Netflix’s first Indian original series, Sacred Games, was released in nearly 200 countries and close to 130 million subscribers on Friday, and the response so far has been enthusiastic. The crime drama, co-directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap, and starring Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, has received positive reviews from critics around the world.
Sacred Games has a healthy 91% rating on review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, based on 11 reviews. Only one is negative.
Several critics have wondered if Sacred Games can go on to have the international appeal of some of the other shows on the streaming service, such as Narcos, based on the rise and fall of Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Sacred Games also tells the story of a gangster’s rise. In the show, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde juxtaposes his personal struggles to the history of modern India.
“Netflix has chosen a production from the same genre as a previous success, the American-Colombian Narcos,” notes Mike Hale in his review for the New York Times. “While the series is a fair approximation of the kind of multigenerational, lightly fantastical Asian, African or South American novel that routinely lands on American best-seller lists, its picaresque, expansive storytelling and literary flavour are not what American audiences are used to in a crime series,” he continues.
The Hollywood Reporter’s review said, “Sacred Games is filled with those aforementioned storytelling quirks that viewers will likely just go with as they are distracted by the enticingly foreign elements that colour a familiar story that their brain tries to process, like a simultaneously recognizable but tweaked narrative. Many of Netflix’s most popular international series thrive on this slight disconnect — a story that feels familiar, American even, but is told through a lens that lets the other side of the world in.”
Tim Goodman, writing for THR, continued, “While a lot of references in Sacred Games might get lost in translation — and some of the deeper Hindu-Muslim divides might not register here the way they will with an Indian audience — the story is so timelessly American in its mob/cops/city thematic trifecta that any fan of The Wire or even Martin Scorsese can relate to it immediately.”
The Daily Express’ review singled out Nawaz’s performance. “Siddiqui is superb as Gaitonde, who is one of the best TV villains for a while and is an anti-hero that you’re rooting for even though he’s a cold-blooded killer.”
The Guardian’s Barbara Ellen wondered if Sacred Games could kickstart a new genre (‘Bolly noir?’) and wrote that the show had “uncompromising performances, a script bristling with lyricism, and an intriguing air of vibrancy and originality.”
The sole negative review, from IndieWire, complained that the show’s subtleties are undone by “ the overbearing violence (both psychological and physical) that permeates nearly every other frame of the series.”
Based on Vikram Chandra’s 900+ page novel, the series’ creators hope that the success of the first season will earn them a greenlight to continue the story.