Sacred Games and the Appeal of an Apocalyptic Telos

Through an exploration of the apocalyptic, Sacred Games critiques fanatical narratives premised on exclusionary groupings.

It was only a matter of time before somebody protested against the content on the online streaming platform Netflix. And, unsurprisingly, the offending series are Sacred Games (2018), Ghoul (2018), and Leila (2019). All three are critical of an authoritarian establishment. Ghoul and Leila depict a dystopian future where people are systematically segregated and ghettoised, which seems like an exaggerated, though possible, outcome of certain exclusionary policy trends like the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Sacred Games (based on Vikram Chandra’s novel), on the other hand, is more of an apocalyptic tale.

Much of the story in Sacred Games develops through the parallel narratives of the Mumbai gangster Ganesh Gaitonde and the punctiliously honest policeman Sartaj Singh. They meet in the very first episode of the first season, with Gaitonde revealing to Sartaj that Mumbai will be destroyed in 25 days, after which he kills himself. The narrative of Gaitonde’s life begins after his death, with the character’s voice-over and a series of flashbacks. Sartaj meanwhile attempts to unravel the mystery behind the impending apocalyptic attack. Linked to the attack are two seemingly opposed, but actually entangled, teloi (aims) which are at work throughout the series. One is the end goal of a self-styled godman, Guruji and his acolytes, based on the yugic framework of a millenarian end and a cyclical beginning. The other is the goal of a Hindu rashtra, which is represented by a handful of politicians who base their careers on the politics of hate and othering.

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Updated On : 13th Dec, 2019


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