Mirzapur: Pankaj Tripathi, Rasika Duggal and Ali Fazal, how the kitschy hinterland crime drama catapulted its actors to stardom (2024)

Mirzapur: Pankaj Tripathi, Rasika Duggal and Ali Fazal, how the kitschy hinterland crime drama catapulted its actors to stardom (1)Mirzapur is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The Mirzapur Season 3 marketing blitzkrieg has begun. Four years, lots of teasing and multiple teasers later, the third season of the popular show will stream on Prime Video from July 5. The first season of this blood-soaked crime drama dropped in November 2018, months after Sacred Games wowed audiences with its high-quality writing and production value. While Sacred Games was designed for a global audience as Netflix’s first Indian production, Mirzapur positioned itself as pure Indian pulp fiction.

Before OTT platforms raised the bar for the quality of content produced in India, we had mediocre daily soaps driven by suffering women, formulaic mainstream cinema, high-concept small-budget films, or digital content released largely on YouTube like sketches, mini-series or youth-centric shows. The big-budget web series with cinematic production values was an intriguing new beast. With the focus shifting from making profits over the opening weekend to creating ‘binge’ worthy content that would remain interesting for almost eight hours, came an organic need for developing complex and well-rounded characters. Since great locations and washboard abs cannot replace actual acting skills for that long, the demand for high-quality content on OTT platforms created opportunities for talented actors who were struggling to find opportunities in Bollywood’s appearance, legacy or profit-driven model.

While Sacred Games had Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan and the immensely talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mirzapur boasted no A-list celebrities. Pankaj Tripathi, who plays the menacing Kaleen bhaiyya, was perhaps the best-known actor in the cast when the show was first released. Ali Fazal had been a part of f*ckrey, Vikrant Massey had made an impression with Death in the Gunj, and other cast members like Shweta Tripathi Sharma, Rasika Dugal, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, and Divyenndu had all been a part of films, television shows or very early digital content. Mirzapur’s success and impact on popular culture brought recognition and fame to its very deserving cast members. The show proved to be the runaway success they collectively needed.

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A large part of the credit for its continuing popularity goes to the skill with which these actors played their parts, preventing them from becoming cliches, caricatures or just plain crass. Many of them are now bonafide digital stars and have worked on multiple OTT projects and in mainstream films ever since the first season of the show dropped. Rajesh Tailang played the lead role of an ambitious cricket-obsessed father in the series Selection Day. Sheeba Chaddha and Rajesh Tailang worked together again in Bandish Bandits while Divyenndu was one of the lead actors in the recently released film Madgaon Express and the web series The Railway Men. Shweta Tripathi Sharma and Vijay Varma were cast together in Kaalkoot and Vikrant Massey is now a bonafide Bollywood star with the success of 12th Fail. Sheeba Chaddha has also been a part of multiple Bollywood films like Badhai Do, Pagglait, Doctor G and Phone Bhoot, and Rasika Dugal has proven her versatility with projects like Out of Love, Delhi Crime, and A Suitable Boy amongst others. Vijay Varma who joined the show’s second season in a double role as the twin brothers Bharat and Shatrughan Tyagi had just had his breakthrough moment as Moeen in Gully Boy. In between seasons 2 and 3 of Mirzapur, he has become hugely popular with his performances in Darlings, Dahaad, Kaalkoot and Jaane Jaan.

Also Read | The complete Mirzapur family tree: As Kaleen bhaiya and Guddu Pandit battle rages, here’s a quick recap

While one cannot give one show all the credit for the well-deserved stardom these artistes have received, the reach and popularity of the show made them well-recognised faces and household names after its release. Perhaps it was the show’s unapologetic ‘shock and awe’ sensibility that made it instantly popular. Whether it was the crude politicians and gang lords, rustic slang, expletive-laden dialogues, or copious amounts of blood and dismembered body parts; Mirzapur created a template for many shows to come like Jamtara, Maharani, Khakee-The Bihar Chapter and Rangbaaz. By avoiding realism or subtlety of any kind, the producers created an alternative universe, a testosterone-laden land far far away where murder and smuggling are just another day at work. The show’s treatment remains over the top and kitsch, and it is written like the adaptation of a potboiler novel based in small-town India.

Interestingly, this crime drama is produced by Excel Entertainment, whose films mainly dealt with urban characters and first-world problems for several years. Mirzapur marked a creative shift for the production house towards exploring stories that were based in rural India or the lower middle class in urban India. In the years following Mirzapur, Excel Entertainment co-produced Gully Boy, Toofan and the web series Dahaad which is based entirely in rural Rajasthan. They also produced Bambai Meri Jaan, a Dawood Ibrahim origin story set in the narrow lanes of Dongri in Mumbai.

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Though the setting and sensibility of Mirzapur were completely different from any of Excel Entertainment’s previous productions, their skill at assembling an ensemble of talented actors and backing stories told with conviction continued with this series as well. So now, a generation that made Goa synonymous with friends taking holidays together after watching Dil Chahta Hai was glued to the ‘bhaukaal’ created by Munna, Guddu, Bablu, Kaleen Bhaiyya and their gangs of trigger-happy hoodlums as they cussed, killed, and sought revenge in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh.

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As we gear up for Season 3 to drop and reveal who will finally rule the very coveted ‘gaddi’ of Purvanchal, it will be interesting to see how the same set of actors, now with completely different levels of success and popularity, play the characters whose rough around the edges vibe made them popular in the first place. Will Guddu finally complete his blood-soaked quest for revenge and de-throne the Tripathis, or will Kaleen Bhaiyya roll out a carpet for his return to power? What will the Tyagis do in this mix, and which Tyagi made it out alive at the end of season 2? Where does this clash between powerful men leave Golu, Dimpy or poor Ramakant Pandit whose refusal to give up a case set his entire family on a path of death and destruction? Mirzapur Season 3 has all the answers and we can’t wait for our favourite actors to slip into the skin of their iconic characters to create some ‘bhaukaal’ again.

Mirzapur: Pankaj Tripathi, Rasika Duggal and Ali Fazal, how the kitschy hinterland crime drama catapulted its actors to stardom (2024)

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