‘Sacred Games’ is about Bombay. I have to admit that I like Bombay more than Mumbai. The difference does not just lie in the nomenclature. It lies in the times and the colors that have come and gone by over the years. Bombay is not just another city. It is more of an entity that has grown up and evolved as much as the people of this country. And that transformation has underneath it, a host of stories, tales, myths and what not. Bombay was a brilliant cauldron which immersed in itself every single emotion that a human being feels : greed, jealousy, ambition, power, love, betrayal. And it had a place for every other person in its belly : actors, gangsters, prostitutes, businessmen, politicians, pimps, low life addicts, power brokers, journalists and so on. Strangely, all of them were virtually connected in this ghost like city which had place for the elite in its brighter quarters and its dark old alleys held regard for the downtrodden.
Bombay became Mumbai somewhere down in the late 1990s when probably the crime syndicate shifted gears to foreign lands. Although shreds of the old days still lurk around the corners and the new city has been galloping breathlessly yet the old days were brilliant. There was violence, crassness, bloodshed and mafia: all in bad taste but it was brilliant. The criminal underbelly of Bombay had its hands pretty much in every pie and had this invisible presence around the country and even abroad. Bombay was, and probably is, a kind of subcontinent in itself and had a flavor like the Banarasi Paan: distinct and killer, which could easily outmatch the rise of American Mafia in the neighborhoods of New York and the liquor dens of Chicago. Probably it has not received the kind of coverage its other counterparts have.
The Hindi Film Industry, quite ironic since the Bombay Mafia had quite deep roots in the industry itself, has produced quite a number of films that give us an insight into the intricacies of the Bombay Underworld. Some of them have been exceptional : ‘Parinda (1989)’, ‘Satya (1998)’, ‘Vaastav’ (1999) and ‘Company (2002)’ to name a few. But each of them has suffered two basic problems. First problem is the industry itsel : the format is such that they have to tell a story with conviction in just two hours and also include lame songs and romance to cater to audiences who otherwise would not care enough to watch them. It is quite difficult to deal with a topic as detailed as this in such a limited time. Second, the ecosystem in which such films are made is rife with questionable censorship and lack of suitable means to reach international audiences.
‘Sacred Games’ is one such online TV show streamed on Netflix which not only overcomes the above two problems but also tells the rich and brilliant story of the labyrinths of Bombay and its sordid nooks and crannies. It is perhaps the best attempt at dealing with the subject.
The Plot and the Characters
‘Sacred Games’ is about Bombay and what happens in it around a certain period of time. The storyline is non linear with splashes of the erstwhile chapters of a crime lord and a present day chase to save Mumbai from an imminent threat. ‘Sacred Games’ follows Ganesh Eknath Gaitonde, a dreaded gangster, who suddenly appears in Mumbai after 15 odd years. He calls up Inspector Sartaj Singh, a middle-aged policeman with a below average service record and a broken marriage, to inform him of an imminent danger to the city in 25 days. What happens next is a wild goose chase that shakes up the entire system. Interlaced within this gritty action is Gaitonde’s own history of how he makes it to the top of the mafia starting his life a nobody.