Mirzapur director: Karan Anshuman
Mirzapur cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Vikrant Massey, Divyendu Sharma, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Rasika Duggal and Kulbhushan Kharbanda
“Attack mein bhi gun, defence mein bhi gun. Hum banayenge Mirzapur ko America.” This dialogue uttered by Ali Fazal best sums up the show. Mirzapur, which is the third Amazon Prime original made in India, after Inside Edge and Breathe, boasts a stellar cast but the real heroes of the show are the guns. There are guns galore: country made, large rifles, AK47s, pistols, unlicensed, official, and they are at the root of all evil that plagues this small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a town otherwise known for its carpet industry.
The man who runs this is Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiya, (Pankaj Tripathi), a crime and drug lord, who traffics guns and drugs in the intricately woven carpets. Nothing moves in the town without his knowledge or permission. As Guddu puts it, “Kaleen Bhaiya ka shehar, Kaleen Bhaiya ka chowk, Mirzapur mein bhokaal ho toh aisa ho.” There is a wayward son, Munna Bhaiya (Divyendu Sharma), who doesn’t quite get the fact that with great power comes great responsibility, and daddy dear is often left to clean up his mess. Enter Babloo (Vikrant Massey) and Guddu Pandit (Ali Fazal), sons of an honest lawyer, who harbour dreams of being an IAS officer and Mr Poorvanchal, respectively. In a cruel twist of fate, they are roped in by Kaleen Bhaiya, to be the new brain and brawn of his enterprise. This new power shuffle doesn’t go down well with many in the ranks, especially Munna Bhaiya and everything spirals down the rabbit hole thereon. There is a grab for power from an old rival, political aspirations are thrown in the mix, and this is all topped with a honest super-cop Ram Maurya, who is deployed to ‘clean’ Mirzapur.
The nine-part series, with almost hour-long episodes, is a tedious watch, and even its top-notch cast can’t save this mammoth show from sinking. The show creators wished to create a multi-layered, complex narrative, replete with backstories, but it all ends up in a big muddled heap. The relentless violence and gore doesn’t scare you, rather it makes you cringe. The abundant profanity doesn’t add to the story, it distracts you instead.The writers and show creators have tried to imbibe current socio-political and cultural references but nothing really stands out. This is director Karan Anshuman’s second outing with Amazon Prime, the first being Inside Edge.
The show apparently has been shot on location in Mirzapur but the hasty camera work and below par production quality gives it a feel of telefilms that were once shown on Doordarshan in the early ‘90s. One never feels the wisps of thread from a carpet factory that stick to one’s clothes, or the sense of foreboding and anxiety that one would associate with the complete breakdown of law and order.
It’s interesting though to see the suave, urban Vikrant Massey play a small town UP bhaiya, and the guy-next-door Fazal all bulked up. Tripathi is back to where it all started, in fine form — him playing a small town gangster, and yes there are major throwbacks to Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW). But Kaleen Bhaiya is restrained, almost dignified, as opposed to GOW’s aggressive Sultan. Tripathi shines, but the story doesn’t do justice to him. One sees veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, for the first time on the digital platform, but he is wasted in a cliched role, steering his wheelchair, uttering staccato, predictable one liners.
Mirzapur, seems to have been retro-fitted, to the tried and tested template, which we have seen multiple times before. It’s a low hanging fruit, which no one wants to pick.