The Sacred and the Profane in Costumes

The Sacred and the Profane in Costumes

Season 2 of Sacred Games on Netflix conveys the chaotic binaries of its characters through clothes 

Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Ganesh Gaitonde, a disturbed Bombay crime lord, hardy as well fragmented, marinated in profane satire and frothing bravado who unravels into schizophrenia is best symbolised by the chaotic patterns of his printed shirts in season 2 of Sacred Games. It released on Netflix on August 15.

The intense show based on author Vikram Chandra’s novel is directed by Neeraj Ghaywan and Anurag Kashyap. Written to shock and stun, directed to entertain and anguish, styled to intrigue and trigger suppressed reactions and acted in, to valorise death as much as life, Sacred Games dresses its nightmares best. A costumes team that includes Ashima Belapurkar and Gunpreet Mann reportedly worked on the clothes for months to get all the wrongs of the characters “right”.


Photo: Instagram/Netflix

A campaign shot of Sacred Games by Netflix.

Gaitonde is as much a nightmare as much as an enigma as are his bizarrely busy printed shirts he wears for a stint as a gangster in Kenya. They mirror his splintered mind. KDY, or RAW agent Madam Yadav played excellently with icy disdain by Amruta Subhash has her non-descript saris and sleeveless blouses, a pair of unflattering spectacles and then some unisex T-shirts and pants—a wardrobe so ordinary that it would pass you by on a street and you wouldn’t notice. But in the series you do. Subhash makes sure she doesn’t lose your gaze with her acting and you are compelled to size up those drab cotton saris she wears at work in Kenya.


Photo: pinterest

Amruta Subhash as Madam Yadav in a still from the series.

Then there is Jojo, played by Surveen Chawla a Mumbai wheeler-dealer of city whores (not subtle but the Sacred Games vocabulary is infectious). She “sends girls” —while dealing with her shattered psyche, bleeding with guilt in T-shirts and a couple of “neither here nor there” dresses that distraught girls wear on lonely nights alone in bed. Yet there is something about Jojo’s hair tints and her no-makeup, makeup that makes you curious.

There are many good wardrobe touches in the series as there are some clichés. If there is a corrupt netaji in a predictable white kurta-pyjama riding a cliché, there is, on the other hand, a bomb scientist with large Mylapore amma diamonds on her ears, a diamond nosepin too, who pairs crisp Tamil Nadu cottons with a bomb suit—a welcome surprise. There is of course—and much has been written about—Sartaj Singh, played by Saif Ali Khan, the overwrought, troubled, cop-hero, a foil to Gaitonde’s satan-hero. A Sardar in blue and bloodied shirts and dark pagdis who wears perplexity on his sleeve.


Photo: Netflix

Saif Ali Khan and Kalki Koechlin in a still from Sacred Games.

The mustard robes of Khanna Guruji’s (Pankaj Tripathi, jaws nicely fattened, long wavy locks and well-chosen aviator glasses that make him the bad guy’s ultimate godman) intimate groupies—are the most obvious “costumey” aspects of the series. White, betelnut beige, powder blue, mustard—the colours of the kurtas and robes change given the level of spiritual evolvement (or power politics) even as everyone in this spiritual club of “avengers” sports an oval pendant hanging on a silver chain. Batya Abelman (a passionless Kalki Koechlin) wears different coloured ensembles or saris as she moves from devotee to close aide, sexual confidante to Head Mistress of the demolishment enterprise. Others fade in and out of mustard kurtas, beguiled or brainwashed, clueless or manipulative, some repeat sacred wisdom after Guruji, others heap profanities on life and soul, man and beast, especially on man/woman turned beast.


Pankaj Tripathi in mustard robes as Khanna Guruji.

So. Yes. Sacred Games 2 is compellingly styled and rivetingly mounted. In parts. But if there is one character whose wardrobe moves with his life and times, from gangster bling to prison torture, from gain to pain, from unbridled lust to debauchery, from darkness to defeat, it is that of Ganesh Gaitonde. By the time he succumbs to the suicidal demon, in a mustard kurta without a pyjama bottom, body half clothed, mind fully naked, you know that the character and his clothes suit his skidding karma. Siddiqui tailors his karmic unrest in ways that deserve resounding applause. In shirt or kurta. Shaven or ungroomed. In sex and in schizophrenia. It is not about what he wears. But how he wears it.

That’s why after Bombay Shaving Company announced its partnership with Siddiqui last week for a range of male grooming merchandise, “inspired by Sacred Games”, here is a question we must ask. Do men actually want to look like Ganesh Gaitonde? Or do they want to be like Nawazuddin Siddiqui?–3038