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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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Watch | Gulabo Sitabo’s first song ‘Jootam Phenk’ out now

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The Rising Sun Films and Kinoworks have dropped the first song “Jootam Phenk” from Gulabo Sitabo, that excellently portrays the relation between our much-awaited squabbling jodi of Mirza and Baankey. Composed by Abhishek Arora and written by Puneet Sharma, this astounding first track “Jootam Phenk” is sung by Piyush Mishra.

Speaking of returning as a music composer with director Shoojit Sircar, Abhishek Arora said, “It is always a pleasure to be working alongside a remarkable filmmaker like Shoojit Sircar. This is our third movie together after Vicky Donor and October; and I am in awe of his immense talent and dedication towards his craft. Working with Shoojit da is always a wonderful experience and his ability to effortlessly weave the music to the script is truly brilliant. Incredibly sung by the versatile artist Piyush Mishra, “Jootam Phenk” is a light-hearted fun song that perfectly captures the essence of Gulabo Sitabo. Our hope was to bring the theatrical nuances and poise required to enrich the song and with an expressive and highly textured voice such as his, Piyush has done complete justice to this quirky ode to the banter between Mirza and Baankey.”

Piyush Mishra quips, “Jootam Phenk is a phenomenal song that beautifully captures the quirks of Mirza and Baankey. The composer Abhishek Arora and director Shoojit Sircar put forth immense faith in me to add a certain sense of drama to Puneet Sharma’s fantastic lyrics to create this refreshingly fun track. They had the foresight that this would elevate the music to a performance rather than just a mere song, speaks volumes in itself of the staggering conviction with which it is created. It was truly incredible to be a part of this project and I hope the audiences will love it equally.”

The much-anticipated movie featuring the bickering duo, Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan Gulabo Sitabo, is gearing up for a global release on June 12, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.

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Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s wife sends legal notice for divorce

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Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s wife Aaliya Siddiqui has sent a legal notice to the actor claiming maintenance and divorce.

The notice was sent to the Sacred Games star on May 7 through email and WhatsApp due to the unavailability of speed post amid the coronavirus pandemic, lawyer for Aaliya (Anjali), Abhay Sahai said.

The lawyer also said that Nawazuddin is yet to respond to the notice.

“Mrs Siddiqui, our client, has also sent the notice through WhatsApp.”

“However, Mr Siddiqui has not responded till date. The notice has been sent claiming maintenance and divorce,” Sahai told PTI on Monday.

The 45-year-old actor is currently in his hometown Budhana, Uttar Pradesh, with his family members, where he reached on May 12 after getting the necessary permission for travel from the authorities in Maharashtra.

“Due to the recent loss of my younger sister, my mother, who is 71 years old, got anxiety attack twice. We have followed all the guidelines given by the State Government. We are #HomeQuarantined at our hometown Budhana. Please #StaySafe #StayHome, Nawazuddin tweeted on Monday.”

Sahai said he can’t divulge the details of the notice as it is confidential, but said the allegations against the actor as well as his family members are “quite serious”.

Nawazuddin and Aaliya, who got married in 2009, have two children.

Previously, the actor had a short-lived arranged marriage with Sheeba.

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‘He didn’t offer, I didn’t ask’: Deepika Padukone remembers having lunch with Aamir Khan and family

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It seems like Deepika Padukone, who is in home quarantine with husband Ranveer Singh in Mumbai is missing the good old times. Amidst lockdown, she has been treating her fans with her ‘not-so-seen’ pictures.

And, today is no different. On Saturday, Deepika again took to her Instagram handle to share a throwback picture of her family having lunch with Aamir Khan.

The photo dates back to 2000 when Deepika was just 13-years-old. In the picture, Deepika is seen posing with Aamir, along with her whole family – father Prakash Padukone, mother Ujjala and sister Anisha. In the post, Deepika recalled that Aamir was having curd rice at the time and though she was hungry, she couldn’t bring herself to ask him for some.

She wrote, “Major throwback to 1st January, 2000. I was 13 & awkward. I still am. He was having lunch. Curd Rice to be precise. I was hungry, like I always am. But he didn’t offer and I didn’t ask… #random #anecdote @_aamirkhan. (sic).”

Prakash Padukone is a former badminton player. He became the first Indian to win the All England Open Badminton Championship in 1980. He was also honoured with Arjuna Award (1972) and Padma Shri (1982).

Recently, the actress also shared a picture of herself along with her sister Anisha, saying that she misses her.

On the acting front, Deepika was last seen on the big screen in Chhapaak. She will next be seen in Shakun Batra’s film, along with Ananya Panday and Siddhant Chaturvedi. She will also star in Ranveer Singh’s 83.

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