Whenever it comes to the choice of script, story and sequence in presenting a factual or fictional narrative on the underworld nexus and chains, punctuated by the toxicity of crime, conflict, rivalry and revenge, there seems to be a natural prescription for Mumbai in the plot.
As economic renaissance and restructuring began to rope in the city, marred by competing groups and interests of various hues, differentiated by status, rank and role of positions in the hierarchy wanting to control a sizeable chunk and pool of resources, leading to the creation of circles and circuits by keeping a watch on important trade supplies, goods and consignments, leading to the formation of organised groups and syndicates. In close connivance with local politicians and administrations, receiving the tacit support of approval and acknowledgement in the practice of their purposeful conduct.
Sacred Games, adapted from Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name, is a postulate, giving a moral basis to this statement of fact. In close association and cooperation with the state, an individual doing what he desires confined to a set of rules for the game. Without these rules, one will be in peril, with individual existence being made redundant.
Ganesh Gaitonde, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui as raw and riled up against whatever comes his way, learning to live with struggle interwoven and intertwined as a part of his personality, as those who’ve had a troubled childhood will find themselves complacent in his every sphere.
Life becomes a heap of burden and bane with high stakes, and claims confessed by Gaitonde in his revelations to Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) with utmost humility, honesty and innocence. Asking Sartaj if he believed in God, as was asked to him by Dilbagh Singh, Sartaj’s father, an individual revered by Gaitonde for his humble and caring attitude.
For an individual deprived, disillusioned and detested, there’s a reprieve when he meets and sees Dilbagh Singh as a symbol of hope, with all his woes and miseries fading away for a while — dwelling on the treacherous path filled with the greatest sense of remorse, pain, agony and trauma, etched in the aesthetics of expressions and vocabulary, forming part of the cyclic dialogue between both the characters.
This art drama is pioneering for the narrations and translations in the background interpreted by Gaitonde in making us realise the scale and size of the national and international political developments greatly influencing and impacting Mumbai. 1980–90 were the landmark years for the advancement of the city. What interests me is the defining outlook and orientation of the Muslim community in the aftermath of 1992 Babri Demolition fuelled by the extremist and fanatics of the Hindu-Right, severely altering their ties with the mainstream, thus, giving a foundation to their disenfranchisement with the state.
Sowing the seeds of discord, resulting in the production of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, ripping apart the city’s chest, followed by a subsequent rush of Mafias and Dons capturing and controlling the fate of the city in their capacity, leading to simmering conflict and contestations. It eventually led to the planned exclusion and ghettoisation of Muslims, granted by punitive sanctions by the state either in the way of coercion or excesses.
I believe Nawazuddin has done justice to the story by painting a realisation of how one’s social, economic and political landscape nourishes and nurtures their upbringing and socialisation. It’s with this spirit high up in his head that Gaitonde seeks redemption for his past by practically being the person rising from the scratches and parting with a world he would’ve detested otherwise. Bold and suave, setting the backdrop of the motion and milieu of the plotline — wanting big by winning Mumbai.