Vikramaditya Motwane read Sacred Games in a week. Anyone who has ever held the 900-page Vikram Chandra epic in their hands – let alone read it – would know that this achievement cannot be overlooked.
“I was reading it everywhere,” he said, with a hint of pride in his voice, “bathrooms, cars, at home, at work, everywhere. It was like reading a book a day.”
But this wasn’t a personal challenge. Motwane, director of films such as Udaan, Lootera and the recent Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, had been contacted by Netflix. It all happened very quickly, but long story short, Motwane had to finish the book in time for his meeting with the streaming giant. They wanted to make a show out of it – their first Indian original – so a lot was at stake. If this show were to be successful, “it would mean more work for all of us, more work for new writers, actors, directors, and as an Indian, something to be really proud of,” Motwane said.
But he couldn’t do this alone. So for help, and collaboration, he turned to “the only director in the world” he could “trust to be able to pull this off”, Anurag Kashyap.
Kashyap made his Netflix debut barely a month ago, when he directed one of the four short films in the anthology Lust Stories. He would be reuniting with the star of his short, Radhika Apte, but not quite. To tackle the book’s formidable length, and its non-linear structure, which told two parallel stories, Motwane and Kashyap decided to divide directing duties based on timelines.
Motwane would direct Apte and star Saif Ali Khan in Sartaj Singh’s story – Sartaj is the strait-laced cop at the centre of the drama – and Kashyap would have a more significant reunion with his muse, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who would play Sartaj’s nemesis, the gangster Ganesh Gaitonde. The director-actor duo have developed a somewhat legendary reputation, having worked together in films such as Black Friday, Gangs of Wasseypur and Raman Raghav 2.0. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe them as India’s answer to Scorsese and De Niro