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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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Ayushmann Khurrana: What worked for me is I decided to swim against the tide

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Ayushmann says he is fortunate that people have loved his brand of cinema, which has hugely contributed to his equity.

“I believed that India wanted to bring out and talk about societal issues openly. I’m fortunate that the audience loved my brand of cinema, engaged and participated with my beliefs. What people perceive my equity to be today, comes from me being unafraid about my choices as a human being. If I wasn’t the man who believed in the things that I have raised my voice for, people would have sensed a disconnect,” he said.

The National Award-winning actor says his brand of cinema is a mirror image of his personality in real life.

“My films are an extension of my personality, my beliefs, my vision for my country. I think people understand that I want to do my best for society, for my fellow citizens and I don’t want to fail them ever.” he mentioned.

Ayushamann says he is going through the best time in his life.

“I definitely think that I’m going through the best phase of my career and I want this phase to continue for a long time,” admitted the actor.

He is rightfully enjoying his bonafide star status today. “It feels great because I know how much hard work I had to put in to be where I’m today. It is hugely humbling to see people believe in me and have faith in the kind of content that I stand for. It’s gratifying to see people relate to my journey because most of India go through the same drill while aspiring to find success,” he said.

“I’m one of them, I will always be one of them and bring out their stories and lives in the form of cinema because I’m deeply inspired by the heroism of the self-made, idealistic, inclusive people of India,” Ayushmann summed up.

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‘Scam 1992’ has given a push to my career: Anjali Barot

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Actress Anjali Barot says being part of the web show, Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, has given a fillip to her career.

“It has definitely given a push to both my craft and my career. Before ‘Scam 1992’, I would often receive offers for ‘bubbly’ characters and roles,” Anjali told IANS.

“Although I would thoroughly enjoy these, I knew I’m made for a broader range and ‘Scam 1992’ was the right opportunity that came my way. Now, I have multiple casting directors reaching out to me with stronger and varied roles after having seen the intense performance for Jyoti’s character in ‘Scam 1992’. So, all in all it has been a big blessing,” added the actress, who was seen as seen as Jyoti Mehta, wife of stockbroker Harshad Mehta.

Asked what’s next for her, Anjali said: “I keep asking that question to myself all the time! I am as curious to know what my journey has to offer next. While I’m currently in talks for a couple of projects, I’m equally thrilled to see it materialising.”

“I want to keep doing a lot of quality and experimental work. This could be for any medium but just has to be extremely challenging and different from my previous roles. This is something that truly excites me and drives me as an actor,” she added.

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Comedian Bharti Singh, husband arrested by anti-drug agency in drugs probe

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Comedian Bharti Singh and her husband Haarsh Limbachiyaa were arrested by the anti-drug agency over the allegations of possession and use of marijuana.

Comedian Bharti Singh was arrested on Saturday after being questioned by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) for 15 hours and her husband was arrested on Sunday morning.

Bharti Singh and Haarsh Limbachiyaa’s Mumbai home was searched by the agency on Saturday. Officials of the agency said that ‘a small quantity of cannabis’ around 86.5 grams was found in their home in Andheri after which they were taken to the agency’s Mumbai office for questioning.

According to NCB , both Bharti and Haarsh Limbachiyaa have accepted that they use narcotic substances.

The NCB release read, “Both Bharti Singh and her husband Haarsh Limbachiyaa accepted consuming ganja. Ms Singh was placed under arrest under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1986.”

The quantity of narcotic substances found at the couple’s home was not for commercial use but could still be punishable under law for up to 10 years in jail.

The anti drug agency has been probing the use of drugs in the entertainment industry after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The agency had found WhatsApp chats involving the use of drugs from actor Rhea Chakrobaoty and her brother’s  phone.

The names of the comedian and her 33 year-old husband came up during the questioning of a drug peddler, the NCB said.

Earlier this month, actor Arjun Rampal home was searched. He and his partner Gabriella Demetriades home were also summoned for questioning by the NCB. Gabriella Demetriades brother, Agisialos Demetriades was also questioned and is currently inder the agency’s custody.

Before that, the agency had summoned film producer Firoz Nadiadwala and his wife was arrested after officials found 10 grams of marijuana at their Juhu home during a raid. His wife is out on bail.

The agency hd earlier summoned actors Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakulpreet Singh for questioning in this drug probe case as their names had come up from WhatsApp chats in Rhea Chakraborty’s phone. Deepika Padukone’s manager Karishma Prakash has also been questioned by anti-drug agency several times.

In September, Rajput’s girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty was arrested for allegedly procuring drugs for him. Her brother and some of the employees of Rajput were also arrested under various sections of the NDPS Act.

Rhea Chakraborty and others are currently out on bail.

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