Sacred Games (S1 & S2) Series: Good Show About Changing Hindu-Muslim Relationship In India

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Sacred Games is one of the top series that dares to depict the changing Hindu-Muslim relationship in Mumbai, India. This Hindi crime mystery show delivers key messages.

It is based on the Sacred Games novel by author Vikram Chandra. So, the social and political messages appeared in his novel, first. Equally important, this novel won the Hutch Crossword Book Award in 2006 for best work in English fiction. Furthermore, this novel narrates a sublime story of friendship and betrayal. Besides the setting of this tale unfolds in Mumbai – the modern glittering city with its dark and hidden underbelly.

Synopsis (summary) of this crime-drama from India

In season one, police Inspector Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) receives an anonymous tip. It was about the location of fugitive criminal underworld gang leader Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). So, he embarks on a chase around Mumbai. Then it becomes a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Ganesh Gaitonde’s cryptic warning spurs officer Sartaj Singh on a quest to save Mumbai from the cataclysm.

After being removed from the Ganesh Gaitonde case, Sartaj Singh begins his own investigation. As he works to save Mumbai from impending doom and traces his past connections with him.

In season two, Mumbai’s fate hangs in the balance. Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) chases a connection to Ganesh Gaitonde’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) third father. That person is an enigmatic guruji with a catastrophic plan.

Flashbacks reveal some of the crimes that Gaitonde has committed through the years. Amidst the chaos, the trappings of a corrupt underworld are revealed.

Series review of the Sacred Games show

This show was released in the summer of 2018. When we first saw season one of Sacred Games, we found it a captivating and engrossing show to watch. Equally important, the web series was getting ready to take off in a big way in India in those times. Significantly, at that time, the timeline on our profile on social media platforms was full of praise for this.

Good things going for this Hindi show

In terms of its plotline and acting, it was a breakthrough series from India. In fact, the online web series/movies had just started to make their presence felt in India.

Add to the fact that its compelling story is based on an award-winning novel from India. Indeed, this series has lots of positives going for it. Quite explicitly, the real-life incidents of 1980-1993 in Mumbai, India have inspired its storyline. In fact, one can easily identify some of its characters and real-life incidents that happened in India.

Inspired by quite a few real-life characters

So, in this series (novel), the character of Ganesh Gaitonde is loosely based on real-life gangster Arun Gawli. On the other hand, the character of Sulemani Isa is based on another real-life gangster Dawood Ibrahim. Additionally, we could state that the stories of Gaitonde and Isa’s rivalry are based on reality. Henceforth, in this show, Isa flees to Dubai after carrying out the 1993 Mumbai Bomb Blasts by him.

Two directors – Motwane and Kashyap in its first season

For the first time the two directors, viz., Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap have worked together on the same project. So, they directed and shot this show in a rather interesting way. Anurag Kashyap directed the Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) angle of the story, on one hand. Whereas, Vikramaditya Motwane took care of Sartaj Singh’s (Saif Ali Khan) storyline. Thus, both Kashyap and Motwane shot the stories of Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh simultaneously, in their own style.

Season one of this series covers the first quarter of the original novel, which has 928 pages. Whereas, season two takes this story further. However, its fans expect more seasons of it.

About its talented group of Indian actors

This was the first web series by actor Saif Ali Khan, who played the protagonist Sartaj Singh with great conviction. Nawazuddin Siddiqui played the equally important character of Ganesh Gaitonde in a typical earthy manner. In addition, a wonderfully talented bunch of actors have superbly supported Saif and Nawazuddin and its complex story.

Its accomplished ensemble cast includes – Radhika Apte (Anjali Mathur), Surveen Chawla (Jojo Mascarenhas), Rajshri Deshpande (Subhadra), Anupriya Goenka (Megha Singh), Kalki Koechlin (Batya Abelman), Ranvir Shorey (Shahid Khan), Pankaj Tripathy (Guruji), Aamir Bashir (Majid), Shalini Vatsa, (Kanta Bai), Neeraj Kabi ( Parulkar), etc.

A few actors have appeared only in one season of this show.

Nevertheless, all of them have done a tremendous job in this well-told story from India.

Realistic portrayal of changing society in India & the conclusion

Its plotline delves into the social and political issues that confront India, in the 21st century. So, this show touched upon the tragic historical partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

It is primarily a Hindi language show. However, some of its characters often speak in the languages like Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, etc. Thereupon, it portrays the sheer diversity of the microcosm Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) megapolis. In addition, this series has depicted life in this busy financial capital of India in a smart manner. Thus it turns its camera on some of the poorest neighbourhoods. Besides it focuses on the lavish lifestyles of gangsters.

To conclude, this series delivers the key messages. Explicitly, it is about defeating India’s communal politics. Also the need for much greater unity among the different communities of India.

Significantly, this show has recently topped the list of the most popular Indian web series of all time. And we agree with this ranking. It is one of the top series to come out of India.

Poster of season one of Sacred Games show

Sacred Games
Sacred Games (S1) Show – poster.

Spoilers Alert – peek into 8 episodes of season one of this crime-drama

Please Note:- Almost every episode of season one of this show has a direct reference to the Hindu epic Ramayana, either in the form of the popular 1980s comic adaptation (episode one) poster of Hanuman and Rama and Sita (episode 2 and 3) the 1988 tv series Ramyan (episodes 4) performances (episode 6) or in the series dialogue, for example as Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in episode 7 threatens the Muslim population of Mumbai with the fires of retribution, he refers to Hanuman's revenge at the hands of King Ravana In then Ramayana on the City of Lanka.
A peek into its eight (8) episodes of the Season One

1: Ashwatthama

A mysterious phone call from an anonymous man leads police officer Sartaj Singh on a chase around Mumbai in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.

It is an important character from the Indian mythological tales in the Mahabharata epic tale written in the Sanskrit language. Aswatthama was cursed with immortality after the Kurukshetra war. So he became a Chiranjivi (immortal) due to a curse given to him by God Krishna.

In Sacred Games, Ganesh Gaitonde is dead in the first episode. But his powerful life story remains alive in this show. Therefore, in this show, he narrates the story of his rise to the top of the underworld in Mumbai. Besides, along with his story, we also get a ringside view of the turbulent history of communalism in Mumbai, India.

2: Halahala

News of Ganesh Gaitonde creates a stir among Mumbai’s VIPs, from politicians to film stars. After he is removed from the case, Sartaj begins his own investigation.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, Halāhala (or Kālakūṭa) is the name of a lethal poison. It came out during the Samudra Manthan. Then, God Shiva drank the Halahala to prevent the calamity. Thus he saved the world and the universe from the destruction of the deadly poisoning.

In Sacred Games, Ganesh warns the show’s protagonist, Sartaj Singh. He asked to sincerely listen to Ganesh’s warning and to uncover the truth behind the deadly terror plot. In addition, maybe, it can also be interpreted as Ganesh deciding to take the proverbial poison and kill himself. Perhaps, he did so in the larger interest of saving Mumbai city and its people.

3: Atapi Vatapi

The woman found in the bunker leads Sartaj to Ganesh Gaitonde’s thug, Bunty (Jatin Sarna); in a flashback, Gaitonde recalls stealing a lucky charm from rival Sulemani Isa (Saurabh Sachdeva).

According to the Indian mythological tales, Aatapi and Vatapi were two dangerous demons. They used to trick travellers with their hospitality and kill them mercilessly.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, it hints at the immense influence of the powerful religions/ideologies/politics that welcome people to its fold and then control them completely. They not only manipulate the hearts and minds of their followers but also corrupt their souls.

4: Brahmahatya

TV starlet Nayanika (Geetanjali Thapa) visits Bunty with a hidden camera; in the mid-’80s, Ganesh Gaitonde discovers a racket even more lucrative than drugs and guns: politics.

According to the ancient Manusmriti text of Hinduism, Brahmahatya means the murder of a Brahmin (Brahminicide) – the greatest of the sins – the mahapaap. Since the ancient age, the people belonging to Brahmins (caste/community) usually worked as priests and teachers. As a result, the Brahmins were expected to devote their lives to holy pursuits and service to the gods.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, Ganesh kills his Brahmin self and forgets his Brahmin roots, to work for the Hindu politician Bhosale and fan the communal flame. Also, taking advantage of the growing anger and intolerance directed towards Muslims, Ganesh chooses to project himself as a Hindu don while working for the politician.

5: Sarama

To save Nayanika, Sartaj intervenes during a RAW operation; in 1992, as political unrest increases so does the bloodshed from Gaitonde and Isa’s feud.

According to the Hindu mythological tales in the Rig Veda, Sarama is a mythological dog referred to as the female dog of the gods, or Devashuni. Therefore, in one of the ancient tales, Sarama helps lord Indra (the king of the gods) to recover divine cows stolen by the Panis Asuras.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, Sartaj is the proverbial dog with a leash. He is stopped by his superior police officials from doing the right thing and digging for the truth.

6: Pretakalpa

When Sartaj’s constable, Katekar (Suhas Sirsat) is pressured to investigate the disappearance of a young man from a Muslim slum, disastrous consequences follow.

According to the Hindu mythological tales in the Garuda Purana (one of the 18 Mahapuraṇa texts), Pretakalpa is the rites and rituals to perform the cremation of the followers of Hinduism. It is read when the last rites of a deceased Hindu are performed. Thus, it is about the cycle of life, death and beyond.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, Sartaj’s close friend constable Katekar is murdered. Then, Sartaj not only cremates Katekar but also kills his murderer. Additionally, this tragic incident marks a major turning point in the life of Sartaj. Furthermore, metaphorically speaking, Sartaj performs rites of his old righteous self and embarks on a new journey.

7: Rudra

Hoping to tie up the many loose ends of their case, Sartaj and Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte) reunite to figure out how the enigmatic Trivedi is linked to Gaitonde’s prophecy.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, Rudra (रूद्र) is the name and form of God Shiva. He is the one who drives away evil. Also, the Rudra avatar of God Shiva is the personification of terror. The Rudra (रूद्र) traces its roots to Raudra (रौद्र) word in Hindi language, which means extreme and fierce anger.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, furious Ganesh participates in an act of violent revenge against the Muslim community after his lover Subhadra is killed by the Muslims.

8: Yayati

To save Mumbai from impending doom, Sartaj races against time to find out who Gaitonde’s third father is and what’s planned to happen on the 25th day.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, Yayāti was a powerful king of the Kuru dynasty. He was obsessed with the youthfulness and worldly pleasures. Hence, he married Devayani, Shukracharya’s daughter. However, to fulfil his lustful desire, he molested Sharmishtha. This sinful incident made Shukracharya very angry, so he cursed Yayati with premature old age. Yayati lost his youth and became frail and feeble.

In Sacred Games, Ganesh reveals the identity of his third father, Guruji and the fact that he has pledged his allegiance to Guru Ji’s secretive and destructive cause.

Teaser of season one of this crime-drama from India

Teaser – Sacred Games (S1/2018) Show | YouTube.

Rating of season one of Sacred Games show

FM’s rating4.30/5
FM’s short commentBased on an awarded novel, its ensemble of accomplished actors depicts the harsh realities of India in recent years, by using Mumbai’s backdrop.
Rating – Sacred Games (S1/2018) Show.

Key details of this crime-drama from India

GenreAction, Mystery, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Original language Hindi (and a bit of Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, etc.)
Age-restrictionsA (18+)
Directors (S1)Anurag Kashyap & Vikramaditya Motwane
WritersVikram Chandra & Varun Grover
Director (S2)Neeraj Ghaywan
Seasons & Episodes Season (1) One – Eight (8) Episodes – July 2018
Season (2) Two – Eight (8) Episodes – August 2019
Cast (S1)Saif Ali Khan (Sartaj Singh), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Ganesh Gaitonde), Radhika Apte (Anjali Mathur), Surveen Chawla (Jojo Mascarenhas), Rajshri Deshpande (Subhadra), Anupriya Goenka (Megha Singh), etc.
Cast (S2)Saif Ali Khan (Sartaj Singh), Kalki Koechlin (Batya Abelman), Ranvir Shorey (Shahid Khan), Pankaj Tripathy (Guruji), Aamir Bashir (Majid), Shalini Vatsa, (Kanta Bai), Neeraj Kabi ( Parulkar), etc.

Please note:- Quite a few actors in it have worked in both seasons.
TaglinesThe righteous. The ruthless. Everyone wants to play.
About – Sacred Games (S1 & S2) Show

Numerous awards won this crime-drama from India

International Emmy Awards – 2019 Nominee EmmyDrama Series India (Sacred Games, Season 2 was nominated in the Best Drama category at the International Emmy Awards 2019).
Filmfare OTT Awards – 2020 Winner Technical Award Best Background Music Alokananda Dasgupta
Filmfare OTT Awards – 2020 Winner Technical Award Best Cinematography Sylvester FonsecaSwapnil S. Sonawane
Indian Television Academy Awards, India – 2018 Winner Indian Television Academy Award Best Web Series Anurag Kashyap & Vikramaditya Motwane
Indian Television Academy Awards, India – 2018 Winner Indian Television Academy Award Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Web Series Neeraj Kabi (actor)
Asian Academy Creative Awards – 2018 Winner Asian Academy Creative Award Best Direction (Fiction) Anurag Kashyap
Asian Academy Creative Awards – 2018 Winner Asian Academy Creative Award Best Editing Aarti Bajaj
Bollywood Life Awards – 2020 Winner
Bollywood Life – OTT Award Best Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui Season 2
Bollywood Life Awards – 2020 Winner
Bollywood Life – OTT Award Best Supporting Actor Pankaj Tripathi Season 2
Bollywood Life Awards – 2020 Winner
Bollywood Life – OTT Award Best Original Track Season 2
Bollywood Life Awards – 2020 Winner
Bollywood Life – OTT Award Most Popular Web Series Season 2
Awards – Sacred Games show.

Poster of season two of Sacred Games show

Sacred Games
Sacred Games (S2) Show – poster.

Spoilers Alert – about 8 episodes of season two of this crime-drama

A peek into its eight episodes of Season Two

1: Matsya

After making a discovery in Gaitonde’s bunker, Sartaj joins a mission to foil a deadly conspiracy; Gaitonde resurfaces in a new location in 1994.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, in the first of his ten incarnations, God Vishnu took the form of Matsya (a fish) to save primaeval man (the humans) from the worldwide flood that deluged the entire land areas of the world.

In Sacred Games, Ganesh Gaitonde resurfaces in a new location in 1994, in a new avatar of an international gang leader of repute, perhaps to save Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Sartaj continues his investigation, by taking a new avatar, too.

2: Siduri

With the terrorist-cell investigation underway, Sartaj visits Guruji’s (Pankaj Tripathi) ashram; in the late 1990s, Gaitonde was urged to seek a spiritual anchor.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, Siduri is another avatar of Goddess Durga, the one, who wears Sindhoor on her hair partition on head.

In Sacred Games, perhaps a woman in a powerful position in the Guruji’s ashram holds the key.

3: Apasmara

Sartaj traces how Shahid Khan’s (Ranvir Shorey) nuclear consignment was delivered to India; Gaitonde takes bold action to maintain his notoriety in the early 2000s.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, Apasmara is a dwarf who represents spiritual ignorance and nonsensical speech.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, Shahid Khan is referred to as Apasmara, the man does not really know his family’s history and past. Besides, the history of the two nations.

4: Bardo

Sartaj’s team tries to reach Shahid Khan through an internet chat room; in 2003, Gaitonde’s growing disenchantment with his life brings him closer to Guruji.

According to the Tibetan language, Bardo is a translation of the Sanskrit term antarābhava, which means “existence in the interval”, referring to the period between death and rebirth.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, it means the death of the unified Indian subcontinent and the birth of different and independent nations in the Indian subcontinent.

Significantly, the British Colonial rulers partitioned the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan on the basis of two major religions, viz, Hindu and Muslim.

And maybe, the same is true for the people of the Indian subcontinent.

5: Vikarna

As Sartaj’s team baits a trap for Shahid Khan, Majid (Aamir Bashir) suspects a department member; immersed in ashram life, Gaitonde learns about Guruji’s lethal plans.

According to the Hindu mythological tales, the name Vikarna basically came from his character of either not listening to anyone (because of his self-esteem and ego) or listening and capturing wisdom through his (large) ears. Thus, Vikarna’s name contains two meanings.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, Ganesh listens and understands the true nature of Guruji Ji’s dangerous plans for Mumbai, so he acts as Vikarna.

6: Azrael

Batya (Kalki Koechlin) lets Sartaj in on several secrets, leaving him conflicted and reeling; Gaitonde returns to Mumbai to set Guruji’s destructive plan into motion.

Azrael is the angel of death in Jewish and Islamic religious beliefs. Thus, this angel watches over the dying and separates the soul from the body.

In Scared Games, perhaps, Ganesh Gaitonde is going to play the role of Azrael in this tale.

7: Torino

After committing a drastic act, Gaitonde cannot silence Guruji’s voice in his mind; Parulkar (Neeraj Kabi) reaches a shocking realization; Sartaj makes a breakthrough.

Torino (aka Turin) is an ancient city that is situated in the Piemonte region of Northwestern Italy. As per the legend, it is rumoured to be surrounded by the magic. Furthermore, it is said that this city was built at the confluence of two rivers called Po and Dora. These two rivers form a ‘Y’ in the city, and they symbolise the good and bad duality of humans in a real sense.

In Sacred Games, perhaps, it refers to the kind and unkind duality of Ganesh Gaitonde in the tale.

8: Radcliffe

Unsettling truths, unforeseen connections and complex betrayals emerge for Sartaj, Gaitonde and Shahid Khan as doomsday descends on Mumbai.

Notably, the Radcliffe boundary refers to the international border line between India and Pakistan nations on the Indian subcontinent.

In Sacred Games, the people of the Indian subcontinent could revisit the shared rich history of our people, before the religions and politics divided our nations.

Trailer of season two of this crime-drama from India

Official trailer – Sacred Games (S2/2019) Show | YouTube.

Rating of season two of Sacred Games show

FM’s rating4.05/5
FM’s short commentAs it focuses too much on religion and philosophy in this season, we miss the tautness of its season one, thus making it less of a crime thriller.
Rating – Sacred Games (S2/2019) Series.

Featured Images and Posters of the Sacred Games series | Netflix India.

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