'Mirzapur S3' review: The trigger-happy crime drama finally comes of age

Some of these issues were present even in the second season which came out in 2020, although it had glimpses of going on a different trajectory.
'Mirzapur S3' review: The trigger-happy crime drama finally comes of age

Mirzapur lacked a certain fervour necessary for crime stories when the first season debuted in 2017. It had created some compelling characters but struggled to weave them into an unforgettable tale. The storytelling was largely flat, scenes were overlong, and the screenplay relied more on the shock value created by excessively gory violence. Further, it mistook the use of cuss words for dark humour.

Some of these issues were present even in the second season which came out in 2020, although it had glimpses of going on a different trajectory. There were signs of better character development and worldbuilding, even though it was largely scattered and painfully simplistic. The third season consciously avoids these pitfalls and recognises that its triumph lies in going back to the basics. What we get, as a result, is more stillness, innovation, and a sparkling rhythm in the storytelling that echoes more than fired bullets and torturous screams.

The show has moved away from a constant need to create a sensation into one where the emphasis is on making scenes that leave an emotional impact. There is a genuine interest shown in understanding the complexities of its main characters. The makers observe them this time with a newfound empathy and vulnerability, taking into account the circumstances they are stuck in.

Guddu Pandit (Ali Fazal) is pushed further into the devils of his own mind as he captures the Tripathi mansion and everything that belonged to Kaleen Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi). Along with Golu Gupta’s (Shweta Tripathi Sharma) infuriating gaze, he strives to take on the throne of Mirzapur, while she battles her own emotions of not being taken as seriously by others.

However, Guddu is not the only pawn in the fight to become the king. There’s Sharad Shukla (Anjumm Shharma) standing strong against him with the overarching shadow of Kaleen Bhaiya on his back. Along with this nasty power struggle, Shatrughan Tyagi, aka Chote (Vijay Varma), strives to become a better and competent son as he embodies his dead twin brother Bharat Tyagi, aka Bade, and plans revenge against Golu.

The plot becomes dense as it tries to take time in developing each of these conflicts. An extended portion takes place in a jail, with Ramakant Pandit (Rajesh Tailang) fighting his own case of murdering a cop. He goes through a transformation along the way, questioning his pragmatic idealism and if at all, it is because of his hardened approach that his son turned into a dreaded criminal.

In the later half, an emotive exchange takes place between him and his wife, Vasudha (Sheeba Chaddha), which makes for a thoroughly comprehensive take on morality, the idea of self and how it mingles with the relationship we share with the world. After all, Mirzapur is a tale of broken families who are left with an unwavering sense of trauma due to the entitled violence of a few.

Deep down, it is a tale of simple people who are pushed to their limits through an unfortunate clash with fate. It is finally that trauma, much like Sanjay Dutt’s Vaastav (1999), which turns Guddu into a weapon that can destroy everything that he once held dear. Kaleen Bhaiya aptly describes him at one point, calling him similar to the demon Bhasmasur, who will eventually write his own defeat.

This season is filled with such smart writing. Apart from the dozen times that we get to hear words like ‘Bahubal’, ‘Varchasva’ and some common allusions to lion and dog, there are quite a few exchanges that strike out. Making a deal with a drug lord over a game of cards, Guddu tells an intensely funny story about how a rat advised a bear, cheetah, and lion to not drink liquor and instead witness the ‘beautiful scenery’ of the forest.

The following punchline makes for a crackling moment of comic relief while also seizing the deal for him. In another scene, Robin (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Shatrughan discuss love and compare heartbreak with how a crab functions in life when it leaves its body. Robin says that it goes through some difficulty but then it’s transformed, just as how heartbreak changes a person if they have the strength to bear the pain. This supposedly serious exchange turns unusually humorous when Shatrughan sums it up as “Aashiq maane kekda (A lover is like a crab).” What the characters say becomes synonymous with the kind of life they lead.

There is more human drama than action and thrill in Mirzapur season 3. Most of it is not completely unforeseen as it brings back memories of Prakash Jha’s Gangaajal (2003) or Apaharan (2005), which explored the gritty undercurrents of crime and politics in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Mirzapur takes a similar path (although without the same rawness, it can be argued), yet what keeps it going is the amount of change happening to characters in each episode.

The makers don’t take the show’s popularity for granted and try to steer it away from the trinity of sex, cuss, and blood that made it a breakout show in 2017. There is a lot happening this time, and much of it takes place over a staggering runtime of over 10 episodes, leaving room for some dull moments here and there. Yet, it doesn’t put you off but rather leaves many doors open for the next season.

The performances largely remain satisfying, too. Ali Fazal wears the menacing forebody of a gangster who thinks less and kills more. His portrayal takes us inside Guddu’s psyche. Shweta Tripathi Sharma maintains a poker face throughout as her anger bulges out of her upturned eyes. Pankaj Tripathi goes into his usual silent demeanour, where his posture speaks more than his words.

However, none of it actually makes as much of a difference to the overall tone. Through all the plot twists, there is a yearning to connect more to the characters that is left somewhat underutilised. You know them, you feel for them, yet you don’t stay with them as much.

However, Mirzapur 3 is compulsively watchable. The theme music of the show, with the clunking of metals merging with the beating of drums and other instruments, had long been waiting for a worthy support that would give meaning to its intensity. This season takes a step in that direction. It does not fizzle out after a promising start. This time, there is some glory.

Series: Mirzapur 3

Director: Gurmmeet Singh and Anand Iyer

Starring: Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjumm Shharma, Vijay Varma, Rasika Dugal, Isha Talwar, Priyanshu Painyuli

Rating: 3/5 stars

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