It’s tough love for Vikramaditya Motwane.
The director of critically-acclaimed films such as Udaan, Lootera and Trapped, has turned his lens to a new medium with Netflix’s first India Original Series Sacred Games.
Motwane is happy that the series, based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name, has found such a connect with the viewers.
The filmmaker believes it is an exciting time for writers, directors and creators with the coming-of-age of streaming services.
“Now we know that there are two genuinely different avenues that we can go into. If you have to compare them (streaming services), movies are like affairs while streaming services are like relationships. That’s the difference.
“You have a relationship with Game of Thrones. It has been there for seven years. (And now), you have a relationship with Sacred Games. Next year, you’re waiting for it to come back. Then, it’s a relationship, right?,” Motwane said.
With the dialogues like ‘Kabhi kabhi lagta hai apun hi bhagwan hai (Sometimes it feels like I am God) finding a place in day-to-day conversations and myriads of memes on the characters, the show has firmly found its place in the popular culture and Motwane has his favourites too.
“My favourite was this guy and girl are walking and he turns back to check out another girl. But in this meme, the one walking away is Sartaj (Saif Ali Khan) while the man is Katekar (Jitendra Joshi) and his wife Shalini (Neha Shitole).”
Motwane said he is never tired of hearing good things about the show, which he co-directed with Anurag Kashyap. He is “pleasantly shocked” that it attracted audiences from a wide spectrum.
“I did not expect how broad it’s going to do in terms of what we call the ‘normal people’. We didn’t think that normal people would binge watch it. For lack of a better word, mothers and mothers-in-law and aunties have gone and watched it… I’m shocked at that. I was expecting that yes, younger people, cinephiles and people who are hooked to Netflix will watch the show. This, I was not expecting,” he said.
The religious subtext and killing off fan-favourite characters led many fans to liken Sacred Games with the epic fantasy hit Game of Thrones, a comparison that Motwane initially found irritating.
“I remember a lot of people right in the beginning, when the first teaser dropped, said, ‘Oh, this looks a bit like ‘GOT’. I would get a little pissed, ‘no, it isn’t’. (It is) because they had no context of the ‘mandala’ (a sign that is the key to the mystery).
“The moment people saw the show, they were like ‘oh that’s what that is’. Actually, the theme and feel are very different. The moment you see the entire thing in context, the comparisons stop.”
The massive success of Sacred Games has already ensured that there would be a second season and there were reports that Motwane may not direct the second season. He is understandably cagey about revealing too much.
Motwane said handling the dual duty of directing and show-running is “beyond exhausting”.
“I can’t talk about season two much. But what I can talk about is that we don’t know what goes behind the scenes of a show. Show-running is when you’re the constant creative voice in the show. For a year-and-a-half, you are working on the scripts, you’re fine-tuning them, you’re the final say on the edit, the music and the cast. To be a showrunner and a director is beyond exhausting. That’s all I’ll say.”
While Kashyap directed the portions with Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde, Motwane handled the part with Saif Ali Khan’s Sartaj Singh.
The show is being called a major turning point in the career of Saif, the first major Bollywood star to venture into the streaming medium.
Joshi, a prominent name in Marathi cinema, became a fan-favourite, with Shitole and Jatin Sarna also turning up with memorable performances.
Asked about his approach in handling such varied artistes, Motwane said, he relied a lot on the magic of the second take.
“I talk to them a lot before (we roll), where I tell them in a certain place what I expect. But I think most of the homework is already in the script. Jeetu (Joshi) would ask me 10 different questions before every shot. ‘Should I do this, sir? Should I do that?’ I used to tell him ‘Do this, don’t do that.’
“It’s different with every actor. With Saif, it was slightly different. I like to have the actors do their thing. And then brief them what to do differently in take two,” he said.
A lot is made out of the first-take delivery but Motwane says it is rarely the case with him.
“There’s always a take two,” he said.