With a reported 8 million views within the first three days of its release, it’s fair to say Mirzapur is the streaming show that most people have been furiously binge-watching, discussing and immortalising in memes over the last few days.
The much-awaited second season of Amazon Prime Video‘s smash hit gangster saga picked up straight after the events of the Red Wedding-esque massacre of the season one finale. This season focused primarily on Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Golu’s (Shweta Tripathi Sharma) quest for revenge after the loss of their loved ones Bablu and Sweety at the hands of the Tripathis. Season 2 also significantly expands the world of the show with a host of new characters, including Jaunpur-ruler Sharad, Munna’s unexpected bride (and newly appointed Chief Minister of UP) Madhuri, and the Tyagis, a pair of twins played by Vijay Varma.
Over a spoiler-filled Zoom call, creator Puneet Krishna and directors Gurmmeet Singh and Mihir Desai broke down the new season, from that major character death to balancing a busy season and why they wanted the female characters to take time around.
What’s the response to the new season been like so far? I imagine it’s been pretty insane.
Gurmmeet Singh: It’s been overwhelming. After season one, we didn’t expect to get such a fan base and we were very anxious for season two to come out. We just wanted it to be out because we wanted to see what the reactions are going to be. And the past few days have just been a barrage. It’s phenomenal.
Mihir Desai: Yeah, it’s been crazy. My neck is hurting because I’ve just been on the phone reading messages for the last few days. It’s been a lot of positive things, and a few negatives here and there, but it’s good to look at that as well. Things we thought might’ve worked probably haven’t for everyone. But overall it’s been overwhelming.
I want to begin at the end, with that explosive shootout in the season finale and Munna’s death. Puneet was this always the plan? Did you know from that start that Munna’s arc is going to end in season two?
Puneet: Yes, roughly speaking, that was the plan. And we also wanted to add different colours to Munna because when we were writing season one, he was an out and out dark character. Except, some of those moments with Compounder. But we wanted to make him more human, so when he finally dies, which he does at the end of season 2, you feel for him.
Mihir: Especially with a character like Munna who people kind of hated in season one but then realised there’s a lot more to him. So, it’s just down to the writing from Puneet’s and Divyenndu just performed the hell out of it. There are just so many layers and he brings to the role, so much humanity and empathy. It’s just beautiful.
I think one of the great things about the show is just how unpredictable it is and that any of the main characters can die. But does it ever worry you that killing off fan favourite characters like Munna could put fans off the show? Or do you hope the new characters you introduce are interesting enough to make up for that?
Puneet: Yeah, it’s a chance that one has to take. I think that’s a collective chance that we all sat down together and decided to go with. If, for example, you don’t kill a character, whom a main character is planning to take revenge on, then people just won’t feel satisfied. That was the thought process behind it.
Is there a character you know you’d never kill off whatever happens?
Puneet: To be very honest, I think we ourselves don’t know the answer to that question. Everybody is on the table (laughs).
Let’s talk about Golu’s arc. More than any other character she’s had a transformation this season. One the one hand she’s now this badass gangster, but it all comes from a place of pain and loss. What was the most difficult part about getting her arc right?
Gurmmeet: As you can see, this is a male-dominated writers’ room, so this season we’ve used our actors as a good bouncing board to ensure we are making the right decisions emotionally for the character. Golu’s character was very headstrong in season one where she had very specific ideologies. But ever since the season one finale, her entire belief system has changed and she’s gone down this dark part that has very little or no redemption. She isn’t questioning herself or her actions for a moment, she’s made up her mind and switches over to the dark side from the moment she makes her first kill. She’s now more cold than even Guddu or Bablu would have been and that was a conscious decision again, made by everyone involved.
Beena’s arc has clearly emerged as a fan favourite this season. It’s so fun to watch her manipulate all these men and use their egos against them. Was her story this season fun to develop?
Mihir: Yeah, I really enjoyed the reading her arc when the script came to us. The thing about Puneet is he gives respect to every single character and brings out every shade to them. So there’s hate and empathy in everyone. With Bina what was important for us was seeing it from her point of view. Even that first introduction scene where you see her lying in and Bauiji blurred in the background, we didn’t want to show his face because it had to be from her perspective. I think some people and certain reviews kind of misread Beena in season one, and this season we tried to show that she’s not looking for sympathy or reassurance, she’s just doing whatever she needs to survive.
Which leads me to that horrifically violent but deeply satisfying death when she kills Bauji. That was one scene fans were really looking forward ever since season 1.
Puneet: Yeah, it was clear in our head that we had to reach that point but make sure it looks organic. We also wanted it to be a scene where the women are taking charge of the situation and men are at the back. So it’s not only about Bauji getting mutilated by Beena and Radhiya, it’s also about Maqbool waiting in the background while the women take charge of the situation.
Gurmmeet: That’s what’s great about the way Puneet writes. It’s never about the scene with the most impact, it’s the build-up to it. That’s why you will notice that the most dramatic scenes in Mirzapur play out in the simplest manner. So with that scene, it’s about the build-up fo the emotion, it’s about Bauji and Maqbool at the graveyard. It’s about what happened with Bauji and Radhiya and even Beena, which has you rooting for them Beena picks up that cleaver and it’s like a release for the audience as well.
I also think a lot of credit to the character that’s not talked about enough which is Bauji and Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s fantastic performance. He’s so committed on set and invested in his character. Even when he was lying on the ground getting killed he was so committed to getting the physicality and finer details of it correct which was amazing.
Do you guys have a specific favourite scene from this season?
Gurmmeet: My favourite is a very simple scene. It’s when Golu confronts Guddu and questions him saying he’s losing track of his revenge and he’s focused on becoming a lover and a father and his forgotten his goal. And he turns around and tells her ‘I have not forgotten because it’s all inside me. You might need to look for external things but I don’t’. It’s a very simple scene and there are more dramatic scenes, but this one always sticks with me.
Mihir: Yeah, that’s the one I was going to pick. We call it the ‘ek inch’ scene.
Puneet: For me, it was probably the one where the three alpha males, Munna, Bharat (Bade) and Sharad are sitting together and there’s that girl dancing for them. In that one scene, you see the dynamics of these three men who aren’t exactly friends and each have their own agenda. But you see the power dynamics play out and there’s comedy, but beneath it, you see exactly how Munna is feeling from that one expression on his face. This was incidentally the last scene we shot of the entire season.
I wanted to get your takes on some of the issues people have had with this season. One of them was the increasing laundry list of enemies that the Tripathis have. Was it a challenge to balance so many characters?
Mihir: Yeah it was. In a series format, the story has to expand from season one. And I mean, like when Puneet always says, if it’s just a revenge drama, it can happen in. Probably two episodes, three episodes, but here, the story needs to expand. And if the Tripathis are the ones in power, there’s obviously going to be external forces coming at them.
Puneet: It was definitely a challenge because if you’re creating various arcs, you have to be very careful about the fact that the viewer should be invested in them which is what we tried to do. For example, Robin (Priyanshu Painyuli) is a very lovable new character but he’s also very unpredictable. And as Mihir said, you have to bring in new tracks to bring in more and take this world forward.
Gurmmeet: I think that’s why you’ll see the pacing this season was very different to season one which was a much simpler story of two brothers and the Tripathis. So adding new characters was a deliberate choice to open up this world, so it wasn’t just going to constantly move between two people or two tracks.
Puneet you mentioned Robin. I literally made a note of a question to ask you which said ‘who the hell is Robin, because I don’t trust that guy’. What can you tell us about him and am I right to be suspicious?
Puneet: One reason to bring in a character like Robin and his track with Dimpy was to convey that there’s still a semblance of love and innocence in this world of violence. That’s why we deliberately decided not to give any weapons to Robin. So, for example, the reason he decides to give in to Dimpy’s father’s request is no other reason than his love for Dimpy. So, there are certain aspects for which you can trust him. But there are other mysterious things, like his mother who you know nothing about, or even whether she’s alive or dead. Robin is that kind of a character where you can fall in love with him, but you also keep discovering more about him which will make you wonder whether to trust him more or less.
The other common complaint was the track of the Tyagis in Bihar with Vijay Varma’s characters not having much to do. Was that to introduce them because they’ll eventually play a bigger role in season 3?
Gurmeet: The one thing that we kept in mind with the newer characters this season is that they need to be able to serve the main story. So, whenever new people are coming in, they’re having an impact on either Guddu or Golu or the Tripathis. Then it depends on how invested you are in the Tyagis and whether you’d want to follow their arc when they don’t have a connection to the main story. And I think now, after season 2, you are invested in them and I think that’s something that will be explored more in the future.
There was also a much bigger focus on romance this season. Multiple characters including Munna, Guddu, Golu and Dimpy has romantic tracks. Was that one of the things you felt you needed more of after season one?
Puneet: I’m not sure if the number of romantic tracks is higher this time because to call Golu and Shatrughan’s (Chote) track romantic would probably be slightly off because it is not exactly a romance, it’s born out of a need for survival. Apart from that, I think we had a similar 2-3 romantic tracks happening in season one as well, so there was no conscious decision to increase that.
Can you tell us why Sharad saved Kaleen Bhaiya and what calculations were going through his head at that point?
Gurmmeet: I am sure you’ll eventually find out why he did that. I think it’s very difficult to pick his brain and see through his poker face. He’s always twisted in how he takes decisions because we don’t know where he’s going or what he’s thinking. Whether it’s going to Maurya or pitting Munna and Kaleen Bhaiyya against each other in that last scene. So let’s see why he’s taken this decision, even we are eager to know.