‘Bhaiya’ is a loaded word in the Hindi language. In its most literal state, it means ‘big brother’. But depending on where you are in India – especially in Mirzapur – its interpretation could vastly vary. In the northern part of the country, it is used (and accepted) as a term of mild respect. We call autowallahs ‘bhaiya’ and we call our actual brothers ‘bhaiya’. The man who delivers your Amazon package is ‘bhaiya’ and so is your local shopkeeper.
Vikrant Massey plays the Tom Hagen character in Mirzapur.
But that’s sort of the tone the show settles into. Everything is taken to an extreme – every emotion, every line of dialogue and every scene. Once, when a goon expresses a desire to do some drugs, he ends up doing all of them. Lines of coke are snorted, joints are rolled and heroin mainlined. And yet, the ‘bhaiya’ lives.
Virtually every character in Mirzapur, the new Indian series on Amazon Prime Video – spearheaded by the same team that produced its first – has the word ‘bhaiya’ attached to their name. And in a convenient example of the sort of nuances I am referring to, no two characters’ ‘bhaiya’ bears the same level of respect.
Mirzapur is set in UP, the north Indian state infamous for violence of both the communal and physical kind. It was recently reported by the Times of India that eight women on an average are raped everyday in the state. The same report said that more than 11,000 FIRs related to crimes against women are registered every year.
Pankaj Tripathi is magnetic in Mirzapur.
Both shows share actors Rajesh Tailang, who will appear in Netflix’s Selection Day soon, and Pankaj Tripathi, who is, as he often tends to be, the best thing about whichever project he associates himself with. Some of his scenes are jarringly unbalanced because of his formidable skills, and his co-actors’ inevitable inability to keep up with him. Together with Rasika Dugal, whom we last saw in Manto, their on screen battles of wit and power are easily the highlight of this otherwise very familiar show.
The story of Mirzapur is about a local drug lord Kaleen Bhaiya (Pankaj Tripathi) whose son Munna (Divyendu) is trying too hard to take his place but lacks any of his diplomatic or criminal skills. His position is in danger after two local boys Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Bablu (Vikrant Massey) beat him up to their own surprise.