Caught in the whirlwind of promotions, the three lead actors of the latest Netflix series Sacred Games – Radhika Apte, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan – seem slightly dazed when we meet them in a suburban hotel in Mumbai. As they ponder over the question regarding their experience of being part of the Mumbai underworld drama based on a book of same name by Vikram Chandra, Apte says, “I have been watching so many amazing shows on Netflix. So, to be in one of them is wonderful. It is exciting that audience in 190 countries will watch it together.” The actor, who plays a RAW agent, looks around and tells her colleagues: “There, I have answered for everybody.”
Khan, who is enjoying his delayed lunch, chips in, “We will be compared to a lot of international shows as well as actors. The cultural requirement and tone for the show are more international. It’s liberating for actors to compete internationally.” Siddiqui expresses his satisfaction over the fact that in a show like this, an actor gets to work on his character in detail.
Khan recalls how at the beginning of his career, Sameer Malkan, director of Mein Khiladi Tu Anari advised Khan never to play a cop. “He said: ‘Since you are too cute and young, it would be tough to play a cop convincingly.’ But for the show, I have gone ahead and played a Mumbai-based Sikh cop. So some effort was needed to be bigger physically, appear to be a tough guy and to speak Punjabi,” says Khan.
For Siddiqui, Ganesh Gaitonde — his character — is more complex as compared to the other gangster roles he has played earlier. “You can’t gauge his mood. There is an internal struggle going on within him. It is a character with depth,” he says. Apte, who didn’t know about RAW agents at all, got acquainted with the intelligence agency through the show. “A lot of research was done for this role. That fascinated me. That apart, my character is a strong and independent woman. While her seniors want her to be behind the desk, she aspires to be a field agent,” says Apte.
The series was launched on July 6 and the audience can watch the eight episodes of the first season at one go. “It’s always better to watch a show on the big screen. However, it is not possible to watch all eight episodes in theatres,” says Apte. Khan admits that he has trouble with the small screen. “This changes the whole morality around making a show. However, since Sacred Games is a premium show for Netflix, they have taken a lot of care for art direction and production,” he says.
Working on the show took Khan to different parts of Mumbai that he had not explored before. “When I was shooting in Punjab Society, I was using the bathroom and kitchen meant to be my character Sartaj Singh’s,” he says. Enthused by the experience on the show, he has decided that if he will produce a show for Netflix, it has to be about the mafia. “That would be the best thing to export from our pop culture,” he adds. Will he play the mafia leader in that show? “Maybe, yes. But Nawaz is the best choice for such a role,” he says.
Apte has another suggestion. “It would be interesting if Saif and Nawaz reverse the roles they play in Sacred Games,” she says. All those present in the room think that’s a great idea till Khan dismisses it. Pointing to Siddiqui, he says: “You want a thin cop like him and an anglicised mafia man like me?” In response, his co-actors burst out laughing.