Sacred Games' parallel narrative format is ideal concoction of Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane's energies

Devansh Sharma

Jul,15 2018 09:41:02 IST

Last month, Anurag Kashyap reunited with three filmmakers, with different sensibilities, for Netflix's anthology Lust Stories. This month, he collaborates with a director he has known for 20 years, for Sacred Games, Netflix's first Indian Original. But unlike Lust Stories, Kashyap could not have done his own thing in a corner, working with an on-the-go script.

Both Motwane and Kashyap have been credited as directors of Sacred Games, based on Vikram Chandra's 2006 book of the same name. Its first season is spread across eight episodes. At the official announcement of the show last year, Kashyap and Motwane clarified that both of them are directing all the episodes together. This seemed rather odd, given Netflix, or Western television in general is renowned for roping in multiple directors to helm different episodes of a show. But those familiar with the source material would know it was a wise move on part of the streaming giant to let two directors, with a great camaraderie but different styles, unite their creative energies throughout the season.

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Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap at the official announcement event of Sacred Games. Netflix

The plot revolves around two central characters and their respective journeys through Mumbai by-lanes and all their tiniest secrets of the highest magnitude. Sartaj Singh (played by Saif Ali Khan), plays a troubled and honest (the two words the actor picked up from the book) cop, who is ambitious enough to scale the police hierarchy but is held back by his honesty. On the other end of the spectrum is Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a gangster who resides in a chawl but aspires to believes he rules the entire city. The two worlds — of crime and fighting crime — coincide only when the crime is committed in the public eye. Majority of the book explores the backstories of both the characters under the guise of an immersive thriller.

Thus, a virtual tour of both the characters' contrasting — and often-at-odds — worlds was imperative. Since the majority of the show has been shot on real locations, the story demanded to be told through the lens of two directors who know the city well. Kashyap, who rose to fame through his gritty yet nuanced 1993 Mumbai blasts film Black Friday (2007) and introduced a fresh form of storytelling in an otherwise hackneyed Bollywood, seems at ease as he directs Siddiqui in the bustling chawls of Mumbai that fall silent at night, only to be shaken out of their slumber by occasional gunshots. He gets every detail right — the power dynamics, the diction of the inhabitants as they curse to their heart's content, and even the way they have sex.

However, Kashyap, reuniting with Siddiqui, does inadvertently borrow from their past collaborations, Gangs of Wasseypur - Part 2 (2012) and Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016). Siddiqui's cold-bloodedness in certain scenes feels eerily similar to Raman Raghav 2.0 in which he played a serial killer. Similarly, when he curses in his inevitable UP accent, one is instantly transported to Gangs of Wasseypur - Part 2. Having said that, Kashyap does seem at home while directing Gaitonde's track, despite the fact that Sacred Games is one of the rare instances when he is directing based on a script not penned by him.

On the other hand, Motwane admits Sacred Games has been a challenge for him as it is a very different Bombay movie from the ones he has directed — Trapped (2017) and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018). Unlike Trapped, where the shoot was confined to one room, Motwane was required to shoot across the city. Unlike the silences and the four walls in the Rajkummar Rao-starrer, chaos and real-life locations were integral characters of the show.

Also, unlike Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, which was Motwane's first issue-based film, the problem area and coping mechanism in his Sacred Games track were quite different. While he dealt with the burning issue of water crisis in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero last month, the caste/religion politics in the show demanded he goes much deeper into the socio-cultural fabric of the nation. Also, though he shot elaborate action scenes at real-life locations for Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Sacred Games was a different ballgame. His protagonist here was not a vigilante but an honest-to-every-bone police officer and a justice-seeking R&AW agent (Radhika Apte). He could not afford to go all Batman with this show as he had to maintain some amount of accuracy to the source material that is rooted in realism, at least as far as the depiction of its lead character is concerned.

But it was also the protagonist that drew him to the story. He confessed that he relates to isolated characters like Sartaj. Motwane's superlative understanding of emotions, isolation and a father-son relationship (which is also a crucial plot point in Sacred Games) was evident in his directorial debut Udaan (2010). The way he made the tension in a father-son relationship infectious proved that he empathises with his characters. Empathy with Sartaj is also a major underlying tool in the narrative of Sacred Games.

With two directors like chalk and cheese creating worlds that suit their sensibilities, there were bound to be conflicts. But since both the directors have been working together as part of co-founders of Phantom Films for years, there were also bound to be solutions. Given how the first season has played out, the contrast has only added to the show's appeal. Sacred Games comes across as an ode to a city that has embraced both bungalows and slums, as they co-exist in close proximity and thrive in a parasitic companionship.

Updated Date: Jul 15, 2018 09:41 AM