If Neflix India’s first original production, Sacred Games, is anything to go by, the American giant’s vision towards creating high-voltage, provocative original content, seeped in the Indian milieu, deserves appreciation. Adapted from Vikram Chandra’s epic novel, the 8-part TV series set in Bombay’s criminal underworld, had a sprawling and audacious scope, and reminded me of a couple of co-director Kashyap’s previous works in terms of its temporal arc, viz. his ambitious knockout combo Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2, and his gangster pastiche Bombay Velvet. The series followed two dramatically different narrative strands – in the grimy first strand, Mumbai cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), facing tremendous hostility from his colleagues for refusing to support police brutality, doggedly investigates the sudden emergence and mysterious suicide of former mobster Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), with the help of his loyal constable (Jitendra Joshi) and egged by an ambitious RAW agent (Radhika Apte), but much to the chagrin of his crooked boss; in the second – and highly engrossing – parallel strand, the spectacular rise and fall of Gaitonde is chronicled, along with the changing sociopolitical and religious face of the metropolis, as he becomes a powerful mob boss starting with his takeover of the city’s garbage dumps, his blistering affair with transgender cabaret dancer Kukoo (Kubra Sait), his foray into Bollywood and even marital placidity, and the changing political dynamics that finally undo him. Multiple volatile themes – nasty religious chauvinism, gender identity, corruption, etc. – jostled for space in this bold, gritty and chaotic series, aided by an array of terrific performances (Siddiqui and Sait were especially smashing), deliberate pacing and an atmosphere that was moody, noirish and brooding, and packed with operatic violence, simmering sexuality, political defiance and pop-cultural references.
Director: Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane
Genre: Gangster Film/Crime Thriller/Political Thriller/Police Procedural/TV Series