Sacred Games (TV series)
|Based on||Sacred Games|
by Vikram Chandra
|Theme music composer||Alokananda Dasgupta|
|Country of origin||India|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Production company(s)||Phantom Films|
|Original release||6 July 2018 –|
Sacred Games is an Indian web television thriller series based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel of the same name. The first Netflix original series in India, it is directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, who produced it under their banner Phantom Films. The novel was adapted by Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath. Kelly Luegenbiehl, Erik Barmack and Motwane served as the executive producers.
Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) is a troubled police officer in Mumbai who receives a phone call from gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who tells him to save the city within 25 days. The series chronicles the events that follow. Other cast members include Radhika Apte, Girish Kulkarni, Neeraj Kabi, Jeetendra Joshi, Rajshri Deshpande, Karan Wahi, Aamir Bashir, Jatin Sarna, Elnaaz Norouzi and Kubra Sait.
The development of Sacred Games started after Erik Barmack, the Vice-president of Netflix contacted Motwane to create Indian content for the platform in 2014. They opted to adapt Chandra's novel in the local Indian language, to which Motwane agreed. After the script was completed, Motwane asked Kashyap to co-direct; Motwane directed the sequences involving Singh while Kashyap directed Gaitonde's. Swapnil Sonawane was the director of photography for Motwane; Sylvester Fonseca and Aseem Bajaj filmed the scenes directed by Kashyap. Aarti Bajaj was the editor and Alokananda Dasgupta composed the background score.
The first four episodes of Sacred Games premiered on 29 June 2018, with the full season of eight episodes released on Netflix on 6 July across 191 countries; it had subtitles in more than 20 languages. It received mostly positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for the performances and writing. In September 2018, it was announced that the series has been renewed for a second season.
Sartaj Singh is a troubled police inspector in Mumbai police, living on sleeping pills and seeking validation from a police force he nevertheless loathes for its corruption. He receives an anonymous phone call from Ganesh Gaitonde, a notorious crime lord who has been missing for 16 years. He tells Singh to save the city in 25 days, which initiates a chain of events that burrows deep into India's dark underworld. In the journey, Singh is helped by a Research and Analysis Wing officer, Anjali Mathur.
- Saif Ali Khan as Inspector Sartaj Singh
- Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ganesh Gaitonde
- Radhika Apte as Anjali Mathur (season 1)
- Neeraj Kabi as DCP Parulkar
- Jatin Sarna as Deepak "Bunty" Shinde
- Kubra Sait as Kukoo
- Jitendra Joshi as Constable Katekar
- Rajshri Deshpande as Subhadra
- Luke Kenny as Malcolm Mourad
- Elnaaz Norouzi as Zoya Mirza/Jamila
- Pankaj Tripathi as Khanna Guru Ji
- Aamir Bashir as Inspector Majid Ali Khan
- Geetanjali Thapa as Nayanika Sehgal
- Shalini Vatsa as Kanta Bai
- Surveen Chawla as Jojo Mascarenas
- Girish Kulkarni as Bipin Bhosale
- Anupriya Goenka as Megha Singh
- Danish Pandor as Bada Badariya
- Anil Charanjeet as Chota Badariya
- Vikram Kochar as Mathu
- Samir Kochhar as SPI Markand
- Chittaranjan Tripathy as Trivedi
- Rajendra Shisatkar as ASI Dhobale
- Sukhmani Sadana as Mikki
- Muni Jha as Paritosh Shah
- Karan Wahi as Karan Malhotra
- Promita Banik as Bunty's Girlfriend
- Nawab Shah as Salim Kaka
- Jaipreet Singh as Constable Dilbagh Singh
- Raj Kashyap as Junaid Sheikh
- Affan Khan as Young Sartaj Singh
- Sunny Pawar as Young Ganesh Gaitonde
- Saurabh Sachdeva as Suleiman Isa
- Sandesh Kulkarni as Gaitonde's Father
- Vibhavari Deshpande as Gaitonde's Mother
- Neha Shitole as Constable Katekar's wife
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by ||Original air date |
|1||"Ashwathama"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Varun Grover||6 July 2018|
The episode is named after the Hindu legend Ashwathama, who was cursed to suffer human life till eternity, in a way making him invincible.
The first episode of Sacred Games starts off with a dog falling off a high-rise building in Mumbai, a plot element that will be emphasised later on in the season. Following that is the entry of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as yesteryear gangster Ganesh Gaitonde, who hints that something sinister is about to happen in Mumbai. Running parallel is the story of junior Mumbai Police cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) who is looking for a big case to prove his mettle to the corrupt department he works in. He gets an out-of-the-blue call from Gaitonde himself giving him a tip about something destructive that will happen in Mumbai in the next 25 days. Gaitonde claims to know Sartaj Singh's father.
Sartaj Singh is able to trace Gaitonde's location, and the gangster shoots himself in the head in front of the cop. What follows is a flashback story, narrated by Nawazuddin Siddiqui himself, that focuses on the dark childhood and teenage life of the gangster that led him to become a ruthless criminal.
|2||"Halahala"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Smita Singh||6 July 2018|
The episode is named after 'Halahala', an extremely toxic poison that comes out as a by-product of an attempt by Devas and Asuras to extract Amrit, the nectar for eternal life.
With the death of Ganesh Gaitonde starts a 25-day countdown that carries on throughout the length of the show. Sacred Games now brings Bollywood to the fold, introducing an up and coming actress who seems to have some connection with Gaitonde; seeing the news of the gangster's death, she threatens someone to get her file from the murdered talent manager otherwise, else she would bring everyone down with her. This episode also marks the entry of Radhika Apte as Anjali Mathur, a Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) agent investigating the case. Sartaj Singh is suspended by Deputy Commissioner of Police Parulkar for not cooperating with him in an investigation over misuse of power. The suspended Sartaj Singh joins forces with Anjali Mathur and discovers that the murdered talent manager was keeping fake currency supplied by Pakistan's ISI (a case Mathur had been investigating at RAW), and had also been escorting Bollywood and TV actresses to Gaitonde.
Intertwined in between is the story of Gaitonde's emergence as the mega gangster of slums in 1980-1990s' Bombay. He is seen attempting to gather power, but beaten up by a slumlord and gets his first visit from Parulkar, a sub-inspector back then. Notably, the parts of Nawazuddin Siddiqui's flashback have been shot by Anurag Kashyap, while Vikramaditya Motwane has shot the current-day scenes that involve Saif Ali Khan's character.
|3||"Atapi Vatapi"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Smita Singh||6 July 2018|
The episode is named after two demon brothers, Atapi and Vatapi, who trap and kill travelers in a unique way.
The episode starts off with 'harmless' cop rivalry that involves a blow to the face between Sartaj Singh and Majid, in classic Vikramaditya Motwane style. The chase resumes as cop Sartaj uses evidence from the murder of the talent manager to track back to a TV soap actress, Nayanika, who is coerced into giving sexual favours to Gaitonde's most trusted gang member, Bunty. As before, a flashback starts and viewers are transported back to how Gaitonde met this gang member. It is then followed by Gaitonde's admiration and pursuit of a girl, Kukoo, who is involved with the rival gang's leader, Suleiman Isa. Events start pacing up fast and a shootout helps Gaitonde get the girl. Back in the current-day scenario, Singh and Mathur get closer to Bunty by laying a trap through Bunty's girlfriend.
|4||"Brahmahatya"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Vasant Nath||6 July 2018|
The episode is based on the concept of Brahmahatya (Brahmanahatya), which is the act of killing a Brahman or Brahma who resides in every one, implying the act of killing people, not just Hindus.
The setup is slammed wide open as Bunty catches sight of the hidden camera planted by Singh's informant, Nayanika. Singh, waiting right outside Bunty's house, is caught and taken into the house where he tries to goad the gangster into revealing the impending danger on the city of Mumbai. Bunty is seen rushing off to a warehouse complex in the outskirts of the city, where he meets with a mysterious man who has been seen in a couple of instances in the past few episodes, mostly involved in covering up evidence. Once again, the story goes back to gangster Gaitonde's past where he is shown climbing his way up the ladder by mingling with corrupt politicians and police officials. This is where we meet a small-time politician who will later go on to become the Union Home Minister, with ties to both Gaitonde and DCP Parulkar. The episode ends with a cliffhanger that shows a burqa-clad individual pointing a gun towards Gaitonde, as part of the flashback.
|5||"Sarama"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Vasant Nath||6 July 2018|
Disappointed by Anjali's view towards Nainika, Sartaj himself tries to save the TV starlet but dramatically ends interrupting the RAW's plans to catch Bunty. In 1992, as political unrest increases, Gaitonde and Isa's enimity drastically increases. The episode title refers to Sarama, a Hindu mythological being referred to as the female dog of the gods, who assisted the God-king Indra to recover divine cows stolen by a group of demons known as Panis.
To save his informant, Sartaj Singh follows Bunty and his sidemen to the safehouse. The cop is cornered, though fortunately for him, Mumbai Police arrives. However, instead of apprehending Bunty, they shoot him dead on DCP Parulkar's orders. However, the informant Nayanika, whom Sartaj Singh feels responsible for, is also shot dead in the process.
Back in Bombay in 1992, Gaitonde's terror spreads as his men take out rival gang members by the dozen. He decides to settle down by getting married but the rival gangster Isa sends him a "gift" of his own by murdering one of his closest aides on the day of the wedding. Gaitonde anyway decides to get married, to his house maid. The story shifts to the Bollywood actress, mentioned initially in the second episode, who is blackmailed by her actor boyfriend to act in an in-house film production or risk getting caught in the Gaitonde scandal.
|6||"Pretakalpa"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Smita Singh||6 July 2018|
When Sartaj's constable, Katekar (Jitendra Joshi), is pressured to investigate the case of a young man from a Muslim slum who was found missing for many days, finds a relation between the boy and a theft in nearby shop. The episode title refers to a Hindu text, read when the last rites of a deceased Hindu are performed.
Having tried to find a link between his father and Gaitonde, Sartaj Singh turns to his mother but comes back without an answer. Meanwhile, the Bollywood actress uses a self-inflicted injury in a conversation with her police link to get her blackmailing boyfriend in trouble. She references the "dog murder" shown in the first scene of the first episode, as a point of leverage against him. On the sidelines of the plot runs a story of a small-town gang from a Muslim-majority slum of modern-day Mumbai. Sartaj Singh and his team of cops go after these thugs and the situation ends up getting violent. Singh's main sidekick is murdered as are all the hoodlums as part of a countermeasure. In the meanwhile, back in the 1990s, Gaitonde finds out about a traitor in his teame and takes action by killing the traitor and his brother.
|7||"Rudra"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Vasant Nath||6 July 2018|
Hoping to join the missing dots of their case, Sartaj and Anjali reunite to figure out how to find the enigmatic Trivedi, whom Gaitonde quoted to be the lone survivor after 25 days. In the process an Egypto-Indian kills Anjali in Trivedi's house. The episode title refers to a Rigvedic deity associated with wind or storm.
Despite having links with corrupt senior police officials, the Bollywood actress somehow gets cornered by honest cop Sartaj Singh who extracts names of suspicious individuals who might be involved with the incident expected to hit Mumbai in the next few days. In Anurag Kashyap's flashback story, rival gang members come to take a last hit at killing Gaitonde but end up murdering the gangster's wife. Gaitonde, for the next few days, goes on a rampage, killing innocent people on the streets of Mumbai. He also sets on fire entire slums filled with Muslim families. This triggers the city's police department to put him in jail where he is beaten every day with no mercy - while he thinks this treatment is being meted out to him for the murders he committed, it is actually a way for a godman to break his spirit, using the police. In the parallel current-day story, Sartaj Singh and the RAW agent Mathur inch closer to the people involved in the upcoming attack. While Singh drifts off to find a secret location, Mathur (Apte) is shot dead by the same mysterious man in previous episodes.
|8||"Yayati"||Vikramaditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap||Varun Grover||6 July 2018|
To save Mumbai from the threat that Gaitonde stated, Sartaj continues his search to find out who Gaitonde's third father is and what's planned to happen on the 25th day. His discovery leads him to a large room full of dangerous weapons wrapped inside wooden boxes.
The final episode of the first season of Sacred Games is full of twists and turns. We finally see the link between Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh's father, wherein the latter is just a helpful prison officer who helps the gangster with food and water during his torturous stay under lockup. Sartaj Singh, in his pursuit, is caught and tied right in front of the mysterious man, who is now revealed to be a key player of the upcoming attack, supplying weapons in trucks commissioned by the Union Home Minister. Mumbai Police officers track down Singh's location and take over the location that is filled with arms and ammunition. While being questioned by NSA agents, the Union Home Minister reveals little but his comments to Parulkar later hint at a religious war brewing in the background. In a sort-of-conclusive ending to the series, Sartaj Singh tried to connect the missing pieces of the puzzle and a discourse by a godman (previously seen in the 1990s flashbacks as the mastermind behind Gaitonde's torture) on TV helps him locate a secret hideout that houses materials required to survive a nuclear blast.
Erik Barmack, the vice president of Netflix, came across Vikram Chandra's 2006 crime novel, Sacred Games, while they were searching for content for Indian and the global audience. He called it "an interesting property" and decided to adapt it in Indian language. They decided to approach Phantom Films while looking for director and producer for the series. In 2014, writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane met the team of Netflix during his visit to Los Angeles. Motwane had read Chandra's earlier novel Love and Longing in Bombay where the character of Sartaj Singh was introduced. After the meeting, he read Sacred Games and thought it was "great". He said the best thing for him was that they wanted to make it in Hindi and not in English, as according to him "speaking in English can seem so fake at times." He started working on the adaptation of the novel with writer Varun Grover and described the writing as the "biggest challenge".
Motwane said that the digital series medium was "liberating" as he was able to tell stories that "don't have to be told in two-and-a-half hours with an interval and three songs inserted into it." Initially, Motwane considered bringing different directors on board for each episode: "As we got closer to production, we realised that dates were clashing and that it was an overall nightmare [..]." He suggested that Anurag Kashyap co-direct the series with him, as Motwane felt that the two "distinct voices" were essential for the "parallel tracks" of story. Kashyap said he "gobbled" on the opportunity as he was fascinated with the novel. Kashyap had read the novel in 2006 when it came out. In 2014, he had been approached by AMC from Scott Free Productions to direct a series in English. Kashyap had declined the offer, as he did not want to do "anything based in India in English". Motwane and his writers gave the scripts to Chandra for feedback. "Chandra is so research-intensive that we didn't have to approach another researcher, we just had to ask him questions." The series was written by Grover, Smita Singh, and Vasant Nath. One of the writers, Smita Singh, said that in 2016, they were told by Phantom Films to adapt the novel and "it had to be a gripping, slow-burner". The research was headed by Smita Nair and Mantra Watsa, who summarised every chapter and made the "complex plot easily accessible" to the writers. The entire script was completed in a year. Nath said that in the beginning of the writing process, they were "chucking away some important characters from the original, and bringing in new ones". It is the first Indian original series for Netflix.
The episode titles are inspired by Hindu mythology. The first episode titled "Aswatthama", was based on the namesake character from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. He was cursed with immortality by Krishna after the Kurukshetra war. In the series, Gaitonde calls himself immortal like Ashwatthama, but later commits suicide. "Halahala", another episode, was named after a poison of the same name, which was retrieved from Samudra manthan. Aatapi and Vatapi were two demons who used to trick travellers with hospitality and kill them. Brahmahatya means killing of a Brahmin, which is a crime in Hinduism. In the episode, the Hindu Gaitonde agrees to try to attract Muslim votes for Hindu politician Bhosale. Sarama is referred to as a dog. Pretakalpa learns the rites of a Hindu to perform the cremations. In this episode, Katekar is killed and Sartaj cremates him. Rudra is the angered version of Shiva. Gaitonde's wife Subhadra is killed in this episode; he takes revenge by murdering her killers. Yayati was king cursed with premature old age. The title sequence, logo, and title designs were designed by graphic designer Aniruddh Mehta and Mumbai-based motion lab Plexus, who drew inspiration from the Hindu mythology for the designs. Mehta said that each emblem was a contemporary take on "stories from ancient Hindu scriptures, mandala's, mixing modern design elements with characters from the Indus Valley Civilization" that were derived from the episode titles.
Several changes were made while the team adapted the novel as a series. The character of Kuckoo, a transgender woman, is mentioned in passing, as a dancer whom a police officer fell in love with. A constable narrates this to Sartaj, describing Kuckoo as "beautiful as a Kashmiri apple". In the series, Kuckoo is an extended character and is shown as the love interest of Gaitonde. Similarly, the character of Malcolm Murad, who is mentioned once in the novel, has an extended role as an assassin. Few other changes were made. In the novel, the riots were a part of the story, whereas in the series, they are narrated by Gaitonde in glimpses.
Casting and characters
Several characters in the series speak different Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi and Gujarati. Kashyap mentioned that it gives a "real sense of what India is". Saif Ali Khan called the series an experiment and said he agreed to do it because "people are willing to watch programmes from other countries with sub-titles because good stories transcend boundaries." Khan found an "interesting arc" in the character of Sartaj Singh and called it "troubled and honest". He said that he read bits of the novel but later dropped after he found it was not helping him find what needed as an actor. Radhika Apte played the role of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officer Anjali Mathur. Apte called her character a "completely no-nonsense, focused woman who's highly respected in her field and by her peers." She mentioned that her character is not glamourised unlike the Hindi film's depict a RAW agent and did not read the novel. Kashyap said that the novel is about "how Bombay became Mumbai" and the series gives "a sense of the city, where it came from and where it is today."
Nawazuddin Siddiqui said that he treated the role of a gangster as a human being. He also felt that a series gives more time for the character to be explored, unlike a film; he said he agreed to do the series as he wanted to explore the format. He called it the most complex character he has played so far. Khan read the short story Kama, written by Chandra, to "delve into his character's angst." The character of Sartaj Singh was changed from the novel who is described as a thin and tall police officer to a muscled heavyweight. Khan said that changes were made to make the character look "visually engaging" who is a "slightly more charged-up version of the passive officer in the books". Kashyap called Gaitonde the "sum of all we like in movie characters." Motwane said that Siddiqui was his first choice to portray Gaitonde because he "plays gangster so well" and "has that aura and almost everything that's required to play a gangster." He expressed that casting popular actors like Khan and Siddiqui was a conscious decision as it also "drives a larger audience to watch. He said that it was easier to convince Apte and Neeraj Kabi for the roles after Khan and Siddiqui were cast. Kabi was cast in the role of DCP Parulkar, for which he researched from the novel. He also worked on his body language as it was mentioned in the novel for the character. Jitendra Joshi played the role of constable Katekar, who is Sartaj's colleague. He was selected for the role after giving an audition. Joshi took inspiration from real life police officers for the character.
Actress Kubbra Sait played the role of Kuckoo, a transgender woman. She was asked to audition by Kashyap at the screening of Mukkabaaz at MAMI Film Festival; Sait auditioned and was eventually selected. She said the lack of references for the role made it "the most challenging experience" of her career. She wore a penis made of prosthetic makeup between her thighs. Jatin Sarna played the role of gangster Deepak "Bunty" Shinde, which he got after auditioning. Rajshri Deshpande played the role of Siddiqui's wife, Subhadra. Girish Kulkarni was originally offered the role of constable Katekar, which he declined as he wanted a character "that would figure in both Sartaj and Ganesh Gaitonde's world". He then got the role of minister Bipin Bhosale. Iranian actress Elnaaz Norouzi was cast in the role of film star Zoya Mirza. The series' production design was handled by Shazia Iqbal and Vintee Bansal; Aarti Bajaj served as the editor of the series. Swapnil Sonawane shot the portions directed by Motwane. Sylvester Fonseca and Aseem Bajaj shot the scenes of Kashyap. Anish John served as the sound designer.
Motwane started filming in September 2017. Kashyap started filming the series after the completion of Mukkabaaz and finished shooting in January 2018. Both Motwane and Kashyap shot the series separately; Motwane directed the present-day scenes with Khan and Kashyap filmed the Bombay of the 1980s with Siddiqui. Motwane called the exercise of shooting individually an "experiment". Kashyap said it was "painfully difficult" to find the "pockets of Bombay which has kept itself like it is". Chandra was working on the novel at the same time Kashyap was working on his film Black Friday (2007), so he "knew the real-life parallels" in the novel. Kashyap said that he shot and treated the series like a film. Motwane said that apart from leaving out small details, they have "stuck to the spirit of the book". Motwane said that he tried to balance the series between "making it for a worldwide audience [and not alienating] everybody over here." Motwane said that he felt liberated to tell the story without being confined to a three-act structure.
Sacred Games was shot on different real locations in Mumbai including Byculla, as it was set in a period, which Motwane expressed was a "huge logistical challenge". The time period of Gaitonde's story remained unchanged, while the present-day narrative was shifted to present from early 2000s. Motwane explained that it was because of a "similar sort of government [today] and the vibes are the same, so the threat felt a lot more present". Chandra served as a script consultant in the series. According to Sonawane, "a lot of changes happened on the shoot". Several shots were also mentioned in the script, like the introduction of Gaitonde as a kid, which was a top-angle shot, as in the script. He chose to shoot Sartaj Singh's sequences with "worn-out but very warm lenses that reflect how nothing is working out in Sartaj's life." Yellow colour palette's were used in scenes involving Gaitonde because of the "guru that he has begun to follow." Bajaj shot for 27 days, but left after he was involved in another project. After which Fonseca shot the rest of the scenes. He used spherical lenses to shot in order to "demarcate" the world. The shootout sequence at Gaitonde's house, was shot at three different locations with long takes on Steadicam and hand-held shots. One of the scene with Sait involving frontal nudity, was shot in seven takes.
In September 2018, it was announced that the series has been renewed for another season. A 58 second teaser was launched on 21 September. Kashyap will continue to direct while Neeraj Ghaywan will replace Motwane as the director. Sobhita Dhulipala will feature as a new character. The filming began in November 2018 with Siddiqui filming his portion in Nairobi, Kenya while Khan in Mumbai. It was shot in a 50 day schedule with Ghaywan filming with Khan. The series was extensively shot in Mombasa, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Sacred Games is the first Netflix original series from India. In February, 2018, Netflix announced three new series, along with four others, making a total of seven series coming out of India. The first look of the main three characters: Singh, Gaitonde and Mathur were released by Netflix on 23 February 2018. It had individual stills of a blood spattered Singh, a perplexed looking Mathur and kurta pyjama clad Gaitonde. On 4 May 2018, the 55 second long teaser video was released. It was followed by the release of the official trailer on 5 June 2018. The series premiered in Mumbai on 28 June 2018 at the MAMI film festival, where only first four episodes were shown. The series was released on 6 July 2018 across 191 countries on Netflix with subtitles in more than 20 languages. Post the release, several mashup videos, art works and memes related to Sacred Games were released and circulated on social media.
On 10 July 2018, the Indian National Congress party member Rajeev Kumar Sinha, lodged a First information report against Netflix, the showrunners and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, for allegedly insulting former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in one of the scenes. Another complaint was lodged on 11 July 2018 by the President of Youth Indian National Trade Union Congress and All Indian Cine Worker's Association, Suresh Shyamal Gupta for allegedly insulting Gandhi. On 14 July 2018, Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to respond to the controversy by stating that freedom "is a fundamental democratic right" and said: "My father lived and died in the service of India. The views of a character on a fictional web series can never change that." On 15 July 2018, Sinha decided to withdraw the complaint following Gandhi's tweet. Netflix informed the Delhi High Court on 19 July 2018 that a change had been incorporated in the English subtitle to remedy the alleged insult to Gandhi. Sacred Games was also subjected to piracy. The vice president of Netflix, Todd Yellin revealed that Sacred Games was watched by twice as many people outside of India.
Upon release, the series garnered positive reviews from critics, with praise to the performances. The show holds a 90% certified fresh rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews, with an average rating of 6.62 out of 10. The critical consensus reads: "Gorgeous, grim, and unexpected, Sacred Games is saved from its procedural premise by its dense plotting and superb cast."
Raja Sen gave a positive response and wrote: "It is not an immediately explosive concept, unfolding more like a thriller by numbers, helped along by strong performances and some nimble direction." Jai Arjun Singh felt that the series replicated the novel's profanity very intricately and said that the "series uses its own methods to stress the idea of religion as something that can be both nurturing and cannibalistic". Ektaa Malik of The Indian Express called the series "edgier and more layered", but said: "For those who have read the original source material — the novel Sacred Games — they might find the series a bit jarring with regards to certain plot developments." Manjusha Radhakrishnan of Gulf News cited the series as an "edgy, thrilling winner" and said that Khan and Siddiqui are in their "top form". Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV gave a positive response and wrote: "The series has the potential to wean back viewers who have been driven away from television by drab soap operas and trite entertainment formats."
Dipti Kharude of The Quint commended the writing of the series and said, "What's commendable is that Sacred Games chooses compassion over glorification." Swetha Ramakrishnan of Firstpost called it a "high benchmark for India's first Netflix original." She further said that the show gives "due diligence with high production value and an investment into the right parameters — writing, acting and direction." Shristi Negi of CNN-News18 reviewed and mentioned that the show "totally grips you from start to finish". Ankur Pathak of HuffPost gave a positive response and wrote: "At the surface, Sacred Games appears to be a standard cat-and-mouse chase but the show's probing, introspective nature turns a clichéd crime-saga to a biting commentary on the zeitgeist. Its relevance to our current moment cannot be overstated." Siddhant Adlakha of IGN felt the series depicted women as the "collateral damage to the stories of men." He went on to say that the series is "alluring, but frustrating."
Aditya Shrikrishna of The New Indian Express praised the performances of Kubbra Sait as Kukoo and Jitendra Joshi as Katekar, He called Katekar "probably the best translated character and storyline from the novel to the screen." Urvi Parikh called the series "gripping, "intriguing" and "absolutely thrilling" and "exactly the Web series we have been waiting for". Shweta Keshri of India Today praised Siddiqui's acting and said that he "makes you believe that no one could have played Gaitonde better." Tanul Thakur of The Wire felt the series was a "much leaner, condensed version of its source, trying to locate the novel's moral and philosophical centre". He called it a "commendable, much-needed approach" that seems to be in a "needless hurry". Prashant Rao of The Hindu expressed that series captures the spirit of the book. He also praised Khan's performance, stating that he "brings alive his character's midlife crises and the many compromises Singh makes to inhabit a 'good cop' zone with skill and dexterity."
Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter stated that "there are clear flaws" while also mentioning that "there's something riveting about India's bleaker, darker heart being exposed as opposed to some upbeat, colorful explosion of dance scenes". Mike Hale of The New York Times said that, "despite its verve and visual inventiveness, the series feels muddled and a little wearying at times" Adam Starkey of Metro wrote that the dual narratives, while occasionally jarring, are equally compelling. Taylor Antrim called the series "mesmerizing" and "addictive", he further said that it is "bollywood maximalism meets downbeat Euro noir meets Hollywood gangster epic". Steve Greene of IndieWire felt the series was a "surface-level telling of a story that wants to have so much more in its grasp." He also noted the amount of violence depicted. John Doyle of The Globe and Mail noted that the series "sprawls from thriller to dense character study to brooding meditation on the roots of India's political corruption." He, however pointed out that some elements in the story "will puzzle viewers not familiar with India's tangled religious tensions and caste system." Kaitlin Reily of Refinery29 called it a "juicy crime thriller that combines a hardboiled detective story with magical realism." Lincoln Michel of GQ called it the "best Netflix original in years."
Sacred Games won the Best Drama Award at the News18 iReel Awards. It won five awards from 11 nominations including Best Actor (Drama) for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Best Supporting Actor for Jitendra Joshi, Best Writing (Drama), Best Ensemble Cast, and Best Series (Drama). Kashyap won the Best Direction (fiction) Award while Aarti Bajaj won the Award for Best Editing at the inaugural Asian Academy Creative Awards.
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