'Sacred Games' Is the Best New Show on Netflix You Aren’t Watching

Saturday, July 21 2018

'Sacred Games' Is the Best New Show on Netflix You Aren’t Watching

Facebook Seriously, this is the best Netflix original in years.
The new Netflix show Sacred Games opens with the horrifying yet surreal image of a white dog falling dozens of stories to the street. “Do you believe in God?” a voice says. “God doesn’t give a fuck.” From the beginning, Sacred Games wants you to know that it’s going to be both bloody and beautiful. And it is! Developed by Netflix India and featuring several major Bollywood stars, Sacred Games is thrilling noir show set in contemporary India and one of the best Netflix original show in years.
The central story of Sacred Games is one you’ve seen before: A down-on-his-luck but honest cop (Saif Ali Khan as Sartaj Singh) gets a mysterious phone call. The caller says that Singh has 25 days to stop everyone in the city from dying. Soon, Singh is sucked into a world of femme fatales, corrupt politicians, seedy movie stars, and murderous gangsters as he tries to solve an increasingly labyrinthian case. In a parallel story, the caller—a notorious Mumbai gangster with a god complex named Ganesh Gaitonde (played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui)—tells the story of his bloody rise from the gutters to Godfather.
The dark, godless world of hardboiled noir might seem like an odd match for the bright colors and religious tensions of Mumbai. But these familiar tropes are given a whole new feel from the show’s setting and themes. The Mumbai of Sacred Games is a sweaty and chaotic place filled with bright silks and colorful paint. The dark underbelly is decorated with jewels and glittering in the light.
Religion is largely absent from the American noir of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, but the sacred and profane are woven through every scene of Sacred Games . The show looks at the longstanding religious conflicts of India through the lens of crime. Gaitonde gets his start working at a Hindu restaurant that “made purity into a business,” but learns that “to become a tough guy, you have to sin.” (In a fantastic early scene, Gaitonde slips cow meat into the dishes of devout Hindu diners and strolls out in slow motion as the restaurant riots.) This is a hardboiled world where the muscle is described as someone who “Prayed five times a day. Worked out ten times a day.”
Like the 900+ page novel that it is based on, Sacred Games is the kind of Dickensian thriller with so many plotlines and characters that’s it’s impossible to keep track of if you don’t watch closely. Luckily, the show always looks good—it clearly had a big production budget—and the cast is great. In addition to the aforementioned male leads, there are strong performances by Kubra Sait as the gun moll Kuckoo and Radhika Apte as an Indian intelligence officer with a chip on her shoulders. Almost every shot is beautiful to look at, even when it’s a gigantic mounds of garbage being set aflame. You’ll want to keep your eyes on the screen.