot in locations in Africa this time.
So rigorous was the show’s shooting schedule that Siddiqui barely got time to travel. “It has been my dream to see giraffes and shoot with them,” says Siddiqui. “I just never got the time. Amruta managed to go for a safari. I saw a video of giraffes on her phone and was happy,” he says with a smile.