Netflix’s Sacred Games is available for streaming in India, and all the breathless anticipation seems worth it. Not only does it deliver India’s first world-class show, but it also provides plenty of fresh insight into a city that has been the muse for many Bollywood films. A sort of spiritual successor to fantastic films like Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya and Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday – the show examines the nexus between the underworld, Bollywood, religion and politics.
Sacred Games is a clinically introspective show. Even as the two main leads Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde pose with their tough exteriors, their head space is nearly always filled with conflicts and doubt. Woven together with an ambiguous thread from the past, the two men are able to live their all-rounder parts courtesy a colourful supporting cast. It is because of these supporting parts, that allows Sartaj to whine about his own contradictions. These characters make Gaitonde both a messiah in the living room, and absolutely vulnerable in the bedroom.
Here are 4 characters, who could very well have acted in a show of their own:
1. Cuckoo played by Kubbra Sait
Playing the role of a cabaret dancer during the 1980s, Cuckoo could have been just another stock character of an entertainer from an underworld movie. Instead, the writers give her a scene where she comes clean to Gaitonde about her identity as a transgender. It is no longer just about sex, but where an underworld gangster fully embraces her identity and his unconditional love for her. Both of them become vulnerable while shedding their external personas, and profess their love for one another.
2. Malcom played by Luke Kenny
A character straight out of Matt Damon’s Bourne films, Luke Kenny plays an infamous half-Algerian and half-Afghani terrorist called Malcom. Getting an insane introduction, Kenny walks in through the front door with two blazing guns. How coldly he puts his victims to sleep forever, is why the character is a constant looming threat on the show. Luke Kenny’s Malcom is reminiscent of Clive Owen’s character as an ‘asset’ from Bourne Identity.
3. Subhadra played by Rajshri Deshpande
Married to one of the most violent men in Mumbai, Rajshri Deshpande’s Subhadra rejects the routine of playing the shy, newly-wed wife. She confronts him with truths, that no one else around has the guts to tell her husband. She challenges him as an equal stakeholder in bed, and doesn’t shy away from standing up for what she believes in. Like that scene where Gaitonde is dismissive of all religion, Subhadra explains the role of the spiritual higher power in the life of the downtrodden. “It is when they enter a temple, that they feel equally mortal like their oppressors,” she says.
4. Katekar played by Jitendra Joshi
The havaldar sidekick, another stock character in cop dramas, Katekar rises to become so much more in the show. Starting out as the typical Marathi-speaking sidekick to Saif’s Sartaj Singh, the writers pepper Katekar with beautiful details. Like the running joke of his mobile ringing each time he’s indulging the missus, or his hopes & dreams for his son to find an escape from the chawl existence via a computer coaching class. He’s the cop who shirks duty and is bigoted against the complainants from the Muslim neighbourhood. He is ALSO the man when confronted with his ‘duty’, drinks his guilt with one last peg of whiskey. And then goes out to ‘act like a cop’.
In show with nearly 20 characters, it’s amazing how actors like Girish Kulkarni, Pankaj Tripathi and Geetanjali Thapa are cast in minor, but integral roles. Sacred Games is without doubt, one of the most integral casting assignments carried out by Mukesh Chhabra since the two-part Wasseypur films. The second season is expected to drop in mid 2019, till then we’ll just have to watch reruns of the first season and devour the details.
Especially that last scene. Whatay wow!