Sacred Games: Meet the new players

The much anticipated second season of the Netflix show introduces four new integral characters into its increasingly Daedalian universe

A year has ploddingly passed by for Sacred Games fans, since its first season released. This week Netflix’s first Indian original series will finally return with a second season. The show, which drops on August 15, follows Sartaj Singh’s (Saif Ali Khan) efforts to save Mumbai from a calamity in 25 days following the (now-dead) mobster Ganesh Gaitonde’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) tip-off.

With showrunner Vikramaditya Motwane helming the adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name, the season is being directed by Anurag Kashyap (covering Gaitonde’s rise as a gangster through flashbacks) and Neeraj Ghaywan. The Masaan director, replaces Motwane who handled Singh’s investigation against a ticking clock in the previous season. This time around the stage has expanded beyond the city’s borders with the story unfolding in Croatia, Kenya and South Africa.

Though some loved faces will not be returning (Kubbra Sait’s Cuckoo and Jitendra Joshi’s Constable Katekar), a host of new ones join the show’s cast. While Surveen Chawla’s Jojo Mascarenhas is resurrected for the flashbacks, and Pankaj Tripathi’s Guruji is fleshed out from his pervasive presence in the first season, Kalki Koechlin and Ranvir Shorey’s new characters – Batya Abelman and Shahid Khan – are also thrown into the mix. In this spoiler-ridden chat on the first season, the four actors discuss their roles in the Sacred Games universe, being fans of the series, and the characters they miss. Edited excerpts from an interview…

On character

Pankaj Tripathi : “Guruji is well-read. He has his own ideas, thoughts and philosophy. He’s the ‘third father’ and the mastermind behind a lot of games. His world was completely new for me.”

Kalki Koechlin: “Batya Abelman has a Jewish father and a Palestinian mother, and [she has] a terribly conflicted family growing up. She grew up in France, but her mother leaves her when she’s young to go back to Palestine. [Batya] leaves that background with an emptiness inside her and she ends up in Guruji’s ashram, finding some solace there. In Guruji she finds a home, that’s why she hangs on to his philosophy because it replaces her lack of family. She pretty much becomes his main woman, or his main person. She’s a rebel, but in a very quiet, subtle, creepy kind of way.”

Ranvir Shorey: “Shahid Khan is instrumental in the unfolding of the plot, and [the character] ties in very poignantly with the overall theme of the show. He’s in both worlds – Singh’s and Gaitonde’s. And I’m familiar with [the character] externally, and to be able to humanise that was great.”

Surveen Chawla: “Jojo Mascarenhas is a sassy woman who runs an escort service, and through that she meets Gaitonde. She is extremely outspoken and fearless, and one confidante and go-to person in his most vulnerable moments – after every other relationship [of his] having failed him. She’s very confusing and complex.”

Their favourite character from the first season

Tripathi: “Katekar’s was a very loveable role. Something connects – his innocence, his humour, his relationships with his family.”

Koechlin: “I loved Katekar, it was tragic to watch him go, and [Jitendra Joshi] is such a great actor. He was real, relatable, you cared a lot about what would happen to him. Cuckoo also – she really stood out. I just don’t think we’ve seen a character like that on screen – this very vulnerable yet sexy transgender character. I thought it was really refreshing.”

Shorey: “Luke Kenny’s Malcolm had a lot to do with the unfolding of the plot. And it was surprising to see Luke play this part because one hadn’t seen him do such a thing before and he did it so well!”

Chawla: “Katekar was the most endearing character from season one.”

Scenes that stood out from the previous season

Tripathi: “The murder of the ‘second father’ [Salim Kaka] in the water. And Gaitonde steals the gold from him.”

Koechlin: “It’s been so long since I saw it!”

Shorey: “When Sartaj finds Gaitonde, comes face-to-face with him, and Gaitonde kills himself. As somebody who didn’t know anything about the story, that moment was quite a big deal for me. I was wondering, ‘How is the story going to go on?’”

Chawla: “There was one scene between Katekar and Sartaj – they’re sitting on the beach, and it was lovely.”

The one co-star they all loved shooting with

Tripathi: “I’ve known Nawaz sir for long – he was my senior [at National School of Drama]. In my theatre days I would watch him and get inspired. It’s great acting with him.”

Koechlin: “Pankaj! I didn’t have that much in terms of interaction because I’m listening and being a part of his lectures, but I just loved watching him. I used to copy his walk because I wanted to sort of imbibe a little bit of who he was. It definitely helped Batya be in awe of him since I loved him as an actor as well!”

Shorey: “I had a great time shooting with Luke and Saif.”

Chawla: “Nawaz. Most of my work with him is over the phone, so it was difficult – you don’t have the actor in front of you, so there’s no transaction of energies. Even otherwise, whenever I did shoot with him, he was not being intimidating at all – [considering his] stature. He makes it easy for any actor to work with him.”

Most enjoyable scene

Tripathi: “With Nawaz sir – he comes to meet me. There was a technical glitch happening [while we shot] and we just couldn’t stop laughing.”

Koechlin: “A lot of scenes with Sartaj. [Batya is] kind of his confidante and helping him through his past. That relationship becomes very complicated.”

Shorey: “I really enjoy driving different vehicles [for] the different part that I do. You get these really odd machines sometimes – with a lot of character. In the show I got to drive a mini-van, and it was great.”

Chawla: “Jojo and Gaitonde have this unique relationship over the phone. [In one scene] she was [both] vulnerable and quite mad! Anybody talking to her would wonder what she’s talking about.”

Fan theories you’ve come across

Tripathi: “I hardly use social media, and I haven’t come across any.”

Koechlin: “Everyone’s been saying I’m Cuckoo’s sister! I think that’s hilarious and fun. I wish I was, but I’m not.”

Shorey: “I have come across [some], but I don’t really pay attention to mad theories generally.”

Chawla: “I haven’t read any. But maybe I can give you one about how Sartaj and Gaitonde actually turn out to be brothers from the same mother – some twist is going to happen.”

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