Sacred Games – Review

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Neeraj Kabi, Aamir Bashir, Pankaj Tripathi

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Netflix’s first original series from India, the crime thriller Sacred Games, debuted on Friday to overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. The eight-part first season will first have to seduce Indian viewers, but the series has enough going for it to be considered a strong start.

Based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name, Sacred Games begins as an investigation by a local by officer Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), who goes from investigating a robbery gone wrong to uncovering the engine behind a gigantic infrastructure of institutional corruption.

Tracing a mysterious phone call, Sartaj eventually makes a fatal discovery that sends him following a growing criminal empire that spans Bollywood, city business interests, and maybe even his own Police Department.

The novel alternates chapters between Singh’s present-day struggle to decipher Gaitonde’s message and Gaitonde’s narration of his criminal career, and the series does a similar dance, moving with reasonable fluidity between its two modes.

Sacred Games captures religion’s dual faces: divisive and liberatory. The show also interrogates police apathy, the deep-rooted corruption in the force, and how prejudice, particularly towards the Muslim minority, perpetuates and fuels crime as callous cops turn a blind eye to crimes in slum settlements.

Energetic and entertaining, it gives audiences a 360 degree view of the city, portraying both the poverty and the wealth and highlighting the differences between the two. In doing so, we get a truthful and honest depiction of a country that is rich in history and culture. Interestingly, every episode’s name is related to Hindu mythology be it the first,which is called Ashwathama or the last Yayati.

Netflix India officially launched in 2016, but its growth and viewership in the country have lagged behind its streaming rival Amazon. Sacred Games represents a renewed effort from Netflix to reach India’s more than 1 billion potential viewers. At the same time, the goal might be to offer a new series to an open-minded international audience that wants to see something familiar but foreign at the same time.

Following the release and quick success of Sacred Games, Netflix has also commissioned Indian horror series Ghoul showing that international audiences want new stories and new settings.

> Mar Martínez

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