Will Sacred Games live up to its billing as India’s Narcos?

Bangla Tribune Desk
Published : 12:39, Aug 10, 2019 | Updated : 13:52, Aug 10, 2019

Sacred Games season 2 posterThere's less than one week left for the most-awaited second season of Sacred Games. Based on the novel Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, Season 1 was the first Indian original series on Netflix.

After its tremendous success and a cottage industry of memes and videos that it created, Season 2 is finally around the corner which will be streamed on Netflix on Aug 15.

Before Sacred Games debuted in July 2018, the early looks at the first season through trailers and photos, felt reminiscent for many of another Netflix series about eager gangsters, corrupt politicians, and shackled police: Narcos.

Of course, once the Indian crime drama was out for good, it was clear that it was very different from the Colombia-based, American crime drama. But beneath the surface-level parallels, both Netflix shows did have similar undercurrents as they dealt with the respective country's dense history and realpolitik, either in literally drawing from it (Narcos) or by attaching itself to it (Sacred Games).

In the first season, Sacred Games ran through multiple decades of Indian history in a few episodes via the flashbacks of crime lord Ganesh Gaitonde's (Siddiqui) life, jumping from the Emergency in 1977, the Bofors weapons scandal of the late 1980s, and (coming close to) the Bombay riots of 1992.

Pankaj Tripathi in Sacred Games season 2.As Sacred Games prepares to dive into its second season, it can again look to its Netflix counterpart for guidance. In season 2, Narcos evolved as a drama as it dug deeper into its characters and eschewed the easy thrills of its opening year. In some ways, it was a clever bait-and-switch by the creators, similar to what Game of Thrones had done over several years. The HBO series initially drew viewers in with sexposition — a portmanteau of sex and exposition that was literally coined for Thrones — and violence and then pared back on the sex as the audience were hooked into the characters' arcs and journeys. The violence never went away, naturally.

That's what Sacred Games should aspire to do in season 2. And as it expands the tapestry of its characters — and introduces new ones played by the likes of Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Amruta Subhash, Sobhita Dhulipala, and Harshita Gaur — the Indian series must also reckon with their depiction. After season 1, book readers — Sacred Games is based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel — voiced their concerns about the morality shift in the cop protagonist Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), who had been pushed from shades of grey in the source material to a more black-and-white take on the Netflix series.

It was a sign that the Sacred Games writers — Varun Grover, Smita Singh, and Vasant Nath worked on season 1 — were willing to fall into standard tropes to create a character that audiences could easily root for. But that was far from the only writing issue.

Of the five new (known) cast additions to season 2, four are played by women. Hopefully, Sacred Games will expand its world, and course-correct to the way Narcos did.