Sacred Games – Characters That Made This Series Iconic
Last year, Netflix gave us Sacred Games, its first Indian original and the most popular one to have come out of any Indian platform ever since. The show was instantly renewed for a second installment that dropped in last week and while some might debate, it seems to have reached a conclusive end now.
What made the show so iconic? Was it the setting – a mafia leader based out of Bombay and a police inspector racing against time to save his city? That might seem familiar. The exceptional writing, which has given the social media, memes for a lifetime? Somewhat. But most importantly, it was the way this story unfolded through the characters. From Bunty to Isa to Jojo, every little arc made the show worth a binge. The reviews for the second season might have been mixed but what still kept the viewers invested in the story were these characters.
Here, we look at the five most iconic characters that Sacred Games gave us –
1. Ganesh Gaitonde
After Faizal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui pulled off another winning gangster act with Gaitonde. The part is perfectly up Siddiqui’s alley. And it works especially in a series format because we experience his entire journey; from the time his young-self killed his mother to his last days where he feels guilty to have let his father suffer for that crime.
It’s a break from the obviously masculine anti-hero in Hindi cinema. We see him through his relationship with romantic partners, his henchmen, his mentors and ultimately himself. He talks about being immortal at his peak and also wishes for death when he can’t take it anymore. In the second season, the story somewhat derails but Gaitonde keeps you invested. The show serves not just as a first person account but also as Gaitonde’s dialogue with Sartaj. The showmakers smartly continue the narration even post his death in the first season and he stays with us till the very end. Siddiqui makes you care for the bad guy, for he is so real. The artist and art here are inseparable and it’s all to his credit.
In what might look like Osho straight out of Wild Wild Country, Pankaj Tripathi as Guruji played the crucial role of Gaitonde’s third father, and the sole cause for all the menace to follow. The part seemed to be heavily inspired by Osho’s story with even Kalki Koechlin’s character loosely based on Ma Anand Sheela (Osho’s principle aide). However, the mystery around Guruji in the first season worked wonders – his only appearance being through a phone conversation with Gaitonde while he was in prison. It was after the second season released that he truly arrived and wreaked havoc through his long, one note sermons. To be fair, Tripathi never faltered in his portrayal & the Guruji-Gaitonde dynamic was indeed interesting. If only his actual presence was as exciting as the aura he created in the first season.
The other protagonist of the show, Saif Ali Khan as Sartaj acted as the viewers’ guide to this neo-noir world. Saif, without a hint of vanity sunk his teeth into what made Sartaj – A troubled alcoholic with an unsuccessful marriage, a failed cop struggling with the moral ambiguity in his profession, a son who must come to terms with his late father’s hidden beliefs & value system, a friend burdened with guilt and a citizen who felt responsible for saving the city. Too many emotions packed into one, Sartaj grew as a person with every episode- learning, making mistakes, unlearning. His imaginary relationship with Gaitonde also oddly made him wiser.
Through Sartaj, we learnt the harsh realities of our society today. In a chilling scene, one that seems like the makers wanting to show us the mirror on mob lynchings in the country, we saw a minority teen being mercilessly beaten to death & an incapacitated Sartaj unable to act. Through him, we saw an impressionable kid being brainwashed with a communal mindset. Faced with these dilemmas, we saw him emerge stronger & act in time of need.
Jitendra Joshi’s Constable Katekar brought in the much needed sunshine moments in a show full of gloom. We saw him as the loyal friend, the ignorant yet loving husband & father and a committed cop. The Sartaj-Katekar bromance, much to his wife’s annoyance is especially something to cherish. Such was the bond that Sartaj preferred spending time with him than going back to his lonely apartment. He was his 4 AM best friend in the most literal way possible. His death became one of the most unfortunate events in the first season leaving a void in Sartaj’s life. Katekar also made his presence felt in the second season in the form of Sartaj’s guilt.
In one of most emotional flashbacks, Katekar tells Sartaj about the importance of living in the present without worrying about tomorrow. What might feel like the most simplistic advice became a lesson from a TED talk and a scene to re-watch. Moments before his death, we saw his dream of watching Zoya Mirza (his favorite actress) come true. His innocent, childlike joy when he saw her & his family smiling away watching his reaction was so heartening & in many ways, ominous.
For the first time in the world of Indian content, Kubbra Sait gave us a complete flesh and blood transgender character that in fact, was anything but powerless. Kukoo exuded confidence & charm making “Kukoo ka jadoo” truly believable. As the romance unfolded, we saw the revelation of her gender in a very powerful scene. However, the strongest one came right before her death. With a heavy heart, she understood that she had to let Gaitonde go as he was destined to make it big and their union would be the biggest obstacle in his journey. Sait communicated most of this with her eyes in her final scenes making the relationship Gaitonde’s most memorable romance.
With her limited screen time of about 3 episodes, Kukoo moved from being powerful and taking charge of the relationship to being achingly vulnerable when faced with social stigma and ultimately giving up.
Who would’ve thought that the romance between a gangster and a transgender would be a part of pop culture?
Here’s a shoutout to some special characters who didn’t make it to the list: Bunty, Isa, Majid, Kantabai & Parulkar.
About The Author
Chirag Malani is a 22 year old fresh out of B-School. In his free time, he loves watching (and rewatching) movies and TV shows from all over. He loves cats and hopes he will be able to adopt one someday.