Tag Archives: Shriya Pilgaonkar

Mirzapur: a Roller Coaster Ride

The first thirty minutes of Mirzapur dish out thrilling flavor samples for a first taste with a seasoned chef. The delicious ingredients aka the key cast are introduced with careful precision in the first episode by writers Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. We meet each character, significant or minor, except Golu (Shweta Tripathi). Golu comes later, but she stays with us. Flawless and fearless, she is much needed soft, strong female energy in the next eight episodes not only for her clear conscience, providing relief from the macho, ruthless reality of the show, but also for her desire and free expression.

Some character journeys are predictable but most of them deviate, surprise, and conquer with finesse. Casting is perfect in this slow-cooked, gripping crime feast set in a fictitious-real world which runs into a total of 421 minutes.

Set in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, the only law of this land is guns, drugs, rivalry, crime and power. Backed by taut screenplay and brilliant performances, the bar is set to the sky from the start and delivers right up to the racy, breathtaking finale. Mostly shot in Mirzapur, it also scores high on authentic locations. 

The opening scene introduces the main antagonist Munna (Divyendu Sharma), man-child brat of local don Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiyya (Pankaj Tripathi), setting the tone. Staring into the camera, Munna barks ‘Kaleen Bhaiyya – King of Mirzapur’ after a snort of cocaine. His next sentence is “To hum kaun hue… Prince”. (“And who am I… Prince”.) Next, second antagonist Kaleen Bhaiyya is introduced in a chilling scene where he watches stone-faced as a faulty gun, manufactured by his factory, explodes in his customer’s hand. 

Protagonists Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Bablu (Vikrant Massey) are introduced in a classroom, giving a sense of their life, dreams and moral fiber before life takes a U-turn. They are plonked with the dilemma of choosing a path with no return. Their decision plays a big role in setting the direction for their own lives, as well as events that follow.

An upright lawyer Ramakant (Rajesh Tailang) picks a prickly legal case, setting forth a chain of events. His commitment to justice for a murdered groom stands tall despite obstacles. His wife Vasudha (Sheeba Chaddha) is not happy with his truthful choices.

While the men are out playing with guns, the women get naughty. Golu is as comfortable masturbating in a library, with books for company, as she is trying to score votes on college elections. Her older sister Sweety (Shriya Pilgaonkar) has her eyes set on Guddu and his muscles. Then there is Beena Tripathi (Rasika Dugal), Akhandanand’s wife, who is consumed by her sexual desire as her husband is unable to satisfy her. Vasudha is dazzled by power and riches. Dimpy (Harshita Gaur) is spunky but cast as the proverbial sister, which is disappointing.

There are choices and then there is that one choice which comes with consequences. Every moment is an ominous one for Guddu and Bablu, keeping you on the brink. I usually avoid movies with pointless violence. Although come to think of it, isn’t every violent act pointless? What Mirzapur does extremely well is break violence into slices, amalgamating it into everyday life so mundane and real it is terrifying.

The story is pretty stock standard but the fresh perspective of its narrative is what gives Mirzapur its edge and quality stamp. Some scenes are designed to make audiences squirm, while others are paisa wasool on their entertainment value.

The writers are aided by a cast that live and breathe their characters perfectly. Divyendu conquers the messy, complex, layered Munna with finesse: his shifty body language, reckless behaviour, crazy streaks, and dark emotions blend into a powerful turn almost reminiscent of good old Gabbar. Ali charms as the soft and unpredictable Guddu – he wears his innocence like a burden even as his character peels it off bit by bit, with the shifting goal post. Vikrant is excellent as the sensitive, practical Bablu caught in a vortex of descent. Pankaj plays the measured evil don with panache. Veteran actor Kulbhushan stays in the background, occupying his wheelchair with the confidence of an assured performer as well as patriarch. Amit Sial and Shahnawaz Pradhan are effective as cops on opposite ends of the spectrum of duty. Rajesh is effective as the keeper of justice, Ramakant.

Quite easily, Rasika and Sheeba shine as Beena and Vasudha. Rasika is laidback and spunky, voicing her sexual needs and opinion freely, her superbly balanced act lending grace to Beena.  Vasudha is pushing boundaries of a different variety as she fulfils her material desires and tastes power for the first time. Sheeba plays her skilfully with candid innocence, as a woman  who does not think beyond the corners of her family’s existence. Shweta packs a punch as Golu, in her delicate frame, every time she appears.

Mirzapur is definitely worth taking the roller coaster ride.  Full of steep twists, it also has a thrilling climax that keeps you on edge until the last second, leaving unanswered questions for season two. Bring it on…

4 out of 5

Mirzapur. (2018- )Writers: Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. Director: Karan Anshuman, Gurmmeet Singh, Nisha Chandra and Mihir Desai. Players: Rasika Dugal, Pankaj Tripathi,  Shriya Pilgaonkar, Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Amit Sial, Divyendu Sharma, Shahnawaz Pradhan, Rajesh Tailang, Sheeba Chaddha, Harshita Gaur and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Prime Video Network Release: Excel Entertainment

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, tv, culture, women, and social equity. 

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Mirror, Mirror

FAN. Players: Shahrukh Khan, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku. Director: Maneesh Sharma. Music: Shankar Ehsan Loy. Hindi with Eng. sub-tit. Theatrical release Yashraj Picturesfilm_-_fan

Shahrukh Khan movies of late have veered towards over-the-top film extravaganzas, often too big to fit even in a circus tent (especially Happy New Year). Khan the Actor was increasingly in danger of being replaced by the Khan the Star or Khan the Performer. To get back on track, Khan turned to Yashraj to devise a vehicle that would allow him to do an about-face. Even though it feels disconnected at times and falls flat as a fake biopic, Sharma’s Fan finally signals a return of Khan the Actor.

In a double role, significantly enhanced by prosthetic facial realignments, Khan is carved up into two strikingly disparate characters. One Khan is Aryan Khanna, the complacent, fabulously rich Bollywood superstar who has become the master of his domain. The other Khan is Gaurav Chandna, a lookalike and rabid New Delhi fan obsessed with the silver screen demi-god. Gaurav will do anything to be noticed by his “hero” Aryan Khanna. He is brushed off by the superstar during their first encounter, and Gaurav vows to somehow get even with the superstar.

Despite Khan’s decent performance especially as the fan Gaurav in the role of a twisted, first rate stalker—the view of Khan as Aryan Khanna is sometimes uncomfortably close to Khan’s real life. Khan in one of his two roles is on the screen about 90% of the time. A saturation point starts to creep in when Khan the star is informed by top Indian diplomats in London, where Gaurav’s vitriol has him posing as Aryan Khanna. This leads to international ramifications, and Aryan is now pretty much on his own in solving his stalker problem.

Really? For all his resources, this hugely successful, very rich man is left on his own to fight the bad guy. The constant reminders about Aryan’s success or Gaurav’s depravity begin to feel creepy in their dystopian take on the perils of stardom. We certainly don’t want to be the amoral Gaurav who lies his way into posing for a lifestyle he clearly will never have. On the other hand, if being a huge star means you are man-handling riffraff at sudden, scary and sometimes violent turns, the glamor of stardom takes on a black veneer.

The Varun Grover-penned Jabra Fan is a catchy and popular tune in search of a movie.

Released in about a dozen languages with slightly altered lyrics, the song has become quite popular. Like Phantom earlier, Fan is also a movie without songs. The token song is offered as a companion music video. Now, this appears to be a trend. To lend gravitas to a weighty script, some moviemakers skip songs in the movie and still get to call the song one of their own.

In the hands of Yashraj, the production values are excellent, and the staging of sequences from New Delhi (where Gaurav’s humble origin story is rooted) to Mumbai (which is saturated with Aryan Khanna posters) to London (with uncaring British police who pretend to not know who Aryan Khanna is) to Dubrovnik (a wonderful red tile roof top chase scene) are eye catching.

Sadly, with Khan in split personas chewing up so much reel estate, Pilgaonkar as Gaurav’s girlfriend and Amin and Tiku as Gaurav’s parents, have severely curtailed roles. By all counts, Khan is highly successful. Some sources place his net worth at $600 million, the second highest in the world amongst actors (behind American actor Jerry Seinfeld). With his standing in the field, and potentially hundreds of scripts to choose from, why would Khan opt for a story that is essentially a bonfire of self-adulation unless it is to say this to his legions of fans: Love-me-but-don’t-love-me-too-much. Nothing else fits.
EQ: C+