Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, and no matter what you were watching, there's a school of thought that entertainment in India took a quantum leap this weekend with the release of Sacred Games! Of course, it's easy to overplay every new launch that emerges on a big video streaming platform -- Netflix does it all the time -- but on this occasion we may have a show proving irrevocably that fantastic world-beating binge-worthy content can emerge from India.
While TV series in India have been encumbered with the melodramatic Hindi-family drama trope for over 2 decades now, Sacred Games brings with it an inflexion point in the entertainment industry in the country by toying with complex plots, multi-dimensional characters and some seriously good acting skills!
Here's why the adaptation of Vikram Chandra's 2006 book of the same name checks all the boxes in terms of providing bing-worthy world-class content:
SACRED GAMES OOZES WITH CONFIDENCE
From the very first scene, Sacred Games has an air about it -- a confidence that says, "Tuck yourself in. We've made this for you and we know you're going to enjoy it. If you have a weak stomach, be warned because there are eight 40-minute episodes to come, but if you survive just the first one, you're going to be completely hooked."
SACRED GAMES PLOT ALLOWS FOR MULTIDIMENSIONALITY
The Nexus: It's no secret that in Mumbai's erstwhile underworld, everyone knew everyone. Politicians, cops, Bollywood stars and mobsters have all hobnobbed at various points for reasons best known to them. This is a facet that has been appropriately leveraged and is the crux of why Sacred Games is so multidimensional. While the circumstances may change, everyone's got secrets, and the rigmarole they engage in is nothing short of thrilling.
LOTS OF LORE TO THE STORYLINE
There's plenty of lore to the story: Often, the events depicted in films and TV shows that garner cult appeal have a larger universe to fall back on. Similarly, what happens in Sacred Games isn't to be taken in isolation. The story may be set in 2018 but it began sometime in the ‘80s. As we go along, we learn more and more about the various characters, who, at the outset, appear to have nothing to do with one another, but may actually be deeply linked. These connections are alluded to on numerous occasions but only reveal themselves for maximum dramatic effect. The audience earns every revelation and the result is almost always stranger than expectations.
WORLD-CLASS CASTING, ALBEIT WITH RISKS, PAYS OFF
The casting is inch perfect and the risks pay off: Nawazuddin Siddiqui is playing the kind of character that comes so naturally that to imagine him any different is almost bizarre. He's got no qualms, he's not squeamish, he's hardened from years of having witnessed and participated in crime and brutality. You take one look and you know what he's about.
The same can't so easily be said of Saif Ali Khan. A Sardar cop in a non-comedy role? Even more bizarre right? Wrong. He coasts through it! There's a trust factor with him. He's a good guy who has learnt how to swim in the bad and often unfair world around him.
And what about Radhika Apte? If the brief read 'R&AW analyst who doesn't like to sit behind a desk', she's completely nailed it! She doesn't charge into things, she thinks through every step. There's a calculation behind what she does and why she does it but she can be quite dogged when it comes to pursuing a hunch.
ANURAG KASHYAP’S 'GLAMOUR IN FILTH' IMPRINT ALL OVER SACRED GAMES
Finding glamour in filth: It's no surprise that Anurag Kashyap is heavily involved in Sacred Games. This is right down his alley. Whether it be his depiction of the apparently lucrative garbage scavenging industry, or the seedy portrayals of how mobsters rose, lived large, fell and vanished into obscurity, there's a sense of enchantment. Sacred Games' Mumbai is intoxicating in a way that the real thing just cannot live up to and that is a triumph.
UNCENSORED CONTENT FOR A GLOBAL AUDIENCE
Sacred Games pulls no punches when it comes to being 'clean'. There's nudity, sex, drinking, smoking, drugs and every other standard Indian entertainment vice in droves. A key aide of Saif's character, who provides most of the comic relief, is foul-mouthed in a way that's almost endearing. It's a masterclass in demonstrating how Kashyap takes advantage of the ‘no censor’ clause to tell a better story without unnecessarily overpowering and dominating the elements of it.
THE RE-WATCH VALUE & THE BINGE FACTOR
The story is so complex, multi-layered and convoluted that watching it again is more than likely to reveal something you missed the last time-- a cornerstone to any binge-worthy show. The great films and TV shows globally generally have this in common: fans keep coming back. Expect Sacred Games to provide temptation when you're scrolling through the video feed while sitting down to dinner or just before falling asleep.
POTENTIAL TO MAINSTREAM THE MINI-SERIES FORMAT
Beyond Sacred Games: There was a time not long ago when watching TV series used to require a long-term commitment. Abroad, a standard 'season' would generally consist of around 24 episodes, and in India, where the season concept didn't quite exist, studios like Balaji Telefilms would turn out up to four half-hour episodes of their marquee soap-operas each week! Sacred Games' biggest achievement could end up being the mainstreaming of the mini-series format, thereby liberating makers and allowing them to tell the stories the way they want without having to needlessly stretch things out or, on the flipside, having to edit things down to a point where the end result is almost indistinguishable from the original.
And with about half-a-dozen more India-made Netflix Originals to come (for a start) we're likely to see Sacred Games transitioning from sensation to trend-setter very soon!
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