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‘Mirzapur is a reflection of the worst evils in our society’

Manik Sharma | Updated on October 23, 2020 Published on October 23, 2020

Talk of town: Mirzapur, set in the badlands of eastern UP, established a new benchmark in the popularity of India’s OTT content

Puneet Krishna, the creator of Mirzapur, on the second season of the popular web show on Amazon Prime Video

Poetry comes naturally to 44-year-old Puneet Krishna. That’s why the lyricist, when writing the popular web series Mirzapur (2018) with Karan Anshuman (also the director of the show), found it easy to infuse colour and rhythm into dialogues laden with expletives. Mirzapur, set in the badlands of eastern UP, established a new benchmark in the popularity of India’s OTT content despite the predictable and overused ‘guns and lawlessness’ leitmotif.

The second season of Mirzapur has been released on Amazon Prime Video today.

Days before the launch, Krishna spoke to BLink on creating characters based on his understanding of eastern UP, the role of women in a largely male-dominated storyline and more.

Puneet Krishna (44) used his experience of living in eastern Uttar Pradesh to flesh out the characters of the show   -  IMAGE COURTESY: EXCEL ENTERTAINMENT

 

Mirzapur’s popularity is now undisputed. Did you see this coming? What, according to you, explains this fandom?

The popularity and fan-following surpassed our expectations.

I think it was the relatability of the characters, the humanness, their experiences that people related to. Though it is a show full of guns and violence, the characters are people who have the same insecurities, ambitions, frustrations as any other real person.

We tried to show the world of our characters from inside and not from outside. We went inside their bedrooms, we sat at their dining tables, we walked with them, laughed and cried with them. This emotional investment helped. And the humour and visceral violence, both clubbed together — that was new.

One of Mirzapur’s key achievements has been to radically recast actors — both Divyenndu Sharmaa and Rasika Duggal, for example — we had seen only in soft-spoken underdog kind of roles. How were these characters created and what is the story behind their casting?

We had never seen him [Divyenndu] in a violent role before. And yet when we thought of him as Munna (a gun-toting young man), it felt like the right choice. Because, as an actor, he is simply brilliant. From my point of view, Munna was never an antagonist. And I hoped that Divyenndu would see this too.

For Beena’s character, we were looking for someone who is brilliant when it comes to acting and has a sensuousness about her. For her audition clip, Rasika had done a scene in which she talks seductively to Munna. It was like watching Beena (a manipulative stepmother) come alive on screen.

Mirzapur has a language unlike anything we have heard in this country on TV. It is coarse and harsh but has poeticised the gaali (expletive). How do you invent this language and how do you push its boundaries?

When I was writing the episodes with my brother Vineet, the idea was to bring in the gaalis in the most natural way possible. Probably that’s why they sound poetic — as you say — despite being coarse and harsh.

My process is that I walk around the room mumbling every single line and word in the dialogue and fine-tune it till it sounds like it works. If it sounds natural and not forced, it is committed to paper.

An intriguing aspect of Mirzapur’s characters is that they are all very confident. Tell us something about the people of Uttar Pradesh you have seen up close? Where does this bravado come from? Has anyone real inspired a quirk or a trait?

I have seen such people in eastern UP (Jaunpur and Varanasi). I lived there for around nine years. Probably, it is an aspect of their growing up that they don’t back down in an argument, always convey that they are brave and not scared at all. Maybe, it also comes from the thought that if they don’t do it, they will be perceived as weak. There is a tendency to use the hands before words to solve an argument.

At the same time, they are more heart. They can be great friends. You have seen that too in Mirzapur’s world. Friendships, loyalties — without questions. Demanded and given!

As for inspiration, the scene with Munna canvassing for college elections in his jeep comes from experience. I had a friend who used to carry a knife and canvassed for votes in college elections. I used to be in that jeep because a studious person brings in more votes.

Writing Mirzapur seems like a lot of fun — things you can get away with saying. But what has been the most challenging part of creating this world, something that you’ve constantly struggled with?

One being not to glorify violence. We choreographed action to convey that violence hurts, and it is not as heroic as we see in films. There is blood, spilling of guts... There is always a repercussion.

Another challenging thing was writing the female characters in the show. They had less screen time than the male characters yet we wanted them to stand out. We wanted to give their characters strength and courage. And thankfully, that happened. You will see more female characters in the coming season.

Critics say Mirzapur glorifies the worst evils of our society — patriarchy, toxic masculinity and so on. What is your opinion of such criticism? Have you ever felt the need to address this criticism within your writing?

Mirzapur is surely a reflection of some of the worst evils that already exist in our society. We should not be criticised for showing it. The first step of trying to remove any evil is to acknowledge it.

Having said that, our primary job is to entertain and not preach. If the character is supposed to do or say something bad, he or she will do it without thinking that it will be judged through the prism of criticism. That is our only duty to this beautiful thing called ‘storytelling’. The story of Mirzapur demands these characters and their actions.

Manik Sharma writes on arts and culture

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Published on October 23, 2020
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