Set in the heartland of India, Mirzapur revolves around drugs, guns and the politics of power in a land where might is right.
Created by Karan Anshuman & Puneet Krishna and directed by Gurmmeet Singh, Mirzapur is a nine-episode series that will be available to stream exclusively on Prime Video from November 16, 2018, across more than 200 countries and territories.
Filme Shilmy managed to get in touch with a few cast members of the show to discuss their experience of work on the web-series.
These include Divyendu Sharma (Batti Gul fame), Shriya Pilagaonkar (daughter of veteran actors Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar) and acclaimed actor Rasika Dugal (Manto fame).
As an actor, how do you maintain that balance between the use of violence and profanities to ensure you don’t go overboard?
There’s always a conscious mind which tells you to not cross the line and go overboard, but there are times when you’re in the character and you just want to respond to the feelings you get.
It is occasionally challenging to concentrate and constantly telling your mind to maintain that balance.
One eventually thinks that it is a vicious circle.
After playing Munna in the show, it took me a while to come out of the character.
It was not easy to come out of it because power really attracts you as human and the role was full of power.
I see those upsetting changes in my behaviour, where I was rude to people and I just thought, “Hey, I wasn’t like this before”.
At that point, an actor realises that it is taking a toll on their personality and you are thinking like your character.
For an actor, this is also complimenting at the same time that one is in the character.
After the shoot, I think it’s important an actor does not think too much about the role, you rather talk about different things and soak in good energy.
It’s important to tell oneself that the world isn’t that bad and what I did was just for the show.
In my case, music really helped and I love swimming, so I used to go for a quick 20-minute swim which cleansed me.
But it is like walking on a tightrope. One can easily flip.
Who inspired you for your role in Mirzapur and did this inspiration help you to prepare for your character?
Honestly, it was just the way the series was written.
Munna is so full of complexities and there are so many layers. I just loved how Puneet Krishna wrote this character.
I always called Munna a troubled soul.
If you see him from the outside, he is born with a silver spoon but deep down inside he is very lonely and constantly seeks for that affection, especially from his father.
He wants his father to trust and respect him.
I found it a very complete character to study.
Undoubtedly, you’re doing different kinds of roles. But how satisfied are you with your career so far?
I can humbly say that I’m almost living the dream as an actor because I am getting different characters to play, that too on different platforms and people are appreciating your performances.
It has been a very good journey.
From my very first film (Pyaar Ka Punchnama) I got awards and accolades.
But at the same time, I was very aware of the fact that I don’t have to stick with one particular kind of genre of films.
I always want to experiment more. This thought comes a lot from the type of training I had in theatre and then film school.
Theatre and film school allowed me to be brave as an artist and I didn’t take the safe route there.
I knew that there would be difficulties, but I also knew it was going to be unique since it would be my own experience.
You play Sweety Gupta in Mirzapur – sister of Golu. Tell us a bit more about your role?
Sweety has been a very interesting character to play because you primarily look at her as a typical girl who is in love with Guddu (played by Ali Fazal).
But when I read the whole script, I think there’s so much to her character than what meets the eye.
She is extremely strong and fearless, the beauty of her is that despite being surrounded by people who have different views to her, she is accepting and non-judgemental of this.
Sweety is a very balanced character, in comparison to her sister Golu (played by Shweta Tripathi), who is a lot more conservative and idealistic or even to Guddu, who can operate in extremes.
When you watch the show, you will see how she ends up being a very big balancing factor in both Golu and Guddu’s lives.
Although Sweety is very strong-minded and inhibited, she ends up being a strong support system to the people she loves.
I like the fact that she is so comfortable with using the gun and even though she doesn’t want to use it, she has to be prepared for it.
In Mirzapur, no character is black or white, everyone has shades of grey. This is what makes it interesting and unpredictable because anyone is capable of doing anything.
The Indian audience seems to have opened up to the digital platform. What do you think has contributed towards this vast interest?
It took a while for people to understand the impact of the web-space.
But eventually, I think what motivates people is that they have the freedom to narrate stories without restrictions.
There is flexibility for directors and actors to collaborate. One has the opportunity to experiment and try different things.
The relatability quotient is high when it comes to web-series just because people can watch in their own space and they feel a different association with the actor.
Due to the freedom of watching at multiple times, the viewer gets invested in a different way because they feel more connected.
I think it is also wonderful because people are not approaching the web-space as a ‘step lower’ in their career.
The investment in terms of creatively and moneywise people are taking it seriously.
Everyone understands quality now and have their own aesthetics.
It’s a good space to be in and today, it’s not a question of either or (films versus the web), the joy of doing both and the gratifications of doing both is different.
Prior to this, you did three films – including Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan. How has this transition from cinema to web been for you?
I don’t really look at it as a transition because it sounds like you’ve just gone on to another side and that’s where you will now be.
For me, the priority has always been the script and people making it – the production and director.
With Mirzapur, I just knew that I had to be a part of it and it was so beautifully told.
The medium is always secondary for me. I don’t decide things based on what medium it’s on.
It is great that Mirzapur is my first web-show because I did get some web-shows before that.
However, I felt like I wanted to wait until I got a script that justified itself, given that there a lot of web-shows that are out there, just for the sake of it.
I’m grateful that this show has ended up getting aired on Amazon, so the combination couldn’t have been better especially because of the cast.
How did doing a web-series as Mirzapur contribute towards your growth as an actor?
Whether it’s a film or web-series, the approach is similar to an actor.
I have done about two web-shows in the last year and I found the format of Mirzapur really interesting.
There is room to flesh out many characters and to see them through a script. Whereas in a film, you don’t have that luxury of time.
When you approach a web-series as an actor, you have time to warm up because there are about 8-9 episodes in a season.
There’s much more room to breed as an actor during the time you shoot for it.
What makes your character Beena Tripathi dramatically different to what you’ve done in the past?
Oh, completely different.
A woman (Beena Tripathi) being acknowledged as a sexual being is a rare phenomenon for Indian cinema.
It’s a different part for that reason.
Mostly the parts which are written, look at women sexually from a male gaze and orphaned as objects of a stipulation, rather than people who have sexual desires of their own.
That is rare for all the women in Mirzapur and that is something which makes the part different as a whole.
I normally don’t get offered roles of women who are desirable, I don’t know why (laughs).
This is a new one from me and I enjoyed playing it.
How do you feel Beena is relevant, given that there is a rise in female-centric films/roles in Bollywood today?
I feel that in this new wave of feminism and at a time where it has become ‘fashionable’ – which I’m grateful for it on one hand – the women, on the other hand, seem to represent the men.
Some ‘female-centric’ films (not all), have women in the central role who are very male-like. I don’t think that is progressive.
In fact, I think that it is falling into another stereotype while trying to oppose another kind of stereotype.
I believe Beena and all the women in Mirzapur are a little different because the femininity is intact in the writing of it.
Mirzapur is the fifth Prime Original Series offering from India and brings together the winning trio Ritesh Sidhwani, Karan Anshuman and Farhan Akhtar.
They are also the creators of Prime Original Series, Inside Edge, which recently earned an International Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series (the first of it’s kind for a video-on-demand series originating from India).
In an era where crime web-series like Narcos, Power and Sacred Games have done well, it will be interesting to see how Mirzapur will be.
The series will be available to stream on Amazon Prime from 16th November.