New Delhi: Sacred Games, Netflix’s breakout series in India, is set to get bigger in the second season of the crime thriller that releases this Independence Day. Industry experts said the video-streaming platform has spent as much as ₹100 crore on the series, the most any streaming service has spent on creating original content in India.
The highest investment on an Indian web show, previously, would be in the range of ₹3-4 crore (per episode) for around 12 episodes, the experts said.
“Sacred Games 2 is definitely our most complex show that has gone into production till date. We knew at the end of season one that we had to make season two bigger, better and juicier for the audience. For us, the audience comes first and we want to make sure they have a really fantastic experience watching the show,” said Neha Sinha, director, international originals at Netflix India.
Sinha said the complexity of production stemmed from the fact that the show follows two completely different narrative tracks, which in turn, required two crews led by separate directors. While Anurag Kashyap filmed portions with Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s gangster character, Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan shot with Saif Ali Khan, who plays a Sikh cop.
The crew comprising over 3,500 people shot for more than 100 days at 112 locations, including Delhi, Mumbai, Nairobi, Cape Town and Johannesburg, to film 400 minutes of footage, equivalent to three-and-a-half Hindi films. Netflix claims it has taken many more post-production facilities as compared to a Hindi film on board to enhance the quality of the final product. Even editor Aarti Bajaj has worked with a whole team backing her.
“In that sense, it is definitely our biggest project till date and a really large-scale show driven by a very complex shoot. Everything is ramped up in this season, the cast is bigger and everything is pacy,” Sinha said.
Media and entertainment industry experts say Netflix’s enthusiasm for Sacred Games is unsurprising, given that it is their big-ticket show.
“Sacred Games is clearly a fabulous anchor for Netflix to create curiosity around its content and get more people to try the service. It’s definitely an opportunity for the foreign network to showcase and cement itself as a platform with strong Indian content and back it with great investment and production values,” said Jehil Thakkar, partner at Deloitte India.
Thakkar said only two to four shows from a streaming service’s portfolio get this kind of a pedestal every year both in terms of investment and promotions. This is similar to the way a film studio works, there are only a couple of tent-pole films it can put out every year, the rest are smaller productions meant to supplement the library.
Netflix points out that the launch and success of Sacred Gameslast year did change things in the Indian streaming industry. Apart from rise in budgets, it introduced the concept of a showrunner, who is the creator and lead writer of the show and takes major calls on look, feel and theme. The person is also the only one apart from creative executives (in this case, from Netflix) to stay on the show from the beginning to final delivery and launch. Vikramaditya Motwane is showrunner for Sacred Games 2.
Recognizing the importance of compelling writing, Netflix also established a writer’s room internally at the end of the first season of Sacred Games.
“Like Kaun Banega Crorepati on television in 2000, I think Sacred Games changed the (video streaming) ecosystem, in terms of the way shows are written and put together in India, and is continuing to add to it,” Sinha said adding that the other big focus now is on VFX and special effects in order to bring a large-scale, film quality, visual spectacle to the screen in your living room which is really unique.
After Sacred Games, there are a bunch of other large-scale shows that Netflix has in production. There is a version of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children with Vishal Bhardwaj as showrunner, a spin-off on the Baahubali franchise titled Baahubali: Before the Beginning and Bard of Blood starring Emraan Hashmi in the lead.
“These are all shows with top notch storytelling and production quality, film crew and talent. They are all changing the way shows are being made in India,” Sinha said.