For many, the return of Sacred Games 2 wouldn’t be too satisfying as Season 2 is riddled with religious innuendos, socio political symbolism and philosophical riddles throughout. In the first couple of episodes, the pace is too slow but it regains momentum in the 3rd and then there is no looking back. Personally, I loved the buildup towards the end with my only complaint being the anticlimactic ending of the Series.
Co-directed by Anurag Kashyap and Masaan famed Neeraj Ghaywan, Sacred Games Season 2 is bigger, grander, filled with many revelations and takes us across the country’s shores to Kenya, South Africa and Dubai. Kashyap’s signature direction style is evident in the flashback scenes with Gaitonde and Neeraj’s much subtle, lighter visual narration of the events blend perfectly well in order to put forward a tale of religious indoctrination and political symbolism, their demons and how they play havoc in the lives of many.
In season 2, we finally come face to face with the impending nuclear catastrophe planned which will turn the country into ashes in no time. With just a few days remaining to avert the disaster, a high profile SIT is set up to investigate and uncover real perpetrators. Elsewhere, in the flashback scenes, we see Gaitonde being reduced to a pawn by RAW Agent KD Yadav and Gaitonde’s internal struggle to come to terms with his fading popularity and self worth. Unknowingly, Gaitonde finds respite in Gurujee’s Ashram unaware of the fact that it is Gurujee himself who crushed his spirit and is now using him to further his own goals in his Sat Yug project. As the two timelines meet, we finally get to know exactly what is going on. Though a little predictable, the revelation about Gurujee and his project is unnerving yet thought provoking.
In one scene, Batya asks Sartaj what kind of world he is trying to save where 3 year old girls get raped. The scene is grappling and for a minute you would feel sympathetic to Gurujee’s cause. In fact a final blow to crush Sartaj’s spirit and altruism comes with the death of a young Muslim teenager Saad, who is lynched by radical Hindu youth post a cricket match tussle. This scene is quite reflective of the current socio-political paradigm and hits you hard at the right place. However, it is not long enough when Sartaj regains his moral consciousness and inherent goodness to run back to save the world as he has been engaged in since Season 1.
The flashback scenes are colourful, reminiscent of the late 90s and early 2000s, filled with spiritual and religious undertones and totally owned by Gaitonde and Gurujee. The spiritual cult influenced largely by the Rajneesh Movement found by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh also known as OSHO, is the central narrative through which all the other scenes flow. Gurujee’s plans to lead the current world from a Kal Yug to a Sat Yug seems far-fetched and vicious. Taking control over the minds of his followers using a mysterious Red drink and Gochi (a red coloured capsule), Gurujee conveniently gets things done by his followers without any moral dilemma.
The story, direction, acting, set up; everything falls perfectly well though certain sections seem underdeveloped like the one where the writers try to show a blood relation between Sartaj and Shahid. The story sometimes gets lost in symbolism but yet the central message of the series is communicated strongly. How religion can be used as an opium for the masses is well illustrated whereas the political games played at the highest level serve as an eye opener for proponents of democracy. Ans a special mention to the ominous music composed by Alokananda Dasgupta which sets the whole suspense mood of the Series.
Three new important characters are introduced – Batya (Kalki Koelchin), Ranveer Shorey (Shahid Khan) and RAW Agent Kusum Devi Yadav (Amruta Subhash). While Kalki and Amruta did a fabulous job, the latter with her stoic expressions and strong personality, I would have liked to see more of Ranveer Shorey, a gifted actor who I felt was underused. Even his death seems so meaningless and futile; it did not in any way do justice to the build up of his character. Pankaj Tripathi as Gurujee and Saif Ali Khan as Sartaj need special mention as these two characters came with a lot of shades and completely mesmerize with their honest portrayal. Saif, for instance, did not try to over power any scene and was totally in character as a disturbed individual with innumerable failures yet on the path of righteousness. Nawazuddin, it seems, can play a gangster even in his sleep and we have no complaints about it. It is always a treat to watch him on screen.
A direct attack on the corrupt institutions of religion, Sacred Games plays well using all contemporary issues and mixing them with personal and philosophical conflicts of the mind and body. Themes of sacrifice, mythology, communalism, political immorality etc. come together in this splendid creation.
One thing I would have liked the story writers to explore more was the importance of Dilbagh Singh and the father-son relationship conflict in general referenced a lot of times throughout the series. Also, a fulfilling climax would also have done the trick. Now, we will have to wait for yet another Season or Special to know whether Sartaj really is the Saviour.