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Mirzapur: Dystopian fantasy that borrows a little too much from real world

It exaggerates everything about a violent small town even as it brilliantly captures its nuances

Veer Arjun Singh 

It’s futile to compare this unintended mix of fact and fantasy with Anurag Kashyap’s spot-on Gangs of Wasseypur

Amazon Prime’s new original, Mirzapur, is set in a Hindi hinterland where people are born with an unparalleled appetite for violence.

Throats are slit and heads blown off .

Never mind the bloodshed, life goes on.

The city is a monarchy masquerading as a democracy. It is governed by a simple principle: he who kills the most rules the roast. The winner of this contest — we are told — is the royal family of the Tripathis. Akhandanand urf Kaleen bhaiya urf the king of Mirzapur, played by Pankaj Tripathi, is a second-generation crime lord at the helm. An effortlessly ruthless businessman who sells drugs and desi kattas under the garb of carpets. His restless, power-hungry and love-deprived son, Munna (Divyendu Sharma), is the college-going enfant terrible of this gangland. And his wheelchair-bound grandfather, played by the veteran actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda, is the demonic wise man at the top. Together they pack the heart, the brawn and the brains essential for unfettered violence.

On the other side of the spectrum is the idealistic lawyer, Ramakant Pandit (Rajesth Tailang), who is crazy enough to pursue a case against Munna (he had accidentally shot a dulha at his own baaraat). Pandit’s two boys — the protein-obsessed, amateur bodybuilder Guddu (Ali Fazal), and the skinny, IAS aspirant, Bablu (Vikrant Massey) — are caught in the crossfire. Kaleen bhaiya is so impressed with their balance of bal and buddhi that he gets them to work for him, even after they had roughed up Munna and his sidekicks. This sets the ball rolling.

Even for a city in India’s infamously lawless Uttar Pradesh, is a parallel universe. It exaggerates everything about a violence-ridden small town even as it brilliantly captures its nuances. The casting is masterful, the characters are neatly fleshed out and the dialogues are sharp. The plot unfolds at a slow but steady pace and does not employ clever twists unbecoming of its setting. It relies instead on the evolution of its lead characters to run the story.

This programme is a work of fiction. A place where guns and drugs is the mainstay business, a lucrative job means being an assassin on a payroll, where the media and the police are powerless and adjusting the degree of violence is enough to influence the outcome of elections should be far removed from reality. And yet is eerily similar in accent, words and situations. From arriving at first dates with a plus-one and reading descriptive Hindi erotic novels to conversations about sex and marriage occurring simultaneously, it captures the essence of a slowly evolving UP town just right. But only to blow the violence out of proportion later. It’s both shoddy at emulating a real crime-land and brilliant in creating an independent universe.

Mirzapur is crime story but not a thriller that makes you compulsively binge-watch. But once you are familiar with the law of the land and charmed by the brilliant performances of Tripathi, Sharma, Fazal and Massey, and even the female leads, Shweta Tripathy, Shriya Pilgaonkar and Rasika Duggal, who are scripted to play second fiddle, it keeps you invested till the end. But it’s also a story that did not merit a sequel. The crescendo, therefore, is underwhelming and killing off characters seems like sudden death to shake the plot.

It’s futile to compare this unintended mix of fact and fantasy with Anurag Kashyap’s spot-on Gangs of Wasseypur. But thanks to Puneet Krishna and Karan Ayushman’s poignant writing — they also wrote Amazon Prime’s Inside Edge — some dialogues and theatrics from Mirzapur are sure to be exchanged in everyday conversation, even if only till the sequel.

On several occasions, the gory close-ups of fountains of blood and intestines spilling out are overdone and, after nine hours of watching, the relentless violence leaves you disturbed. In other words, like the Tripathis, Mirzapur achieves its purpose.

First Published: Fri, November 23 2018. 22:07 IST