‘Sacred Games 2’ review: What Goes Up

In a striking, ruminative scene, Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), after a disastrous secret visit to Bombay in a laughable disguise, wonders when and how he lost his mojo as a fearsome don. That’s precisely one of the points that you realize has been troubling you episode after episode. Nothing is the same from season 1. And that’s how Gaitonde, whose profanity-laced dialogues that struck a nameless terror in your heart and drew a nervous chuckle, is now a caricature of his former demi-god like self. That’s also when writers Dhruv Narang, Nihit Bhave, Pooja Tolani, and Varun Grover and directors Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan make you realize how soap-bubbly the world of Gaitonde was right from the beginning; and how horribly ephemeral self-delusion can be.

Aamir Bashar, Saif Ali Khan: dealing with the end.

If ‘nothing’s the same as before’ is one leitmotif of the multiple threads that this season weaves, entangles, and then partly discombobulates, the other is ‘what goes up must come down’. For, here’s where most characters, no matter how powerful and untouchable they may have seemed earlier, are now weaker, crestfallen, if not buffoon-like versions of their glorious selves. Even Gaitonde’s nemesis, the swaggering Isa (Saurabh Sachdeva) is now reduced to staving off the grim reaper with drips. Plus, there’s a homily there too: all the people who we look up to, eventually fumble and hem and haw when faced with that one truth that cleaves asunder their very structure of strength and power. Which is also why season 2 may appear weaker and diluted. But that’s not because of the follow-up axiom—any second part to a hugely successful first outing will usually fail because it did all it had to the first time around—and a connection to the aforementioned second theme but more because every character’s arc is now headed to what we’re eventually destined for—the realization of one’s life ambit and how we’re just an atomic bit in a larger fusion or fissile scheme, that’s beyond our control. Or is it?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui: the fall and the decline.

The parallels between Gaitonde’s life, Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and Sartaj’s father Dilbagh (Jaipreet Singh) now seem more convergent, even if the connecting line is a violent one pointing towards infinite doom. The writers, Kashyap, and Ghaywan lay out Sacred Games 2 in a complex chart of a gear-driven machine, where every gear movement is interconnected and decides the fate and rate of multiple gears around it. Part of this chart are Khanna Guruji—played with superbly beatific power and hypnotic cloud by Pankaj Tripathi; Guruji thinks he’s gotten it all figured out, including the end and a fail-safe design in place, but…has he? That answer may lie with the Maa Sheela-like character, Batya, played with equanimous tension by Kalki Koechlin. There’s the feisty and solid performance by Amruta Subhash as Kusum Yadav saab, the RAW agent who festers and feeds an uncontrollable, muddling Gaitonde. And Surveen Chawla as Jojo is very good, giving a hoot and yet always feeling the horrific tug of her character’s past. As an armed-nuclear-device toting Shahid, Ranvir Shorey is terrific, his ram-rod terse body language another highlight of the ticking bomb—now the countdown to day zero and the action less important and more predictable than the interconnections of the characters.

Ranveer Shorey: holding more cards (and nuclear secrets) than you’d know.

Plus, the characters from earlier are here, each one discovering—most often too late— their role in the series—the superb Neeraj Kabi, Girish Kulkarni, Aamir Bashir, Vikram Kochchar, Luke Kenny, Jatin Sarna, and Chittaranjan Tripathy.

The score from Alokananda Dasgupta continues to haunt, but this time is more playful in parts, almost languid and detached in others, as if having conquered all desire and need. And the play between Sartaj and Gaitonde continues with the same sense of doom and gloom, but seemingly more resigned this time. Saif Ali Khan brings a sense of sincerity and vacillating helplessness to his role, torn between faith, his father’s path, and his own sense of duty—his sub-plot with ex-wife Megha (Anupriya Goenka), however, is the weakest story link— his injured hand-act making you wince in every action sequence. And Nawazuddin Siddiqui is terrific as usual. He rips off the scales from your eyes, making you cringe at his desperation and lack of power. The actor plays Gaitonde fully aware that playing God is addictive and a delirious high. Until the insidious forces supplying the halo lights come knocking with the electricity bill.

Sacred Games (2018– ) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Sacred Games 2 is rated A (Restricted to adults) for sex, nudity, violence, and profanity.
Sacred Games 2
Directors Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Ghaywan Time ~ 50 mins
Writers Dhruv Narang, Nihit Bhave, Pooja Tolani, Varun Grover
Stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saif Ali Khan, Pankaj Tripathi, Amruta Subhash, Ranveer Shorey, Surveen Chawla, Neeraj Kabi, Girish Kulkarni, Aamir Bashir
Genres  Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller