By Manik Sharma Oct. 24, 2020
Mirzapur’s unprecedented popularity stems from its ability to write Shakespearean characters into the boilerplate premise of a town high on masculinity. A thoroughly engrossing and mature second season cements the show’s place as a world unlike anything else we have seen.
The second season of Mirzapur, like the first, begins with a reverie from Munna Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma). In the first half, drunk, he flaunts his gun and declares his desire to be the king of Mirzapur. In the second (two years after the first season came out), half-asleep, he imagines that opportunity has been violently snatched away by Guddu Pandit (Ali Fazal), his arch enemy. Insecurity and survival are at the heart of the show’s world. And though the machismo is templated and pretty much universalised even through its women, Mirzapur remains grounded in emotion and vulnerability.
You are tempted to make comparisons, but Mirzapur is simply unique: in the way it has grasped the language and politics of the arid wastelands of the country, in the career-defining performances it has managed to draw from every pawn on the acting chessboard. A thoroughly engrossing and mature second season cements the show’s place as a world unlike anything else we have seen.
The second season begins after the fallout from that thrilling yet brutal climax of last season. There are wounded protagonists on each side, with both Munna and Guddu left to lick their wounds. Kaleen Bhaiya, played ever so gracefully by Pankaj Tripathi, is the only one who seems to have gained, both in stature and foresight. He now eyes bigger prizes.
One of the greatest qualities of the show, that has been co-created by Puneet Krishna and Karan Anshuman, is to allow each of its characters their space, their whorishly morbid worldview and with it, the swings of fate and chance. We know and adore Munna, Guddu, and Kaleen bhaiya, but the show wrenches the scope for other arcs to grow and fascinate, from their teeth. Shwetha Tripathi’s Golu for example, morphs into a nervous killer waiting to exact revenge. In one scene she saves Guddu from an attack, as he looks on with pride. On the other hand, police chief Maurya, who witnessed the wrath of Kaleen bhaiya, seems withdrawn, almost defeated. A lot has changed.
New arcs, old characters
The second season adds new arcs and builds on older ones. Munna, the show’s enfant terrible seems to have further developed a god complex, which makes him all the more resistant to reason. Beena (Rasika Duggal) fights her own battle for survival within the Tripathi household where she must train her wit on the lecherous Satyanand (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). The battle between Mirzapur and Jaunpur is egged on with a number of new players which also includes the excellent Vijay Varma and Dibyendu Bhattacharya. We even get to see an intimate portrait of Maqbool (Shaji Choudhary), Kaleen bhaiya’s reticent yet eerie right-hand man.
The show has so many pegs and characters that it could have easily tripped and slid down its own complicated wormhole of politics and power.
The show has so many pegs and characters that it could have easily tripped and slid down its own complicated wormhole of politics and power. Even the white collar politician who likes to act as the umpire of this do-or-die match manages to hold his own. Mirzapur knows where its soul lies and how best to exorcise it for entertainment, neither overplaying its hand nor undermining the deliriousness that has been keyed into its make.
The first season of Mirzapur rode the vehicle of shock and awe, often overwhelming with its knuckleheaded language. The second season doesn’t entirely divorce the tools of the first but has clearly matured. Much of it is down to the pain most characters are feeling. In one scene, Guddu’s sister Dimpy confesses to Golu, ‘Hum abhi tak roye bhi nahi’. In another, Guddu claims in front of his father, the righteous lawyer Ramakant Pandit (Rajesh Tailang), that he would rather have him die instead of his good son, Bablu. Over on the other side, Munna may have soared in the eyes of his father and the public, but he also had to sacrifice his friends in the process. Both men, who must eventually collide, suffer from the paralysis of loneliness and being misunderstood. There are demons in everyone’s closet, and yet there is a hint of the hero as well.
A few good men
There are also the good men in this world that the show, admirably, doesn’t abandon. Ramakant Pandit haplessly seeks justice by trying to appeal to the goodness in other men. Human nature, the show tells us, is a function of circumstance except when it is also a function of ideology. Both, however, can be applied to the ideas of justice with equal belief and vigour.
The show’s unprecedented popularity stems from its ability to write Shakespearean characters into the boilerplate premise of a town high on masculinity. The violence is of course overwhelming and at times gratuitous, but as is uniquely symbolic of the series, the self-deprecatory humour balances the scales. The dialogues are so sharp, they often cut through the air of vulnerability and wrench you one way or the other, forcing you to make mental notes. You can’t help but admire that kind of cheek.
Then there are the performances. Though Pankaj Tripathi steals every scene he is in, it’s really Ali Fazal and Divyendu Sharma who dive deeper, if that were even possible, and return with something to still surprise us with. As the two undeclared princes of Mirzapur, Munna and Guddu, they often mirror each other, in both the madness and the hysteria. On their foreheads rests the crown of tragedy, that Mirzapur’s farcical, dog-eat-dog world is built around. But whatever vague title the imaginary throne of this make-believe world brings, the show convinces us, it is worth fighting for.