Audiences will discover a personal side to Suleiman Isa in Sacred Games 2: Saurabh Sachdeva
For the last 17 years, Saurabh Sachdeva has quietly trained a litany of actors - from Varun Dhawan to Rana Daggubati. Now he gears up to face the camera more frequently, riding on previous successes
What truly elevated the first season of Sacred Games, aside from its meticulous backgrounding of the country’s political churn, were its characters. A year on, a favourite remains hard to pick. Gaitonde, Sartaj? The tragic effervescence of Kukoo or the undying candour of Katekar? As we wait for Season 2 of the Netflix India show, with baited, nuclear-ready breaths, it helps to know that several of them will be back, including key recurrent players like Suleiman Isa. Portrayed by Saurabh Sachdeva, Isa is the Dawood Ibrahim-ish figure who hovers around the show in a black suit and red car, and who, soon after fleeing for Dubai in Episode 5, orders a hit on Ganesh Gaitonde.
“Audiences will get to see the depth of my character in season two, including things about his personal life,” says Saurabh, who finished dubbing for his portions last month. As for the composite nature of his character — his name combines the two Memon siblings, Suleiman and Essa — Saurabh doesn't claim to know much. “Actually I was auditioned for a different role — Salim Kaka, with whom Nawazuddin crosses the river to smuggle gold. Then the makers thought I should audition for Malcolm Murad (played by Luke Kenny). But even that didn't work out and I was finally given this role.”
Raised in Delhi, Saurabh started his career as an acting coach alongside Barry John in Mumbai. Celebrity students to have shone under him include Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Frieda Pinto, Jacqueline Fernandez, Richa Chadha, Rana Daggubati and others. He also directed plays and conducted workshops for films. In 2016, a video of a brother and a sister being forcibly married for sitting together at a park on Valentine’s Day formed the basis of Gul, a short film he co-wrote and directed. Saurabh’s first film appearance was in Maroon (streaming on Netflix). Then, in 2017, he received a casting call from Mukesh Chabra’s agency, and soon found himself being directed by Anurag Kashyap. “I had no idea my Sacred Games performance would become so popular. I only shot for it for 4-5 days. And I did it because Anurag was directing it,” he says.
Following the show, Anurag got Saurabh on board for his 2018 feature Manmarziyaan. Far from the gangster-y swerve of Suleiman Isa, Suarabh was now tasked to play Kakaji — a Punjabi marriage bureau agent with a gold tooth. “I always get nervous playing a character outside my skin. But Anurag kept his faith in me and kept reassuring me.”
Saurabh quit the Barry John Acting Studio in 2017 to start his own drama school, Actor’s Truth, in Andheri. One standout feature of the institute is the allocation of courses based on performance level and appetite. There's the one-month foundation course for beginners followed by two months of theatrical performance. This is accompanied by an ‘advanced course’ for students who have completed the foundation course. There are also voice training and miming units, as well as a dedicated workshop in the ‘Meisner technique’, designed by American instructor Sanford Meisner. “So far we have trained more than 300 actors. Many of them are now working in the industry. This year we are in the third season of Antarang Theater Festival where our students are performing.”
Besides Sacred Games 2, Saurabh will be seen Navdeep Singh’s Laal Kaptaan. The historical revenge saga stars Saif Ali Khan as a Naga sadhu. Saurabh, who plays an army general in the film, teases, “I have a cameo in Laal Kaptaan. I’m bound by a contract to not reveal much. Having said that, it was a difficult shoot in Rajasthan with a huge crew in the heat wave of 45 degrees but it was worth it.