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Sacred Games 2 review: Addictive and aggressive, Netflix India’s greatest show finds Nawazuddin Siddiqui in nuclear form

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Sacred Games Season 2
Cast – Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey
Rating – 4.5/5 

Unfolding like a pulpy retelling of a mythological epic, Netflix’s Sacred Games season 2 is a more complex experience than the first, without ever compromising on the populism that made it such a phenomenon in the first place. It is dense without ever feeling overwhelming, controversial but never sleazy; a thoroughly entertaining example of a television series operating at the peak of its potential.

Three episodes of Sacred Games 2 were provided for preview and this should be read as a review of those three episodes only.

Watch the Sacred Games season 2 trailer here 

Sacred Games, right out of the gate, returns with a swagger that could put even Ganesh Gaitonde to shame – a sign of confidence for a show that is equally adept at ‘dialoguebaazi’ as it is at quoting the Epic of Gilgamesh. There is, in fact, a scene that combines both, and perfectly captures the essence of season two.

“What do we learn from Gilgamesh?” Kalki Koechlin’s character asks a bunch of devotees. Met not with raised hands but with devout silence, Kalki proceeds to answer her own question. “The pursuit of power and control is as futile as the pursuit of immortality.” Her manner isn’t all that different from that of her former mentor, Pankaj Tripathi’s Guruji, who speaks with the mellifluous musicality of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, peppering his sermons with the occasional smutty word.

There is, of course, a reason why the show invoking the Epic of Gilgamesh. In addition to being perhaps the oldest surviving work of literature, whose themes are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago, it is also a giant metaphor for the journey on which the formidable gangster Ganesh Gaitonde finds himself.

When we saw him last, he was breaking out of a jail. Having suffered terribly during his stay, he emerges into the sunlight in the first episode of Sacred Games 2, lit by the fire of revenge. The new season finds Gaitonde in direct confrontation with his own legend, having come to the crippling realisation that he isn’t the ‘sarva shaktishaali eklauta bhagwan’ that he thought he was.

He is stripped of his power; his vast empire, built off the back of violence and vengeance, has been wrenched from his hands. But most distressingly for him, he has been uprooted from his beloved Bombay and sent to the faraway shores of Mombasa, Kenya, with not even his buddy Bunty by his side.

This is one of the many examples of how showrunner Vikramaditya Motwane is continuing the process of deviating from the text, perhaps in preparation of a future in which he doesn’t have Vikram Chandra’s source novel to draw from. In the book, Gaitonde literally finds himself at sea.

It is in Kenya that the always agnostic Gaitonde is offered his first whiff of faith. Of course, he is no stranger to the divisive power of religion – like season one, fear-mongering is an important theme this time around as well – but this is certainly the first time he is seeing religion through the prism of a vulnerable man, looking, like everyone else, for a crutch to rely upon. And like any spiritual leader worth his salt, Guruji lures him into his world like a saucy seductress beckoning a bereaved businessman.

Meanwhile, a lifetime away, Saif Ali Khan’s Sartaj Singh is still trying to solve the mystery that Gaitonde has left behind. Both men, divided as they are by duty, are alike in ways neither would like to admit; their journeys converging at the feet of the same man, and his consiglieri.

She’s called Batya Abelman, and is played by the always excellent Kalki Koechlin. She’s an enigmatic woman who appears in both the Gaitonde and the Sartaj timelines, and is another of Motwane’s additions, not to be found in the book, neither in flesh nor as a facsimile. While on paper she is to Guruji what Maa Anand Sheela was to Rajneesh, there is perhaps more to her than meets the eye.

As with season one, everyone involved seems to be united by a shared passion for the project. And while it may be easy to be distracted by the sheer power of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, I must remind you that were it not for Saif Ali Khan’s generous performance as the rather passive Sartaj – he is, once again, more often than not compelled into action rather than driven by a desire to take the bull by its horns – neither Gaitonde nor Guruji would pop as wonderfully as they do. As an actor, Saif is keenly aware of the role Sartaj plays in the story, and shows no hesitation in surrendering himself fully to it.

But the unheralded champion of this enterprise, I believe, is editor Aarti Bajaj. Her seamless storytelling genuinely made me rethink how television is made – it is a rather unconventional strategy for two directors to tackle two different storylines, hoping that what they turn in can be blended into a whole, but Bajaj makes it seem like it should, in fact, be the norm.

It must also be mentioned that a behind-the-scenes switcheroo has been performed as discreetly as hotel staff cleaning up a room after a particularly eventful evening. Director Neeraj Ghaywan, who made one of the greatest debuts of the decade with Masaan, has replaced Motwane in the director’s chair this time around, and has brought with himself a style that is in line with the broader vision, and yet fiercely individualistic. A complicated chase scene that he directs is so spectacularly staged that I couldn’t help but rewind it and watch again.

Meanwhile, Ghaywan’s co-director Anurag Kashyap, is clearly in his element, and yet unafraid of pushing himself out of his comfort zone. His handling of the Gaitonde timeline is replete with his knack for producing high-art masala. There is an odd elegance to his images, a major leap from his trademark slapdash style.

The second season of Sacred Games is a perceptive examination of how individuals work within organisations; of how everyone, regardless of their position, is in some manner or the other controlled by someone else. It is about the banality of evil and the power of religion, and how, brought together, they can produce a chemical reaction of nuclear proportions.

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Boman Irani takes us inside his ‘noisy, full and loving’ house

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Actor Boman Irani is a family man behind the camera and proudly boasts of being a resident of a noisy house. In an episode of Where the Heart is, a YouTube series produced by a paint brand, the actor gives a tour of his 3-BHK house which exudes warmth and love from each corner.

Boman Irani’s house is has an old school charm.

In the video, Boman shows around his house which is a new construction but has an old school charm. The actor proudly calls it a Parsi house in true sense with walls washed in dull powder blue and a pastel couch and several chairs in printed tapestry placed around for the close-knit family. The house is well lit with natural light and has several paintings and artifacts collected with the joint agreement of Boman and his wife Zenobia. A piano is also placed in the room which is the usual hanging out place of his entire family.

Boman also takes the viewers to his favourite spot in the house, the couch near the window in the DVD room where he loves to read, write, jot down ideas or plan his future. The actor shows his huge collection of Blue Ray DVDs, both of Hollywood and Bollywood films. He calls it his only collection as he is not much of a collector.

Boman reveals that unless both, he and his wife, like an artifact or a piece of furniture, they do not buy it. The actor recalled the time when he bought the house during the shooting of 2003 film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and was thinking too hard to stretch his budget to get the place. He was advised by Anil Kapoor to get it anyhow even if he has to sleep on the floor or is unable to buy the furniture.

At the end of the episode, Boman also answers the questions asked by the viewers. Talking about the three traits he has as a Parsi, he says that he is punctual, can’t afford to miss his morning tea and listens to his wife. “I listen to everything that she says,” he adds.

Asked to describe his house in three words, he replies, “noisy, full and loving.”

Boman was seen in Total Dhamaal and PM Narendra Modi film this year. He has three more films lined up for release in 2019 including Housefull 4, Drive, Made In China and Tamil film, Kaappaan.

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Urvashi Dholakia calls Nach Baliye 9 partial, Madhurima Tulli denies drama

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Actor Urvashi Dholakia has been accusing the makers of Nach Baliye 9 of being biased towards other contestants ever since she was voted out. Another contestant, Madhurima Tulli, has now claimed that there is no partiality.

Urvashi and her ex-boyfriend Anuj Sachdeva were eliminated recently and she even took digs at fellow participants Madhurima and her former boyfriend Vishal Aditya Singh for surviving in the show only on the basis of their drama – an element the makers allegedly want to maintain.

“I wouldn’t comment on what she said as it’s her point of view. (But) There is absolutely no partiality as such. Everyone is treated equally. Honestly, it’s a competition and somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. I think you take the judges’ decision respectfully and not dig out these things or make an issue out of it. If we would have lost, I don’t think we would have ever done anything like this and would have respected the decision,” a DNA report quoted Madhurima as saying.

In an interview to Bombay Times, Urvashi claimed she had earned good scores from the judges and had a decent vote bank. “How can a couple be consistently moving up the scoreboard and yet be at the bottom four times in a row? Is this a dance show or a popularity contest? And if we are being judged on popularity, then I am not ready to believe that 35 years of work leads to a low fan base. Where’s the score board to show where each of us stands when it comes to audience’s votes plus judges’ scores? If the show was all about young couples, then why bring us in? If you have brought us on the show, then why the partiality?,” Urvashi told the daily.

“She (Urvashi) is a competitor, she has seen life, she has fought life! I respect her completely. It’s just that I feel she is sad right now and overreacting a bit to a few things. She should take it positively and move on,” Madhurima added.

She also said, “I didn’t know that she had issues with me. We had cordial relations,” further adding on Vishal and Urvashi’s friendship, “I don’t know if they are real friends or for the sake of it. I think she has an issue with me rather than Vishal. I never fought on stage, it’s Vishal who always does, and it’s he who created a controversy. So, I should not be the one to be blamed at all.”

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Alia Bhatt reveals Ranbir Kapoor reaction to her Prada song: ‘He told me I have a natural swag’

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Actor Alia Bhatt has said that her boyfriend, Ranbir Kapoor, loved her debut music video, titled Prada. The song, performed by Alia and The Doorbeen, was released online on August 13 and has accumulated close to 20 million views on YouTube.

“Ranbir loved it,” Alia told The Times of India. “He has a very good ear for music and he told me it’s going to be a big hit. He told me that I have natural swag.” Alia said she also ‘played it for Karan Johar’, and ‘he also loved it’. “I played it for Baadshah and he was also very, very supportive and said it’s a good song.”

While The Doorbeen has delivered a massive hit in Lamberghini, the band said that they were nervous before Alia jumped on board, which they saw as validation. “We are still figuring out what path to follow, and once we get a single from the pros in the business, we will go on that path and that validation is very important,” they said.

In recent months, Alia has often accompanied Ranbir to New York, where his father, Rishi Kapoor had been undergoing treatment for cancer. Speaking about Ranbir’s reputation as being ‘difficult’, Alia had told TOI earlier, “He’s not difficult. He’s a gem. But he’s had a troubled past… How does it matter? It’s part of someone’s life. Aur main thodi na kam hoon.”

Alia wrapped up the Ooty schedule of Sadak 2 recently. The film also stars Pooja Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt, and Aditya Roy Kapur and is directed by her father, Mahesh Bhatt. She will also be seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Inshallah, alongside Salman Khan, RRR alongside JR NTR and Ram Charan, Karan Johar’s period drama Takht, alongside Ranveer Singh, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, Janhvi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, and Brahmastra alongside Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mouni Roy.

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