I had some big shoes to fill: Neeraj Ghaywan on co-directing Sacred Games 2
Before he took the film industry by storm with Masaan (2015), Neeraj Ghaywan was apprehensive about watching TV shows. “I never thought a day would come when I would co-direct one of India’s most popular TV shows, that too with my mentor, Anurag Kashyap. I have some big shoes to fill,” he says, referring to Season 1 co-director Vikramaditya Motwane. There is a certain comfort to working with your mentors, Ghaywan adds. “But there’s also huge pressure to match their level of excellence and meet their expectations. Plus, Vikram [Motwane], who was my producer for Masaan and is showrunner here, and Varun [Grover], who is the writer and a great friend, have created something special in Season 1 and as a new collaborator, I can’t let them down.”
Ghaywan, as a filmmaker, always sought out emotional stories. What he calls ‘realism-induced, heart-wrenching narratives’. Sacred Games, with its action and gangsters, cops and soothsayers, has yanked him out of that comfort zone.
“This show gave me the scope to try and challenge my creativity in a way I never have before.”
Also, he began to watch TV shows again, and realised how different today’s content was from the serials he snacked on as a child.
“I was bowled over by the quality of shows like Fargo, Mindhunter, Luther, Line of Duty, and the highly underrated The Fall. Now that I’m really into them, I love crime thrillers, I love neo noir, so much so that I have started exploring Scandinavian and French noir shows,” he says.
It’s helped change how he thinks, visually and in terms of storytelling, Ghaywan says. “It’s a great way to keep up with the times.”
On the set
Incidentally, Ghaywan chose not to read Vikram Chandra’s book on which the show is based. “I wanted to follow the writer’s vision and not have double vision. I asked Varun, do you want me to read the book, and he said it was my call, so I decided not to.”
He thinks Season 1 ended perfectly, in terms of keeping the audience hooked. “The canvas becomes larger for everyone in Season 2. From Gaitonde being in jail, beaten up and broken, to his rise to the status of an international mafia lord, establishing that storyline has been fascinating for us.”
Anurag and Ghaywan concentrated on how to take this forward. “But how it has a taken that leap, those calls have been taken by the Vikram and Varun’s team.”
Ghaywan is hopeful that the audience will react to this season as they did to the first one. “There are hundreds of memes on the show, dedicated meme pages. When a show goes into the social media realm and attracts the masses in such a huge way, we can confidently say that we are doing something right.”