Why Is ‘Sacred Games’ Raising Hackles Across the Political Board?
Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte and Nawazuddin star in ‘Sacred Games’.
Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte and Nawazuddin star in ‘Sacred Games’.(Photo courtesy: Netflix)

Why Is ‘Sacred Games’ Raising Hackles Across the Political Board?

Netflix’s first Indian original series Sacred Games has been garnering rave reviews and now, litigation. A complaint has been filed against actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the producers of the series and Netflix for tarnishing the image of former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi by Rajeev Sinha, who is part of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.

In his letter to the Kolkata police, Sinha has accused Nawazuddin for "abusing our late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi calling him fattu, which translated as pu*** in the subtitle". He has also alleged that the makers of the show have "misrepresented facts during his regime". The complainant has even slammed the show for “crossing all limits of decency”. The letter urges the police to lodge an FIR under the IT and IPC acts.

 This is the copy of the complaint filed against Nawaz, the producers of <i>Sacred Games </i>and Netflix.&nbsp; &nbsp;
This is the copy of the complaint filed against Nawaz, the producers of Sacred Games and Netflix.   

But it’s not just the Congress that is unhappy with Sacred Games. Hindu right-wing groups are offended too. Let’s look at some of the sequences in the Neflix show that have raised hackles across political boards.

Rajiv Gandhi & Shah Bano Case

In the fourth episode of Sacred Games, Ganesh Gaitonde, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, refers to how the Congress government overturned the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Shah Bano case in 1986, setting back the fight for equal rights for Muslim women by decades.

Gaitonde says, “Woh pradhaanmantri Rajiv Gandhi, woh fattu bola, chup baith aurat.” “Fattu” had been originally subtitled as “pu**y” in the show (it has now been changed to “wimp”) ; it’s one of the things that Congress member Rajeev Sinha is displeased with.

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Also Read: Complaint Filed Against ‘Sacred Games’ for Maligning Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv Gandhi & Bofors Scam

Gaitonde also refers to Rajiv Gandhi’s alleged involvement in the Bofors scam, and labels him “dishonest”.

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The Bofors scandal was a major political scandal of the 1980s and 1990s between India and Sweden. Allegations of corruption in the Bofors case singed the Rajiv Gandhi government, although no formal evidence was ever found or charges brought against him. India had signed a $285 million contract with them.

Also Read: Netflix’s ‘Sacred Games’ Is India’s  Answer to ‘Narcos’

Babri Masjid Demolition

The original Vikram Chandra novel and the show have at its core the rise of right wing politics and militancy in India. Very topical, even though the novel was written in 2006. So predictably, Hindu right-wing groups are also unhappy about how the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the communal riots weave into Gaitonde’s narrative.

The Hindu-Muslim riots began. To avenge the demolition (of Babri Masjid), Isa bombed Bombay. The whole city turned into a graveyard. 
Ganesh Gaitonde in Sacred Games
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Also Read: ‘Sacred Games’: Does the Netflix Show Match the Magic of the Book?

Caste, Meat and Riots

A young Gaitonde is shown to work in a pure vegetarian “Hindu hotel”, which in the show is subtitled as “upper-caste Hindu hotel”. Caste being a burning issue in contemporary India, this has also led some to question the authenticity of the subtitles and if they have been done with shades of political agenda.

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Then Gaitonde hides chicken legs in plates of rice at this vegetarian hotel to take revenge on his boss and start a mini riot. This episode, he says, teaches him how religion could be used to control people.

Truth, as they say, is not a popular idea these days.

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Also in the show, policemen are shown to kill an unarmed Muslim boy.

Chandra’s Sacred Games tells the story of Bombay transforming into Mumbai, a time when business, politics, crime and religion came together as an organised force to simultaneously build and destroy this city of dreams. The first season of the Netflix show manages to translate some of this deftly on to the screen, thanks to the freedom (from censorship) that the digital space provides. Can the makers ride through the inevitable displeasure of the powerful to uphold their right to tell a story like they want to?

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