Biweekly Binge: Sacred Games 2 - What’s in store?
A fortnightly column on what’s good in the vast ocean of content in the streaming platforms around you, and this week it is a preview to Sacred Games
This week, Sacred Games returns with its second season. The ever-mutating adaptation of Vikram Chandra s novel on religion, deceit, terrorism, and intrigue will be out on Netflix by on Independence Day. There's a new director in Neeraj Ghaywan, which is exciting in itself as this will be the first long feature since his Cannes hobnobbing debut with Masaan. But what else to expect in Season 2?
One whole season, and we still know very little about Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), and his associates. There are new names in the cast this season. Radhika Apte's Anjali Mathur, a principal character in the book, was unceremoniously killed off at the end of the first season. Dominating the second season are Kalki Koechlin's Batya Abelman, Surveen Chawla's Jojo Mascarenhas, Amruta Subhash as a RAW agent, Elnaaz Norouzi as Zoya Mirza and the ever-mysterious Guruji played by Pankaj Tripathi.
Off-screen, a lot has changed in the context of Sacred Games. Phantom Films, the company that produced the first season does not exist anymore. It was disbanded following the sexual assault charges against one of its partners, Vikas Bahl. Anurag Kashyap is still one of the directors of Sacred Games and Vikramaditya Motwane, the showrunner. By 2018, Vikram Chandra's novel conjured an aura around itself, its wide range of players consisting of right-wing nationalists, sly godmen and its pages of meditation on cinema, pop culture, business, religion and the business of religion. And that aura only glows anew with the current affairs in India looking scarily like events in the book. Pankaj Tripathi plays a wealthy Guruji who remains an enigma but stage-managing the plot in the foreground thanks to his links with gangsters, politicians and film stars. In our daily news today, there are strange godmen, with different names and similar faces, pretending to be interviewed by sportspersons and media personalities. It is all a heady mix of undisclosed motivations and conspiracy. Into this cocktail drops Sacred Games, more than relevant thirteen years after it was published.
The new season comes with a twist of book and non-book characters. One of the most intriguing characters in the novel is Jojo Mascarenhas, who we found dead in Gaitonde's strongbox in the series pilot. For much of the book, the phone conversations between Gaitonde and Jojo determines the mood of the plot. They never have a face to face conversation (presumably till the events just prior to their death) but Jojo, via a phone line, controls Gaitonde's thoughts and life, as if he was a puppet. There is a bit of the film industry subplot too, with Zoya Mirza, a model turned actress who is another creation of Jojo, the master puppeteer in the book. It's Jojo's house where Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan) and his cohorts found rooms and walls full of cash. As is prudent, the money trail is what Sartaj will probably go after. In the teasers so far, we see several women whose motivations are unknown and whose pedigrees are alien to the book but each of them seems to have a hold over the men. Batya over Sartaj and the pair of Jojo and Zoya over Gaitonde.
If you've read the book, it's evidently crazy to imagine that a film adaptation will introduce new characters. But for a sprawling epic such as Chandra's novel to make sense and translate on screen, it is probably easier that way to connect the dots. The first season, while incredible in scale and filmmaking, only touched the tip of the iceberg that is Sacred Games. The makers probably took a risk in making the first season a crisp procedural and dialing back on Gaitonde's motivations in a whole new season. It won't be long before we find out what's really at stake.