REVIEW: Sacred Games S1E1 – Ashwathama

Sacred Games is the first of seven Netflix series to be produced by, and in the case of this series taking place in, India. The show is primarily spoken in English; however, it is evident that not all the actors are speaking English and are having their voices dubbed over. Fortunately, it only occurs occasionally, and not for the main characters. The series is about a world-weary police officer Sartaj Singh, played by Bollywood superstar Saif Ali Khan.

The recently divorced Sartaj and several of his colleagues are under trial for the shooting of an unarmed 18 year old boy with possible terrorist ties. The boy had surrendered before being shot in the back by one of Sartaj’s fellow officers. Sartaj receives a call from a notorious gangster who has been off the grid for over a decade. The gangster reveals he has ties to Sartaj’s own father, Dilbagh, and provides his origin story to Sartaj. He claims to be god, calling himself “Ashwathama,” a noted figure in Hinduism. “Ashwathama” hints at some type of apocalyptic event in 25 days. By the end of the first episode, Sartaj comes face to face with the gangster who shoots himself in the head, but survives.

As someone loosely familiar with Bollywood and several of the actors in this series, it is jarring to see them speak English and use mature language, even if the violence isn’t new to me. The subplot of police brutality is relevant to America today, but it doesn’t feel out of place in India. Unlike many a Bollywood film, the series feels authentically Indian, to my own delight. The cliffhanger is intriguing and will coerce a viewer unfamiliar to Indian cinema and television to continue watching and perhaps binging the series.