This is a view the audience will share even if they are politically not inclined towards the right or the left. Director Anurag Kashyap comes with some baggage. A master of film noir, he took off where Ramgopal Varma left (Sacred Games Season 2 has a spoof on Varma in one of the episodes). Writing on his approach to filmmaking, then editorial director of Swarajya Sandipan Deb had written while reviewing Raman Raghav 2.0, “… hardly any character in any Anurag Kashyap film has a soul,” which is largely true even in a part-documentary, part-feature film Black Friday. Nobody had any qualms about eliminating rivals by hook or by crook to claim the throne of the supreme Rajput in Gulaal. And no Bihari, let alone a Mumbaikar, throws around expletives with as much elan as Kashyap’s characters did in Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2 (2012) or Sacred Games Season 1 & 2 (2018, 19). But at least two characters in Sacred Games have souls. Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) always had it. An otherwise ignoble Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) discovers it days before ending his life, an end we had known since Season 1. Beyond that, Season 2 has little to offer.

Kashyap’s baggage referred to above ensures that we need not elaborate on his anti-Hindu (or, is it anti-Hindutva?) agenda. He goes way beyond Rajkumar Hirani-directed and Aamir Khan-dictated PK to damn the cult of gurus. But that is just a partial assessment of Sacred Games. Other than a good cop (Inspector Majid Ali Khan essayed by Aamir Bashir) and a victim of a lynch mob, no Muslim character in the story is positive; from the head of a rival gang (Suleiman Isa/Saurabh Sachdeva) pitted against Gaitonde to the mastermind of the most dreaded plot, all Muslims in this story are terrorists. Among women, all Muslim characters are ‘available’. If Gaitonde, DCP Parulklar (Neeraj Kabi), Bipin Bhosale (Girish Kulkarni), etc are crooked, the other Hindu characters like R&AW agent Kusum Devi Yadav (Amruta Subhash) are more likeable than despicable. If there is an upright boss in the police department who is a Christian, there is also a frustrated, depressed, has-been Christian actress (Jojo Mascarenas played by Surveen Chawla) who takes to pimping after betraying her sister (Mary Mascarenas by Harshita Gaur). How that makes Kashyap a pseudo-secular is beyond me. What he does come across as is rather French: a creator of works of art bearing contempt for all belief systems. Often a flagbearer of this abhorrence, his former wife Kalki Koechlin features as Batya Abelman, an indoctrinated disciple, in Season 2 in good measure.

Where Sacred Games Season 2 fails is in its inability to deliver along the lines that the audience anticipated. The dreadful plot is that of a conspiracy to pulverise Mumbai with a nuclear device, which is far-fetched, a feat unthinkable for any gangster or a fake guru (Pankaj Tripathi) unless Pakistan (of Abdul Qadeer Khan infamy) implodes and the United States looks the other way, letting Islamist goons plunder the assets in Shanawa, Nanganai, Multan, etc.

Unlike Season 1, the episodes in Season 2 are not gripping or edge-of-the-seat. The storyline meanders. The end of any given episode does not make you curious enough to watch the next one unless you do not want to be the odd man out the next day in your office where all your colleagues have binged-watched all the eight episodes one after the other. What is totally unexpected of a Kashyap creation, no character, not even the darkest one, is driven by revenge. The biggest villain of them all, Shahid Khan (Ranvir Shorey), is egged on by a religious agenda.

As expected, however, the last episode ends with a Hollywood-style indication that there will be a Season 3.