"The fascinating thing about a Mafiosi family is that everyone is just waiting to execute everyone else"
In a scene in one of the episodes of "Mirzapur" an old patriarch of a gangster family makes out with his much younger daughter in law on his wheelchair. This is essentially a "punishment" she has to endure for sleeping with the man servant who also lives in the same house. The scene is visceral, disturbing and yet very telling of the world in which this story takes place.
"Mirzapur" produced by Excel Entertainment for Amazon Prime in India is a reasonable attempt to re define the Hindi heartland crime genre which was started by Anurag Kashyap's "Gangs Of Wasseypur".
The story of "Mirzapur" revolves around the ruling Mafiosi empire of Akhandanand Tripathi, his family, and the brother duo of Guddu Pandit, Bablu Pandit who works for Tripathi.
This review is aimed at talking about the world of "Mirzapur", its main characters, the themes reflected in the show and the many influences used in the development of the story line. This post also has limited spoilers as it covers all the 9 episodes of the show.
I would also like to make a point that in order to appreciate "Mirzapur", one has to detach it from any similarity to "Gangs Of Wasseypur" as they might seem similar but are stories from different geographies.
The Chief Perpetrators of the town of "Mirzapur"
1. Akhandanand Tripathi (Pankaj Tripathi) aka "Kaaleen Bhaiya":- Akhandanand is fondly called as "Kaaleen Bhaiya" ie. Carpet Brother echoing about his family business of carpet manufacturing and signifying the power he yields in the town of Mirzapur. Bhaiya who poses to be in the carpet business as a front for an empire of extortion, illegal arms manufacturing and drug trading. He is a man who choses to be the strategist rather than an executioner himself. He has a select group of hitmen to carry out his work. In his personal life he is married to a younger woman named "Beena" with whom he has a sexually edgy relationship and also plays father to "Munna Tripathi" who besides being a goon is constant source of irritation as he harasses women regularly. In addition his father Satyanand Tripathi, the old patriarch also stays with him.Bhaiya has an ambition to rule Mirzapur in his way and will sacrifice anybody who tries to grab his throne. He also likes to don a number plate "KING OF MIRZAPUR" on his car. This is going to be Pankaj Tripathi’s latest triumph. He is a superb actor who never shouts, never goes out of control and yet maintains a very strong screen presence.
2. Munna Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma):- Munna is Akhandanand's only son who is being prepped for inheriting the throne of Mirzapur. He is in every way the unworthy inheritor who feels entitled to a 'legacy'. He trips like a fuse and gets into brawls and killings on a regular basis. The difference here is that his family commits crime with science in order to run their business, but Munna goes on a rampage who satiate his appetite for 'self-respect' and hooliganism. Eg. In a college election campaign , he unleashes bullets out in the open to kick out an opponent. He also is heavily frustrated with his own personal issues and demons which in part defines his activities. His constant urge for respect from his own father, his unfulfilled sexual desires from his favourite girl "Sweety Gupta" in college and his peculiar relationship with his own step mother. These are all Munna Tripathi's personality and in my mind actor Divyendu Sharma portrays with poise and successfully imbibes the small town goon's crassness. This is possibly the most colourful character in the Mirzapur narrative.
3. Guddu Pandit (Ali Fazal):- Guddu is the your average 'Bunty and Babli' character dreaming to make it big in life from his humble origins in a small town. He is deeply possessive of his family and is the exact opposite of his principled advocate father. Guddu also is majorly into "Bahubali" politics and feels that his immense strength and attitude can be of an asset to a big powerful guy. Its he and his brother Bablu Pandit who make out their daily grand scheme of things together. Their brother chemistry is the showcase of Mirzapur, where Bablu provides insight and analysis to crime, its Guddu who provides the muscle. Eg. In a scene where both of them have to kill their first victim, it takes them over 18 bullets to kill the victim with his body parts just flying all over. Its a gory scene but gives deep insight in the bonding of the Pandit brothers.
4. Bablu Pandit (Vikrant Massey):- Bablu is the lid of the madness of Guddu Pandit. His receptive tone and tactful handling of tough situations rises his profile. A once aspirant for a government career, he along with Guddu feel that being a 'Bahubali' strongman gives them the respect in the system and they feel that their honest dad never cut any ice even though he had been honest and hard working. Bablu also looks after the new business development of Kaleen Bhaiya's empire and ensures a steady profit stream but also has to balance the wire with Bablu's mad love for killing people and his ridiculous mood swings. Eg. in a scene where a rival gangster offers them a partnership, Guddu just blows up his brains only because he uses a mother curse word. Its these mood swings which make the Pandit brothers extremely engrossing and entertaining.
5. Golu Gupta (Shweta Tripathi):- Golu and her sister Sweety Gupta (Shriya Pilganokar) are the eye candies of the college where they and the Pandit brothers study. This is also the college where Munna also studies and fancies himself to be the next union President. Golu who unlike her other sister is more studious, more intellectual and more aloof about the rest of the world. In a scene where Munna makes a pass at Sweety, she effortlessly utters “Will you just have sex with her here on the road itself”. Its this unpredictability of Golu which makes her adorable.
The Firsts for Indian television from the Mirzapur narrative:-
A chiffon saree clad assassination troupe. This is just so cool!
Body Parts oozing out after shoot outs.
India’s first TV drama focusing on the carpet manufacturing business.
The opening credits of Mirzapur tells you the intricacies of the carpet business with smallest of details.
The protagonist of the show takes his nickname from the products of the business he does. This doesn’t happen much in Indian TV shows.
REST OF THE CAST:-
Mirzapur is loaded with effective and forceful portrayals. Sweety Gupta (Shriya Pilgaonkar) who plays the love interest of Guddu Pandit is quite good, the scene in which she is introduced to Guddu’s gangster career is superb.
Kulbhushan Kharbanda who plays the handicapped patriarch of the Tripathi clan is outstanding. His hawk eye over the family’s day to day maintains the equilibrium in highly reactive and unstable environment. He is the Don Vito Corleone of this series. Kharbhanda’s virtuoso talent comes out in full light in the last episode. Bravura stuff!
THE TRIPATHI HOUSEHOLD
In a home where the mother orders a maid to be the “Frustration Relief Pill” for her stepson is a very telling narrative for the Tripathi family. Here the women of the house keep a jewelled revolver in the closet for any “emergency”. The family eats dinner together and discuss the various ‘activities’ of their business. There is a sense of ‘calmness’ to the chaos here. Women are supressed and treated as a line item. In my mind ‘The Tripathi Household’ is the centrepiece of ‘Mirzapur’ and its tribulations.
INFLUENCES ON MIRZAPUR
There is a visible imprint of “Gangs Of Wasseypur” on “Mirzapur”. The humor in action and crime sequences, the regular cuss words, raunchy love making scenes are trademark of hinterland crime dramas. But there is also inputs from The Godfather where one can see how the patriarch deals with an out of control son. Eg Sonny played by James Caan. Action sequences depict a strong borrowing from Coen Brothers films like “No Country For Old Men, “Miller’s Crossing” and “Fargo”. In one scene in “Mirzapur” a gang of saree clad women attack with automatic weapons on Kaleen Bhaiya. This possibly is the first of its kind sequence in Indian films. There is also a very high focus on gore in the show. Routinely cross sections of dead bodies are exposed to the viewers. This too also seems to be one of the first attempts to make action look disgusting as well and at one point the viewer prays to not see any more action.
FINAL VERDICT :
Mirzapur tries and succeeds to an extent in the already crowded ‘Hindi Heartland crime dramas” genre. Its impressive cast led by Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Divyendu Sharma, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Shriya Pilgaonkar weaves a world which holds in its first few episodes for sure but in the end doesn’t quite get there as much is left desired from the ending. The film has very tight editing and the screenplay by Karan Anshuman and Puneet Krishna is effective. The direction by Karan Anshuman and Gurmeet Singh is good in certain episodes. I would give Mirzapur a 6.5/10. This is a decent one time watch.