Netflix has hit gold with the gripping second season of 'Sacred Games'

Sacred Games
Not long after India bowed out of the Cricket World Cup in July 2019, Indian fans of the sport united on Twitter and went on to petition Netflix to release the second season of Sacred Games early. There wasn’t anything to watch, the tweets sent out a cry for quality content: “Jitna hua hai, utna daaldo (Release whatever is done).” The show’s makers budged only by 12 hours, making the release coincide with the clock striking midnight on Independence Day. Thankfully, the wait has been worth it.

Directed by Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan, the second season faithfully picks up from where it stopped, Day 15 of a 25-day countdown to something “big” happening in Mumbai. The good guys have narrowed it down to a terror attack, but have no idea of the wreck headed their way.

Riding on the wave of a positive reception to the first season based on Vikram Chandra’s critically acclaimed eponymous book of 2006, Netflix reportedly pumped in Rs 100 crore as investment in the second season, the largest amount any streaming service has put into any original content in India. And they’ve certainly got their money’s worth: season two is an opulent affair with stories arising from every little corner, and a mammoth cast that reportedly comprises 3,500 people. And out of all the very many bouts of self-reflection that serve to give us context, it’s one dead man, another man with a severed thumb and yet another in deep meditation who control the narrative.  

Saif Ali Khan as a cop remains his tense and troubled self. It could be argued that the threat of nuclear attack can do that to the best of us. And despite the emergence of characters such as the Osho-like “guruji” (played splendidly by Pankaj Tripathi), it is gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who was seen putting a bullet in his own head last season, holding the audience’s attention even when we don’t see him. The spell holds even when it seems Gaitonde is but a soldier in someone else’s battle. New faces this season are Kalki Koechlin, who plays the guru’s first-in-command Batya Abelman, and the accomplished Amruta Subhash as Kusum Devi Yadav, an officer with India’s foreign intelligence agency (the Research and Analysis Wing).

The show is rife with conflict: the characters are fighting for a future they may not be a part of even as they battle their own personal demons. The convincing use of major turning points in India’s history, such as the Emergency, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the 1993 Mumbai blasts and even Partition, infuses a degree of reality to a show that could easily have gone on to be far-fetched. What makes Sacred Games so appealing in its second season is its commitment to show the best and worst of both the warring sides.

Not only does this season explore more Indian mythology than the first, there’s also more betrayal, more ambition, and more layers. It has its low moments for sure, like when you begin to link “the threat” to all the scares that mankind has faced in fictional worlds before, but it recovers from those pitfalls quite swiftly. There are also tongue-in-cheek one-liners and some silliness in the face of overwhelming death and catastrophe.

About 400 minutes long and divided into eight episodes, the show is perfect for a binge-watching marathon. And even if one doesn’t quite remember all the fine details from the previous season (trailers aren’t much help), it’s easy to catch up to this instalment. And instalment it is, for there is every indication that there will be a third season. Netflix knows what Sacred Games is: winner winner chicken dinner.

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