How Do You Measure the Success of Sacred Games? By a Token FIR for “Hurting Sentiments”

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How Do You Measure the Success of Sacred Games? By a Token FIR for “Hurting Sentiments”

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

It’s been barely a week since the release of Sacred Games — India’s answer to both Avengers and Wild Wild Country — and protestors are already figuring out a way to get it off streaming platforms. The most recent of this lot is BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, who has taken affront to a scene in which Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) throws his kada into a river. That this happened merely hours before the character decides to join a death cult made no difference to the spokesperson. An FIR was filed against director Anurag Kashyap — who didn’t even direct the scene in question — for “a clear attempt to malign the image of Sikhs”.

As it turns out though Bagga’s FIR is a sequel in itself. The previous season of Sacred Games earned the wrath of a Congress worker, because a gangster happened to call Rajiv Gandhi “fattu”. Sure, said gangster also murders a bunch of people, but the main point of contention in that case was that the King of Mumbai’s Underworld uttered a word that could be safely broadcast on Pogo TV. This is silly for a number of reasons, the most glaring being, why would the Congress want a character like Gaitonde praising their former Prime Minister anyway? Wouldn’t that just make him look worse?

Anyway, the only surprise this time is not that an FIR was filed, but how it took so long to come. Shows like Sacred Games, are after all, the number one threat to religion since “scientists” officially became a thing. It only makes sense then that the season would end with a politician up in arms about a supposedly grave insult to an entire community. (Or in this case, two politicians actually, after a Shiromani Akali Dal leader realised that the BJP had a fair point about this “outrageous” depiction of religion, and called for the scene to be deleted.)

How come there are no Asaram Bapus outraging against the depiction of gurus, or Croatians outraged about Kalki’s depiction of their accent?

Still a couple of things don’t add up. Why, for instance, was the FIR only filed against that one blink-and-miss kada sequence, especially when the series doesn’t shy against criticising all religions? How come there are no Asaram Bapus outraging against the depiction of gurus, or Croatians outraged about Kalki’s depiction of their accent? In a show about Mumbai dealing with an imminent nuclear explosion, all while dealing with the fallout from a religious riot, how is the kada scene most likely to offend religious sentiments? In fact, it would have probably gone unnoticed if the politician in question hadn’t made a big deal about it in the first place.

Meanwhile, this group of “serial offended” has obviously been steering clear of regular TV programming, any movie starring Riteish Deshmukh, and child reality shows for the last few years, considering the appalling lack of FIRs in that department. Fifty years of harassing a daughter-in-law on TV until she either pays the damn dowry or kills herself, is not deemed outrageous enough for an FIR. Neither is the fact that most godmen are portrayed as ADHD patients with long curly hair who didn’t get a chance to talk much in acting class, and are now taking it out on everyone else.

In fact, if we were to go looking for things on the big screen that offend religious views, it wouldn’t take too long before each community could compile their own list of FIRs. Homosexuals are punchlines for bum jokes, Catholics are perpetually drunk fools wearing suspenders, and Gujaratis always have an emergency packet of thepla handy. Punjabis believe in conducting all their businesses in sarson fields, and all South Indians do is wear lungis and get misunderstood by the star of the film. The Parsi, will, no doubt be waxing their car in the background.

So it’s somehow surprising that every time a new season of Sacred Games comes out, it’s reviewed with an FIR. Maybe it has something to do with all the swearing and nudity, or maybe it’s because we aren’t ready for a show that strays too far from the regular saas-bahu, woman-turning-into-Naagin spiel. Either way, when you make something this controversial and real in this country, it’s clear, balidan dena hoga.

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