Sacred Games indeed took the Indian TV diaspora by storm in the summer of 2018, with almost everyone hooked onto the Netflix original. The Anurag Kashyap-Vikramaditya Motwane show turned many heads around with its adrenaline and compelling plot lines and bold content, complete with stellar performances by the “Dynamic Duo” of Bollywood, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte, along with Saif Ali Khan and Neeraj Kabi in the lead roles. The eight, action-packed episodes left no stone unturned in encapsulating all the suspense one could anticipate, leaving the audience on a cliffhanger in the season finale, with at least a dozen questions left unanswered.
However, only a few people know that this TV show is actually based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name. The thriller, at the time, created a huge uproar in the literary circles in India, as the monstrous 900-paged work of fiction was one of the most anticipated work by Chandra, and given the length of the book, he did justice in comfortably spreading the premise of the fictitious underworld don Ganesh Gaitonde and his rise in an accurate and realistic timeline of Bombay. After binge-watching the show, it was inevitable, getting hands on the book and going through the excruciating task of reading it. It is only after one is completely into the story that one realizes that the actual plot is much more intense and much deeper than the TV show, especially when it comes to the two main characters, Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde. Within the first few chapters, it is conclusive that the role of a forty-ish debonair of a Police Officer couldn’t have been delivered better by anyone but Saif Ali Khan.
Though, Nawazuddin is the man who actually steals the spotlight. His performance as a “Bhai” is the tip of the iceberg, as the Gaitonde in paperback is a man and a half, and his endless array of thoughts and feelings is astonishingly devoted by Chandra in a considerable portion of the book, something missed in the TV adaptation, despite Siddiqui’s effortless portrayal of the character. Anurag Kashyap disappoints by not giving glimpses of Gaitonde’s relationship with Jojo Mascarenhas, who had a single scene in the opening sequences of the pilot episode, played by the charismatic Surveen Chawla. After reading the book, it is not unnatural to conclude that Kashyap missed out from a perfect score in casting, as someone who is admired in the industry as a diva, Chawla won’t be able to do justice to a rough and rugged character. However, it would definitely be interesting to see how the uncanny friendship between the two is portrayed in the much awaited second season.
Mary Mascarenhas, sister of Jojo, and Iffat Bibi, the aunt of Suleman Isa (A character inspired by Dawood Ibrahim) are missing from the first season, which is contradicting as certain trails of Sartaj’s investigation would not have been possible had it not been for the two. While the former serves as the love interest of a divorced Sartaj (A spoiler alert had been issued already.), the latter is pivotal to the climax of the plot (Something which would not be disclosed in this blog post for obvious reasons), which are enough instances to conclude that there are many plot differences between the two. Parulkar, for instance, is a mentor and somewhat of a father figure to Sartaj Singh, instead of the tough and sadistic boss portrayed by Neeraj Kabi.
It is expected that the climax, which is quite simple and realistic in the book, would be sensationalised and dramatised to a great extent to maintain the adrenaline nature of the show. From a reader’s perspective, the TV show is going to give the audiences their money’s worth with the way the plot would unfold. It is going to be mind-blowing.
(For the sake of spoilers, a lot of plot differences have been left out. The ones mentioned here were written after a careful evaluation based on their significance and the fact that it isn’t going to be a spoiler.)