Smriti Kiran: The first season of Mirzapur world premiered at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2018. It is the first series out of India to generate the kind of fandom associated with series like Homeland, Breaking Bad, Narcos, The Sopranos and Game of Thrones. The fan theories, character arc speculations, discussions and the manic wait for season two are proof of the enthusiasm. Once season two dropped on the 23rd of October, 2020, the frenzy and excitement around the show have only escalated.
It is a pleasure to get the writing and directing team of Mirzapur to chat about giving India its first show with an unprecedented fan following – the kind of craze, which in my opinion, we have only associated with Western shows.
Before I get into the creation of Mirzapur, I want to talk a little bit about the creators. Your individual journeys and your connection with each other are as much of an entangled web as the show.
Puneet, you and Vineet are brothers. You’re both from UP, you run an HR firm together, you worked in the corporate world and then gave up your cushy jobs to tell stories.
Mihir, you’re probably the youngest in the principal crew of Mirzapur. You were just 29 when you directed season one with Gurmmeet Singh and Karan Anshuman. We feel especially proud because your short film, Aakra-Man, premiered at MAMI in 2011 in the Dimensions Mumbai section. The entire creator community in the Indian film industry would definitely want to know that film critic Rahul Desai is a protagonist in the film. Anytime he gives you a bad review, you can just go to Aakra-Man and do your own review right there. You worked with Puneet earlier, where he acted in one of the episodes of Neta Sabki Leta by Dice Media. You worked on Bangistan with Puneet and Gurmmeet, who have both worked on Inside Edge.
So, look at this web where all of you have collided at some point or the other, which brings me to an obvious question: Was there an incredible comfort level between all of you, or did you have to create a rapport because of the different and difficult beast that you were dealing with? Some of you were also taking on responsibilities that you hadn’t taken on before.
Mihir Desai: Building rapport has actually been over the years. I met Puneet through Sumit Purohit; I think Puneet had co-written a short film with Sumit, which was supposed to be shot all across Uttaranchal, and it was like a travel film. We were all very enthusiastic filmmakers at that time. We took our tripod and our camera and just went on the road and started filming. It was one of those shoots where it was kind of improvising as we went, and Puneet being there the dialogues were coming quickly to all of us – to the three actors mainly.
Puneet Krishna: We were fascinated with this genre called mumblecore movies.
Mihir Desai: Yeah, it was all new. At that time, we were staying in hotels everywhere, in Uttaranchal – even in Sumit’s house. Naturally, that became a bonding exercise.
After that, we worked on a couple of documentaries for PSBT. Then it was just easy: We knew our strengths and weaknesses. I know what ticks him off, what doesn’t tick him off, what he’s drawn to, how colourful his language can be, how fascinating his outlook to the world is, because of his past experiences.
Coming on board for Mirzapur wasn’t much of a problem for me because I knew that he created the world from scratch, and it was just a point of getting on the same page when it comes to his vision. You know how we say directors are kind of the main people on films and all of that, but in the situation of a show, it’s always the writer and the creator who’ve created the world, and then the director comes on board. So, I always say that the cliche is, ‘It’s my baby,’ but no, it’s not my baby, I’m just a babysitter here. The challenge was only to get on board with his vision and move on with it.
Smriti Kiran: Puneet, this is a world you’re familiar with and you wanted to be the first one to tell a genre-defining story out of the desi badlands, but Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur came out in 2012. You only got around to writing Mirzapur in 2016. You wrote the world, the characters, and a few episodes sketches in two to three days over your Holi break in Meerut when Excel Entertainment asked you to give them a show idea. Did they ask for a story from the hinterland, or did they ask you to come up with whatever you were comfortable with?
Puneet Krishna: No, there was no specific stress on the hinterland story. It was primarily any story that could be told on an OTT platform. To be very honest, none of us had any idea what exactly that meant and we discovered that it was a very different format than a movie. At that point in time, we didn’t know. The same thought was with Inside Edge as well. We did not have much of an idea. They asked for a couple of stories, and this was the story which was in my head. Vineet and I used to discuss this a lot and we wanted to make a movie out of this. Then, when we were getting this chance, we thought, ‘Why not write this one and send it to them?’ That’s the genesis.
Smriti Kiran: Tell me a little bit about the process of creating that world when you were writing this out. What was the first draft like?
Puneet Krishna: It had three-four sections, one after the other. The first one was a couple of pages for someone who was reading it – from the point of view of the reader; basically, it was two-three pages which tells about the bad world of Mirzapur. Bullets, dusty roads, jeeps, guns, violent people, cuss words, but at the same time, a very human drama behind it. So, those two pages could have told anyone exactly what the following pages would tell you.
Then, there were three-four pages added to it, which were a paragraph each about the main characters. Then, there was a story which was written, which we later converted into an episodic breakdown document, roughly three to four pages per episode.
Initially, there were 10 episodes in the first season. So, a 30-35-page document, which would give you an idea about a story, all of those fancy words that we use a lot in this world, step outline and beat sheet, which I had no idea about or what they meant. We just wrote the story per episode. So, those four pages would give an idea about where the episode would start and where exactly it would end, what were the characters, where did the characters stand at the beginning of the episode and where did they stand at the end of the episode.
“Someone writes a paragraph which leads to a lot of scenes and a whole new track in the story.”
This was a very basic guiding document for us to write the entire episode. Those four pages grew into 35-40 pages when we’d be done with the screenplay and dialogues for all of them. In the process, many new characters came into the picture, which were not there in the original document. It was a kind of non-structured process, if I may say so.
Smriti Kiran: How do you and Vineet work together?
Puneet Krishna: If I write something, Vineet comes on board and rewrites things, changes things. He is someone who keeps me in check because I tend to go all over the place.
Then, in some places, there’d be some characters, which wouldn’t be there in the original document, that he’d come on board and suggest, ‘How about this one?’ which would give us something very wonderful, and tie the other characters much better. For example, in season two, Robin (played by Priyanshu Painyuli) would be that character, which was not there in the original document, but Vineet came on board and added that character. When Robin gets added, it simply means that a love triangle with Dimpy would be born, some kind of money laundering business will be born and we’ll have to be very careful about the fact that this character will not have any violence or guns in his life. So, there’s a whole new world that opens up. Someone writes a paragraph which leads to a lot of scenes and a whole new track in the story. That’s the relationship we have.
Smriti Kiran: When you’re creating something from scratch, what is the research process?
Puneet Krishna: There are two-three ways to go about it. It’s not the right way per se; it’s the way which worked for us while writing it and after it came out.
Our process is that we try to make our characters human. If you’re trying to make them human, then it doesn’t matter what business they are in. So, even if they are making a mistake, people tend to forgive us because they’re invested in the character. That is one way to go about it.
Secondly, from a character’s point of view, we had seen certain kinds of people who exist in the world of Mirzapur in real life as well. There were certain traits, certain quirkiness that they had, which we put in our show, which helped us make them very believable.
“If you look at my laptop, it will be a difficult thing to justify what you would find in the search engine.”
Apart from that, the technical part of it, which in the case of Akhandanand would be how the carpet business can be associated with the drug business, transporting it. Vineet was looking at some documentary set in Afghanistan, where they used to do this a lot, a long time ago. They used to wrap the drugs in the carpets, and they used to transport it through aircrafts.
There was a proper channel. We thought, ‘Why don’t we do this in Mirzapur?’ And obviously, we were not dealing with cocaine, we were dealing with afeem, so there was a different process for transporting it through carpets, which we showed, and did some research on it.
Similarly, the making of guns – the desi kattas. I met some people who obviously were not willing to come on record; it was a little difficult to convince them to meet because there’s a very fine line between storytellers and journalists. They would not want to meet a journalist, but as a fiction story writer, they would, if I’m able to earn their trust. I met a couple of them. They told me how exactly the process works. Basically, you don’t need a very big set-up. It’s a small room set-up that can lead to a very big gun distribution system. It’s not very expensive to make. Similarly, a bullet that has been fired can be fired again. I had no idea about it. We got to know about this when we did some research.
Vineet Krishna: Puneet, also the wheelchair research that you’ve done.
Puneet Krishna: If you look at my laptop, it will be a difficult thing to justify what you would find in the search engine. During Bangistan days it was about terrorism and how to make a bomb. Then, there was this another story about someone molesting a minor. Mirzapur, of course, is violence, so how to make desi kattas and all those things. Inside Edge was how to do betting on cricket – all these not-so-good things you’ll find on my computer. The wheelchair is another one of those things.
I was trying to understand the sexual life or life in general of someone on a wheelchair due to being shot in the back because Bauji’s (played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda) character was like that – his feet don’t work, but could he perform sexually? It’s a question that we needed a technically correct answer for. We did some research, and there’s a whole extraordinary world out there; communities or forums of people who are on wheelchairs, who share their sexual life notes, and there are scientists taking feedback from these communities and designing better wheelchairs. It’s a perfectly wonderful world to explore. So, that is something which we learned.
Puneet Krishna: Similarly, the mother’s milk for those bodybuilders. All those things were well researched. They’re completely true in the real world as well.
Smriti Kiran: When Vineet and you created the world, Aparna (Purohit) was very excited about it. But then, the world that you created is not only violent, but also has a cultural context, which would probably be hard for people in another culture to understand. For example, Beena’s character going and oiling Bauji’s legs every night. How did you guys overcome that roadblock because there is the authenticity of the world that you have to marry yourself to?
Puneet Krishna: There are two parts to it. One is, you have to stand strong in saying that this is how it has to be done. But you can’t do it all alone – you need to have someone like Kassim (Jagmagia) from Excel, who would say that this is the right thing to do and trust you. Then you have to have someone like Aparna, from Amazon’s side, who stood by us; we had very strong support from her side. When all these discussions were happening, especially with Amazon US, she was the one who said, ‘We know what we are doing. They know what they are doing. So, let us do it. We’ll give you a good show.’ I’m presuming that’s what must have transpired between her and them. She put her reputation on the line by saying that this is how it should be done and supporting us. In that sense, the support was there with us.
From our side, we were not willing to change anything simply because the context wouldn’t be understood by someone who is not from our culture.
Smriti Kiran: Mihir, this was a really big break for you. You’ve done documentaries before this. You’ve always wanted to move into fiction, and what better way to do that than a show like Mirzapur. What was it like when you got on board? What were the first few weeks like?
Mihir Desai: Initially, when I got on board, I was reading some scenes and I was just blown away by the humour and how the character arcs were shaping up at that time. It starts with Munna, who you kind of feel for with that first scene; and then after he kills the groom, it gets into, ‘Oh, my God! Is he crazy?’ More than anything else, I was intrigued by how Puneet was playing with you and your own ideologies about characters and people. The world was obviously colourful, and that was going to add a lot of fun to the show. But it’s really the characters that drew me to the story.
Of course, when it’s a job that’s coming from Excel, and Puneet, Karan, Gurmmeet, all of them are involved, it’s hard to say now but it’s always a foot in the door kind of thing, where you should do it if it’s even 50% good – but this was really good. So, the first time was just being blown away, and then getting on the same page as their vision.
They had a certain vision with the show. They wanted to shoot it in a certain way. They wanted the world to look a little more amped up than what reality is. It is still a pulpy show in that sense. There was humour in the darkest of situations. So, those things were very intriguing. It’s always fun to get on board, and you just stay with them and learn from them to continue and take it forward.
Smriti Kiran: What was it like once you started directing? No matter how many people you have around you at the end of the day, once you’re behind the camera, you have to rely on your own vision, right? You’re working towards a blueprint, but your skill comes in. What was that like?
Mihir Desai: At that time, obviously there was no baggage for what Mirzapur is. It was just going with what’s on paper and adding your skillset in any way possible. I tend to enjoy visual storytelling as much as possible. With certain montage sequences and certain scenes with Guddu specifically, when he is taking his medicines, it was fun to play with the visuals as much as possible.
“When you’re doing a scene, it’s just a scene with a small crew; so that becomes your film.”
I joined season one a little later than everyone else. I came on board, sometime in November, by that time they had finished one schedule. By then, the actors already had a sense of their characters. Then it was just a matter of tweaking performances as much as possible because by that time we knew where the characters were going. It’s a big show, for sure, but when you’re doing a scene, at that time, it’s just a scene – it’s a scene with two actors; one camera, two cameras, whatever the setup, and a small crew; so that scene becomes your film. Then you have to figure out the beginning, middle and end within the scene, and do it with conviction, and make sure that if they’re coming from a certain scene how their mood is going to translate into the scene and how it’s going to go into the next scene, which is very important to do. My focus was always on that moment rather than what this might become.
But a lot of the fun we’ve had and we always continue to have is in the post-production. We truly believe that editing is a rewriting process, where our editors, Manan Mehta, Anshal Gupta, really take it to another level. Sometimes, even swapping scenes from episodes. We let them see it from their perspective and then we react to it as an audience, and that’s how we tweaked it. Because of my strengths in post-production, and Gurmmeet being an editor himself, it’s always more fun to sit in that process for me, than to just be on set all the time. So, I like the filmmaking process as a whole. If we mess up on set, we know Manan’s got our back.
Puneet Krishna: Yeah. You would find that a lot, many endings of the episodes on paper are different from what you see in the show.
Smriti Kiran: How conscious were you of the overwhelming response to the previous season while creating the next season? Did that change the way you wrote or directed the new one?
Puneet Krishna: Vineet and I can speak for the writing. There was a lot of pressure for sure, but we had decided very deliberately to insulate ourselves from all of it, because then there is no end to it – it’s not one fan theory or one fan that you have to cater to, it’s thousands and millions of them. You can’t cater to all of their thought processes. If someone likes Munna, can you make Munna bigger? If someone else likes Guddu, can you make Guddu bigger? That would be a very wrong way to go about it and would be very dangerous as well.
“Thematically season two is about revenge. Season one was about power and how you can be frivolous with it. The consequences of which come in season two.”
Because it’s such a voluminous thing to write – it’s almost 350-400 pages – if you make a mistake, it’s very difficult to come back from it. So, we were very clear in our heads that we would not give into it. Thankfully, Vineet and I are not social media people, so we didn’t know too much about what was happening out there. So, it was easy for us to do that. We also deliberately decided to do that as well, because the only way to go about it was how exactly the story could be taken organically forward. Agar Guddu ki zindagi mein ye hua hai to Guddu ab ye hi kar sakta hai. Agar main Guddu hota toh main kya kar raha hota. We kept on thinking like that rather than thinking ki fan kya chahta hai Guddu kya kare. So, we deliberately tried to insulate ourselves from all of it.
Mihir Desai: I absolutely agree. That would’ve been the wrong route to take if we just went by fan theories, or even expectations, for that matter; which is why I feel that a lot of the fans and people have said that this season is “different”. I’m sure I’m answering for Guru as well: we are very happy because we consciously made the decision.
Because thematically season two is about revenge, the arc is about revenge, it had to take a certain seriousness and a certain tone this time. Season one was about power and how you can be frivolous with it, and young people getting power at the wrong time – the consequences of which come in season two. So, the pacing is different. The characters have changed drastically. It was definitely not going with expectations at all. We thought that would bog us down in some way. So, we went with how organically it would flow.
Puneet Krishna: Balki mujhe yaad hai, shuru-shuru mein jab hum likhte the toh ye laalach lagta tha ki ye line likhi hai woh meme ban jayegi. Par hum ne koshish kiya ki jo ban ni hogi woh apne aap hi ban jayegi. Hum apni taraf se koshish nahi karenge. That worked for us, thankfully.
Vineet Krishna: If you notice, the first season is all about bhaukal. Sab kuch larger than life hai. Agar aap meme quantity dekhoge toh hamare paas first season mein bohot saare memes the, har line ka ek meme tha. Second season pe aate-aate, we realised that the audience that we have already has been a part of that journey and they know what it is all about, we had to take it to the next level. So, the meme thing was never the guiding light in our decisions while writing – this goes for any of the dialogues that you see on paper.
Smriti Kiran: Season one was written thinking that there’d not be multiple seasons. But when you started writing season two, it was written knowing that it was going to go far – that you would take it across multiple seasons. Did that change the way you wrote it?
Puneet Krishna: Isme pehla toh point ye hai ki season two ki writing season one ke aane se kaafi pehle shuru ho gayi thi. Season one ki shoot hum ne January mein finish ki thi, aur hum ne April se shuru kar diya tha likhna – jab ki November mein aaya tha show bahar. So, we were already writing season two. Toh aisa nahi tha ki season one aa gaya, chal gaya, public ko pasand aa gaya, tab season two humein likhne ko bola gaya. The general feeling was that we had something good on our hands. It’d become this big; we had no idea – no one had any idea. I’m probably taking liberty to say this on both Excel and Amazon’s behalf as well: all of them had a feeling that it was going to be a good show. Probably, that was why it was greenlit way before season one came out. Toh humne likhai bohot pehle shuru kar di thi, and humein pata hi nahi tha ki hum kis cheez se deal karne wale hai jab November mein bahar aayega. November tak toh hum chaar-paanch episodes likh chuke the.
Smriti Kiran: You took two years to make season two. After the appreciation that you got, in the way people responded to it, did the lens on it change in terms of how far this could go, and therefore it took two years because you had to work on the writing of it?
Puneet Krishna: Obviously, we’ve always fought for more time for writing. I mean, that’s how we are. We don’t try to give it in a specific amount of time; we are not comfortable with that.
Vineet Krishna: We don’t give in.
Puneet Krishna: So, that always happens. It’s like: kitna bhi budget milega, kam hi padega; kitna bhi time milega, kam hi padega. That’s how people are. Toh humein bhi jitna time denge utna kam hi padega. So, we do ask for more time.
“We realised that the audience that we have already has been a part of that journey and they know what it is all about, we had to take it to the next level.”
I remember we were in the middle of the writing process; I think we were done with around five-six episodes of season two when Guru and Mihir started getting more involved. They came from a view which was from the outside. We were inside it – for two and half-three years on season one, and then season two’s writing was happening for the last six-seven months by then. Probably there was something which we were not able to see as clearly as these two could have seen it. They came back and said, ‘These are certain things which are not working right. They can be made to look better; they can be made to read better.’ So, they gave us that perspective, and then we went back to the drawing board, after having written five episodes. We did some things which changed the show to some extent, and then it became the show which you’re seeing now.
Mujhe yaad hai ki jab maine bola ki, ‘Guru bhai, ye changes ke liye timeline tight hai,’ he said to me ki timeline maang lenge upar se. ‘Don’t worry, you just go about it.’ Mujhe bhi pata tha ki time milega nahi lekin woh humein tassalli de rahe the ki time mil jayega.
Vineet Krishna: Mujhe yaad hai ki main, Puneet aur Guru Bandra mein restaurants mein baithte the poori-poori dopehar; hamari kaafi violent ladayian hoti thi. But he would stick to saying, ‘Tum phir se likho, time mein de dunga.’ Puneet, Guru and I knew deep in our hearts that there was no time that they would ever give us. There was no time actually, but he kept on promising and pushing us to the limit, aur hamari bohot ladayian hui but thankfully humein lagta hai ki phir se jo hum drawing table pe wapas gaye it helped us in writing a better show.
Puneet Krishna: I would say Guru and Mihir are two of the architects of Mirzapur, because woh input ya woh ladai, uss discussion ke bina ye show nahi ban sakta jo hai. Two people are less to make a show like this, toh uss case mein aisa input help karta hai jab aap ke paas smart log hai, intelligent log hai aur jo genuinely show ka bhala chahte hai, because unn ko kuch nahi mil raha hai badle mein – woh toh hamesha bol ke jaa sakte hai ki accha ladai ho rahi hai, chalo main jaata hoon. But they did not leave the room, you see? In that sense, it became a very collective effort. That took time. And then, of course, the virus pushed us back by at least three-four months; otherwise, we could have come earlier than that.
Smriti Kiran: Did you never feel like expanding the writing room? Or getting it structured a little more, like getting somebody for dialogues or a dialect coach?
Puneet Krishna: No. Dialect coaches bilkul bhi nahi the. Hum hi dono the jo the. Dialect coaches ki isliye zaroorat nahi thi kyunki hum iss jagah par thode samay rahe hai. Maybe that’s why we have a better than average ability to pick the dialects, to pick the language skill of a certain area. Toh woh tha shayad hamare paas. Agar hum hi dono ke likhne ke wajah se season one kaam kar raha tha toh phir we felt that if it’s not broken then let’s not fix it. Zaroorat nahi lagi.
It’s a very tiring process. It’s 400 pages, so it’s extremely tiring for sure. That’s why we needed a Mihir or Guru to keep a watch, ki yahan par galat toh nahi jaa rahe hum kahin. That’s why you need that support system. Uss lihaaz se mujhe lagta hai ki humein kabhi zaroorat nahi padi; now that season two has come out and worked, it was a good decision.
Smriti Kiran: Mihir, what is it that you brought to the table when you saw the script of season two, when you looked at the episodes and saw what the character arcs were like? Also, what were your first responses? What is it that you worked on the first time you processed the material for season two?
Mihir Desai: ‘Let’s give this character a little more.’ Then, the two of us pull each other back by saying that we need to stick to character A and character B first and then move on to, say, Robin. So, that was one big exercise that we always kept going back to, even in the edit room, sometimes, if there was a funny scene – if it has to go, it has to go, because we’d be missing out on the main theme of the story.
Then, sometimes, it’s not indulging too much into technicalities of things, because in the end, this is still a story about emotions and not about research on how afeem is produced and how the gun business is done, etc. As long as it’s visually interesting, let’s add that, but let’s see how it’s going to directly affect the characters.
Lastly, this time we made sure that more than the bhaukal we keep the emotions a priority; especially for someone like Golu, for example, she had her certain ideologies in season one, and it gets completely challenged in season two; how would a person like that first take care of herself? There’s a constant conflict in her head, which is why she doesn’t speak much. She is always conflicted, whether she’s doing something right or wrong; but when she chooses a path, she’s going to stick to it and she’s not going to look back. So, things like that. How Dimpy, for example, chooses a certain part. Guddu is the biggest change. The audience in season one loved Guddu because he was impulsive. This time he had to push himself to use his brain a little more – get out of the brawn side of things, get out of the muscular side of things. So, those things we were very sure that we needed to change.
At the same time, the last and toughest thing to do was to still keep it Mirzapur, which could only come from Puneet. So, if we read a scene and we are like, ‘Puneet, isme maza nahi hai.’ Then he’d be like, ‘Main samajh gaya: you need a little bit of Mirzapur happening here,’ which he would add it through, maybe, dialogues. Like, there’s a short scene where the guy who does guns dealing in Bihar is taking a bath while talking on the phone. Now, that becomes a Mirzapur scene because Puneet wrote that. A man is being bathed by a bunch of people and someone else is holding the phone for him. It could have simply been him lying on the cot and talking on the phone, and it’d still be as funny. But that’s what Puneet does when we tell him to bring back the Mirzapur-ness in this crazy world.
Smriti Kiran: The show is also very scary when you’re watching it because I don’t know who you’re going to kill next, which darlings you’re going to decide to sacrifice. Usually, you don’t see this in Indian shows, but in Mirzapur, the red wedding came home pretty prominently. How do you take that decision?
“All these characters that we have woven are coming with various degrees of grey in their entire behaviour, thought process; and despite that, you fall in love with many of them.”
Puneet Krishna: Mere khayal se uske do-teen tareeke hai dekhne ke, mujhe lagta hai. Ek toh ye hai ki the inherent thing that we’re trying to say to our show is that violence doesn’t pay. It hurts. We have been given this diet of movies and shows that we were watching while growing up where good people win in the end and bad people die in the end. But it doesn’t happen like that in the real world. In the real world, even if a good person is associated with violence, he or she will get hurt. So, that’s a very metaphorical thing that we are trying to say through our show: violence hurts; even if you’re a good person, and somehow you are involved in it, you will not walk away untouched by it.
Second, aap jis character ko jitna zyada pyar karenge agar woh mar jayega toh aap ko utna hi zyada dukh hoga – ye hamari victory hai; toh ye hamara laalach hai. That’s why we keep doing it again and again.
Vineet Krishna: If you see it in totality, all these characters that we have woven in season one and two are grey. They are coming with various degrees of grey in their entire behaviour, thought process; and despite that, you fall in love with many of them. The kind of characters we were lucky to have, for most of them you felt like you wanted to know more about their past, their present and their future. Jo zinda rahega, unn ki kahani toh aap ko aage mil rahi hai – hum kisi ko bhi maar de, hamesha woh feeling aati hai ki isko nahi maar na tha, iske baare mein toh main aur jaan na chahta tha. So, I think it is our victory where we have all those characters – jin mein se agar hum do ko maar de dus mein se toh aap dukhi hote ho. We are winning there, I think.
On a lighter note, me, Puneet, Guru and Mihir are also very ruthless people. We look very cute but we are not cute. We love romancing with the feeling of death, we try to keep sharing that bit in every season.
Smriti Kiran: Were any of you involved in the casting process? And is the process for a film different from the casting process of a series?
Puneet Krishna: Again, it’s a collective call jo Guru, Mihir aur main le rahe the. Ye slightly different hai movies se in the sense ke isme creator ki baat bhi suni jaa rahi hai casting ke time par; but at the same time jo bohot log bolte hai ki ab director se zyada creator bada hai, woh bhi wrong hai kyunki director ki baat utni hi suni jaa rahi hai jitni movie pe suni jaati hai. Toh mere khayal se bohot collective call tha.
Kahin-na-kahin casting director se hi – hamare case mein Anmol Ahuja aur Abhishek Banerjee – teeno log baat kar rahe hai, toh isme koi bhi aadmi individually bhi baat kar sakta hai aur emails pe bhi saare log baat kar sakte hai. Toh ye bohot collective decision tha to cast even the smallest part. Sometimes X person can overrule the other two persons’ opinion. That happened many times.
The process is different in two ways: firstly, the number of people to be cast is way higher. For example, in Mirzapur season one, there were 195 speaking parts – and that’s a huge number; secondly, this system is free from the star system. Aap movies mein kya dekhte hai ki casting director kitne bhi bade kyun na hoon, woh lead actor ko cast nahi karte. Lead actors are generally cast by their box office pull and the producers’ understanding of the business or the movie – bada movie hai, chhota movie hai, you know, how we classify movies. But iss case mein woh system nahi hai – iss case mein every role is cast; every character is looked at from the point of view of who will suit best. We are trying to hire actors who are also stars, rather than only stars. In that sense, the process is slightly different. But other than that, it’s the same.
Smriti Kiran: I wanted to know if the process is a little more democratic because you’re in for long arcs that need to be followed.
Puneet Krishna: Actually, democratic kehna toh right nahi hai. Aur waise bhi movie democracy se ban bhi nahi sakti, kyunki usme agar saare log shot lete samay director ban jayenge toh bada mushkil ho jayega. Aur directors hi director hote hai set pe.
Democratic toh nahi hai, but, at the same time, collective call hai. Bohot baar aisa hua hai ki agar teeno mein se koi ek aadmi bohot zyada hi strongly feel kar raha hai ki this is probably the wrong choice and that is probably the right choice, and looks too convincing, and is also passionate about that choice, then the other two will go by that. But generally, it’s a collective call; but sometimes, one of the three would be saying ki ye 100% karna hai, while the other two may say that if they are so convinced about it, then probably we should say yes to it.
Smriti Kiran: Mihir, you uploaded a lot of your stuff that you used to create, and Srishti Behl Arya gave you your first break, and then you started to meet people on Twitter and that’s how you began. Puneet and Vineet, you left cushy jobs to come into this industry. What has your experience been like? And if there’s one word of advice that you want to give to people, what would that be?
Mihir Desai: I have just learned to hang in there, because a lot of the times what happens is, there’s this long pause between projects and you’re like, ‘What have I done wrong?’ I literally don’t know what I’m doing next.
Like you said, initially, Twitter was new, Vimeo was new, I made friends online because we were cinema lovers. We would meet and brainstorm. That’s how I met Puneet and so many people. And as Steven Soderbergh once said in an Oscar speech: ‘Keep creating.’ So, keep that going – whether it’s a terrible short film or an incredible short film, or a piece of blurb or a blog, just write, create, paint, do whatever. As long as you’re constantly creating something, make sure you let people see it, pester them, put it online, call them, send it on their WhatsApp, whatever you can do, get their attention somehow.
There will be a long pause button, but just hang in there – it might turn into something else.
Puneet Krishna: Mere taraf se bas yahi hai ki hamare agar dus-barah saal peeche se aap compare karenge toh things have changed very much, especially for the community of writers and directors, kyunki bohot saare avenues open ho gaye hai. It can run your kitchens. I’m giving you a very practical thing here: It can run your kitchens very well. You can survive very well if you get a chance to work here. Practically speaking, acche writers ki bohot zaroorat hai industry ko. Toh agar aap acche writer hai toh mauka mil sakta hai – uska zyada chance hai as compared to 10 years ago.
Dusra mujhe ye lagta hai ke bohot acchi industry hai ye. Bohot badhiya log yahan kaam karte hai – they are extremely literate people, very well aware, very well-read people. They will make you better human beings if you interact with the right set of people in this industry. Bohot khoobsurat hai ye industry hamari, mujhe lagta hai.
“Every calendar day should add something to your creation. It can be a word, doesn’t matter.”
Jab main naya-naya shuru hua tha toh hamare dimaag bolta tha ki hum artists hai. Hum apne aap ko artists maante the writers hone ke wajah se, aur producer jo hai woh paise wala hai – woh dushman hai, monster hai. Toh main hamesha apne interviews mein bolta hoon ki bilkul haqeeqat nahi hai. Ye dono log ek dusre ke allies hai, aur ye dono allies nahi hoge toh cheez banegi hi nahi. Toh unko dushman na samajhiye – woh bohot smart hote hai, aur kahin-na-kahin woh aap ki cheez ko banane ke liye aap ka sahyog hi karenge. Toh unko dushman na maane. This will change your perspective about how to pitch things and make it the best pitch of your life. It helps a lot to be professional about it.
Aur ek bohot chhoti si cheez jo hum apni zindagi mein karte the jab hum apni khushi ke liye projects banate the, jaise Mihir ne bhi bola ki short films banayi hai, khushi-khushi banayi hai, toh as a lekhak, main ye rule follow karta tha, mujhe yaad aata hai, bohot saal pehle: Every calendar day should add something to your creation. It can be a word, doesn’t matter. Woh kal se aaj mein ek step aage badh jaana chahiye. Woh ek line ho sakti hai, ek though ho sakta hai, ek track ho sakta hai – it can be anything. That’s how you’ll keep moving. Woh literally jo kahavat padhte hai na ki boond-boond se ghada bhar jaata hai, woh bilkul waisa hi hota hai.
Bohot saare avenues open hai abhi toh. Writers ki agencies hai, producers are open to read new ideas from unknown people, so it’s not a very difficult thing to get an entry. It’s a very warm and embracing industry.
Mihir Desai: Now there’s so much accessibility. You can shoot on your phone; you can just edit on your phone, for that matter – you don’t need an iPhone at all.
Puneet Krishna: Put it on Twitter, someone will talk to you – that’s how things work. Sudip Sharma,, unhone Navdeep (Singh) sahab ko Twitter pe hi kahin dhund liya tha. It was a completely cold-call which he made to him on Twitter, through a message or whatever, and it resulted in NH10. How amazing that story is! I mean, you could have been that Sudip, right? Toh mere khayal se bohot avenues hai. Hamare time pe toh Twitter ya Facebook toh tha hi nahi, ya kisi ko message likh do jawab de dega – kuch bhi nahi tha, complete black hole tha. Aur tab agar survive kar gaye toh aap log ke liye toh bohot kuch better hai, tools hai aap ke haath mein.
And visit MAMI! Great place to watch stuff, great place to meet people. That was also the only place where we saw Mirzapur in a cinema hall.
Vineet Krishna: It was the first time. Me and Puneet bhai, we all got goosebumps watching it.
Puneet Krishna: Jab woh do episodes ka reaction aaya, then only we believed ki ye show chal jayega.
Vineet Krishna: Mujhe lagta hai ki hamare paas kahani honi chahiye, ek character hona chahiye, with whom I, or anybody can fall in love with. If you’ve got the story, have the wherewithal to stand by it, to fight for it – ladte rehna bohot zaroori hai. Bohot saari stories hai, bohot saare young log hai jin ke paas stories hai. Ek story aap ke paas honi chahiye jisme aap ko belief hona chahiye, jisme aap ko lagna chahiye ki ye character ya ye story duniya ko jaan na chahiye – iss story ko main duniya ko sunana chahta hoon. Agar woh fire hogi toh mere hisaab se aap woh raaste dhund lenge; bohot saare avenues khul rahe hai, jaisa Puneet ne bola, bohot saare log aa rahe hai, bohot saare log bohot kuch naya karna chahte hai, jo shayad dus saal pehle nahi tha. Mujhe yaad hai Puneet aur mein kitni thandi raaton mein pareshan hote the ki kya karein, kaise karein. Woh waqt shayad younger generations ke liye nahi hoga. Uss waqt se bohot better waqt hai.
Agar aap ke paas story hai, toh raaste aap ko hazaar mil jayenge. Ek story aap dhundiye, ek character dhundiye, jisko aap pyaar karte hai, jisko aap bade pardeh par dekhna chahte hai. Agar aap ke paas Guddu-Bablu, ek Gabbar Singh hai, ek Jai aur Veeru ki jodi hai, mere hisaab se aap ko koi nahi rok sakta. You’ve got a winner. That’s all you need.
Q&A with Dial M For Films Participants and Viewers Watching Live on YouTube
Ashutosh Acharya: How did the name Mirzapur strike you? You could have chosen many other places, but why Mirzapur specifically?
Puneet Krishna: Iske do kaaran the. Originally, iss kahani ka naam tha ‘Guddu-Bablu ki Violent Kahani’. Aaj bhi folder ka naam wohi hai. Uske andar Mirzapur karke files hai.
Baaki ye tha ke, we were trying to look at a name which had a certain power to it, when we were trying to name the show. Guddu-Bablu ki Violent Kahani thodi ajeeb lagti hai. It kind of constricts the whole show about these two characters, when it’s way bigger than the two characters. So, we were looking at names. Toh Balia, Gonda, Basti, ye acche nahi lag rahe the, because the only choices available were from Eastern UP. Gorakhpur karke ek series already ban rahi thi, toh woh naam chala gaya tha. Ghum-phir ke laga ki Mirzapur accha naam ho sakta hai, and there was a certain wazan about it – jaise naamon ka ek wazan hota hai, right? Toh usse bohot fark pad jaata hai. Jaise aap ka naam Ashutosh Acharya hai, agar Ram Khilawan hoga toh do second ke liye ek different type ka visual image aata hai. Toh mere khayal se Mirzapur mein ek wazan tha jo shayad Gonda mein nahi hota ya Basti mein nahi hota. Toh hum ne uss khayal se Mirzapur uska naam rakh diya.
Vineet Krishna: Iska real city Mirzapur se kuch bhi lena dena nahi hai. I have worked in Mirzapur earlier, and it’s a very sleepy, cute, little town in East UP.
One of the reasons also is: Kaleen Bhaiya, jo hamare protagonist hai, woh kaleen ka vyapar karte hai. Agar aap East UP jayenge toh kaleen ke liye Mirzapur, Benaras aur Balia, yahi teen jagah hain. Benaras naam itni baar, itni jagah use ho chuka tha ki iski value bohot kam ho chuki thi. For us, Benaras was just another name. So, we never wanted to keep the name Benaras. Aur Balia, jaisa Puneet ne bola, usme utni gravitas nahi thi humein laga. Mirzapur mein ek alag se magnetism tha, jo ki shehar se bilkul milta-julta nahi hai jaisa woh shehar hai. Toh shayad woh ek kaaran tha ki usse Mirzapur rakha.
Puneet Krishna: Vaise toh saare naamon ke peeche ek history hai, but Phoolchand aisa tha ki mere dimaag mein aaya ki Munna bulaate hai, lekin iski mummy ne iska naam school mein Munna nahi rakhwaya hoga – kuch aur rakha hoga. Then it could have been any name, right? But woh funny naam rakhne ka laalach isliye tha kyunki isme funny scene milta tha humein jisme usko woh bolta tha ki aap ka naam thoda, ek cuss word use karta hai, uske jaisa hai. Isliye Phoolchand naam rakh diya taaki comedy generate kar sakte the. Aur agar aap dekhenge toh Phoolchand naam sirf ussi scene mein use hota hai, baaki sab jagah pe usse Munna hi bulate hai. It could have been any name, but we decided to go for a funny name.
Mihir Desai: Puneet generally likes juxtaposing things with his characters, even traits. So, it’s always like one side is something else, the other side is something else – what if a person with this name would behave in a certain way; what if a person who looks a certain way, behaves in the exact opposite way. He brings that a lot. That’s what I think is one of the cool USPs of Mirzapur. It’s ‘expect the unexpected’ with even the body-type, character name, everything.
Swaratmika Mishra: In season one, Guddu is a bodybuilder, and uses the infant’s mother’s milk to boost himself. That was very upsetting for me from a gender perspective, especially when it was coming from the creators and the studio who believe in the opposite, where they are very vocal about the protection of the girl child, with Farhan (Akhtar) being so vocal himself. Kyunki Guddu Kaleen bhaiya ke level tak pohocha nahi tha dhande mein, toh uske character mein ye grey shade kyun dikhaya gaya?
Second, you left season two with the women becoming more vocal and taking action. I’m assuming that your third season will become more about the women who will become the core and take it forward.
Puneet Krishna: Season one ki baat jab karte hai toh do cheezein: Ek toh ye hai ki, Farhan ya Excel jis philosophy mein believe karta hai, woh unki bohot powerful philosophies hai – waise philosophies hum real life mein bhi believe karte hai. Hum jis philosophy mein believe kare aur hamare kisi banaye hue cheez mein koi character ek certain type se behave kare, mujhe lagta hai ki dono alag-alag cheezein hai.
For example, Dil Chahta Hai pe bhi ye comment kiya jaa sakta tha, kyunki Aamir Khan ek certain tareeke se behave karte the aur phir Akshaye Khanna unse bolte hai ki aap galat tareeke se behave karte hai. Jisme thappad bhi maara tha, ‘Ek line nahi cross karni chahiye,’ jab woh kehte hai. Jab Aamir Khan woh keh rahe hai toh iska matlab ye nahi ki Excel usko endorse kar raha hai. Woh unn ka character aisa keh raha hai. Jab Shah Rukh Khan don ka role play karte hai, iska matlab ye nahi hai ki Excel bol raha hai ki saare Hindustan mein sab log don ban jaye. Woh ek character play kar rahe hai, aur woh philosophies hai. I’m trying to be a good father, but I’m sure Bauji’s not a good father in the show. Toh iska matlab ye nahi hai ki agar main bauji ka character likh raha hoon toh Bauji ke character ko endorse kar raha hoon ki aisa baap ho sakta hai ya aisa father-in-law ho sakta hai. Main umeed karta hoon ke hamare dekhne wale itne samajhdar hai ki ye baat samajhte hai, ki ye dono cheezein alag-alag hai. Kyunki agar aap usi lihaaz se dekhenge toh phir saare love stories dekhne wale log love marriage hi kar lete. Lekin aisa ho nahi raha. DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) toh Hindustan mein bohot baar dekhi hai logon ne, toh uss hisaab se love stories ki percentage badh gayi hoti; par aisa nahi hua.
Toh mujhe aisa lagta hai ki isko itni zyada value dene ki zaroorat nahi hai – ki agar hum aisa kar rahe hai toh hum society ke andar kuch galat cheez kehne ki koshish kar rahe hai. Mujhe lagta hai ki it’s a story which has been told – isko story ki tarah se hi dekha jaana chahiye. Ye pehle sawaal ka aadha hissa hai.
Dusra hissa ye hai ki woh real mein hota hai. Ye mera banaya hua nahi hai ki mother’s milk peete hai woh log. Ye real hai.
Vineet Krishna: If you do some research, you’ll get to know, Swaratmika.
Puneet Krishna: Mother’s milk is sold on the black market, and bodybuilders actually buy it. Whether it works or not, I’m not sure; but the understanding is that it works. Toh woh khareedte hai.
Now, why did we put it in the show? Because it tells us about the character of Guddu Pandit – that he will probably, unknowingly, go to any extent to achieve what he wants. That’s a metaphorical thing. He can go to any extent to achieve this body, and he can go to any extent to achieve his dream of becoming big in Mirzapur. So, his character is consistent when he does so. It’s also bringing a certain kind of black humour to the show, which is a core part of the show. Having said these things, I hope ke maine apni baat aap tak pohochayi aur aap shayad meri baat se sehmat hui.
Baaki, season three ki baat karein toh it’s too early for us to say anything on it. Our producers would be able to tell you better about it.
Ishaan Punde: Where did the characters originate from? How did you manage to make them all grey while still holding on to their uniqueness?
Mihir Desai: Where the characters come from, only Puneet can answer. Once the character comes to us, we add little more grey shades or little more darker shades, but we never keep them one dimensional. That’s a conscious call because in the format of a show we get the opportunity to explore characters in every possibility. With the movie, you have a time constraint, so it’ll have to be a clear hero and a villain, which also goes with why Guddu was grey so early. He has always been grey. We shouldn’t look at Guddu as the hero, or look up to him at all, for that matter. He’s just a character in this world of Mirzapur who has two sides to him, like you and me.
So, it’s a matter of keeping it as real as possible because there is something more to them and they are not just very positive – they are not like a Rancho, who is just a straight-up hero throughout, and that’s what makes it relatable in my opinion.
Vineet Krishna: Ishaan, a web series is very different from a movie. In a movie, you want to see a hero, you want a villain who is larger than life and you want to see the hero win.
Here, if you see the genesis of Mirzapur, we don’t have a hero. We don’t have a hero in absolute terms. We have characters, most of whom are grey. We are all heroes in our respective lives, but if you see it from the world’s perspective, many of us might be very grey. So, this is what Mirzapur represents to all of us. It’s our window to the world of an individual. That’s the way we had it portrayed in our heads. That’s the way we have selected those characters who are always grey but, in their heads, they are always doing the right thing.
If you see it from the perspective of Munna in season one, who has killed one of the most loveable characters played by Vikrant Massey, even though in the first scene of the first episode itself he kills a person and eventually kills his love interest and gravely injures her husband, he’s still the hero. As a creator, as a writer, we have the liberty because we have ten episodes to tell that story.
Himanshi Aggarwal: From a business perspective, did you have to tone the violence up or down in the show?
Puneet Krishna: There were two-three things we had in our heads, jab Guru, Mihir ke saath baat hoti thi. Ek toh ye tha ki we would show the aftermath of violence. Movie mein kaise dekhte hai ki gun chala, goli chala, chont laga aur uske baad gir gaya ya mar gaya. But we really wanted to show the point when a bullet hits you or a knife pierces you and what happens to the body then. We deliberately decided not to cut away, jo ki Guru aur Mihir ka hi khayal tha ki agar violence ko iss hisaab se present kiya jaaye toh shayad ye bohot different tareeke ka show ban sakta hai. Kyunki – aur ye hamari inherent philosophies se bhi connect karta hai – violence hurts. If you’re seeing the pain, the blood, then only you’ll be able to realise that it hurts so badly.
Dusra hamari taraf se khayal ye bhi tha ki, Guru aur Mihir ke liye, violence ke scenes aise shoot karenge ki jab woh screen pe aaye toh jo khaana khaa rahe ho woh khaana na khaa paaye. Toh mere khayal se woh achieve ho gaya bohot saare scenes mein. Woh hamara goal tha. But otherwise, we were trying to show violence in a very different way. It was not a business decision at all. It was more from the fact that we wanted to tell the violent parts of our story differently.
Saumya Sharma: At the time of writing the characters and the storyline, were you ever worried that these would become reminiscent of Gangs of Wasseypur or any other revenge-action-drama that Hollywood has made in the past?
Puneet Krishna: Nahi, aisa darr toh bilkul nahi tha. Balki hum toh bade surprise hue the jab season one ke aane ke baad kuch logon ne bola ki Wasseypur jaisa kuch logon ko laga tha. Toh hamare taraf se bas ye hai ki genre same tha, but kahani bilkul alag thi. Jaise Jab We Met aur DDLJ do love stories hai, but alag-alag kahani hai, aur aap ne dono hi enjoy ki hogi, main umeed karta hoon. Toh waise hi, mere khayal se, yahan par bhi tha. Humein kabhi ye darr laga nahi tha.
Haan, par ye hai ki Vishal Bhardwaj ki filmon se bohot influenced rahe hai hum. Toh unki filmon ke aap ko isme tukde dikhenge agar aap dhyaan se dhundne ki koshish karenge toh.
Mihir Desai: It’s more Shakespearean than Wasseypur, for that matter. Anurag (Kashyap) has his own style, his own way of doing things – we can never emulate that; we can never get to that level of craziness that he adds. This one is really more character-driven and more emotional. It’s more emotional than just having a sense of fun. It’s more to do with how characters evolve over time, rather than flat-out revenge or anything. There’s a lot more happening here. So, we were not worried about that. Even visually we kept it, consciously, very different. There’s not much hand-held going on. It’s shot in a certain way. There’s a lot of pauses, even the edit is kind of languid – it’s not snappy cuts and things like that. It all comes from the fact that there is a story that Puneet had in mind, and it had to be told in this way; otherwise, it would probably be something else.
Puneet Krishna: For example, each and every character of Mirzapur has a certain tragedy associated with them. They are tragic characters, even if it’s a character which makes you laugh – which is a very important point to note to say that it’s different from Wasseypur. Hamare dimaag mein kabhi bhi ye tha bhi nahi, aur phir dheere-dheere logon ne bhi accept kiya ki different world hai aur different kahani hai.
Debapriya Sengupta Ghosh: How did you work the dialects, especially the local dialects, while writing the screenplay, since they create very specific visual images?
Puneet Krishna: We’ve stayed in Eastern UP for some time – not exactly interacting with people speaking in these dialects all the time, but some of them. That was the starting point of it. Then we kept on honing. There was no dialect coach, as I’d said earlier while hoping that we were doing it the right way. Certain people come from that world in our lives. We made them read certain scenes to see if we were picking up the dialects in the right way. They said that it was perfect. That tone we maintained throughout the two seasons, across all the episodes.
And Mihir will tell you that we are anal about the fact ki woh dialogue ko thoda theek bol dijiye, word theek bol lijiye. But phir hamare actors large-hearted hai, woh humein allow karte hai uss dialogue ya word ko correct karne ke liye. At the same time, many contributions have come from the two directors and the actors, who have changed certain lines or words, which have become really big, and for which we have gotten the credit. Woh bohot baar hua hai. But predominantly yahi tha ki kuch scenes likhe, ek jaankaar aadmi ko dikhaye aur phir usi tone ko follow kiya. Plus, we had the added advantage of having lived in that part of the world for some time.
Anugrah Singh Pundir: How do you plan on staying true to the essence of Mirzapur, as you explore geography, cultures and languages beyond Uttar Pradesh, now that you’ve gone to Bihar? How will all these differences align to serve a single premise?
Puneet Krishna: Isme do-teen cheezein aayengi: Unke kapde pehenne ka tareeka, unke duniya ka tareeka – usme visual elements hai jo ki Mihir and Guru le kar aayenge Baba (Sanjay Kapoor) sir ke saath, jo hamare DOP hai.
Kaagaz ki agar aap baat kar rahe hai toh jaise season two mein hum Tyagis ke duniya mein gaye, jo Bihar mein rehte hai. Toh zaahir si baat hai ki woh Bihar wala accent laana padega. Aap ne agar notice kiya hoga, Tyagis speak in a very different dialect than the other characters in the show. Woh humein carefully dhyaan rakhna padta hai.
Lucknow ki baat agar aap kare toh wahan ka jo culture tha woh bohot, specifically speaking, Lucknow shehar ka culture nahi tha. Hum Lucknow sirf jaate the CM se milne. Aur CM, jaisa aap kisi political situation mein dekhenge, kisi bhi shehar ka ho sakta hai UP mein, lekin woh baithega Lucknow mein kyunki woh CM hai, aur Lucknow is the political centre of the state. Toh koi fark nahi padta ki woh Lucknow se aa rahe hai ki nahi aa rahe. Hum ne unke surnames uss tareeke se rakhe, which is Yadav, ki jo Mirzapur jaisi hi bhasha bolenge toh bhi aap usko accept kar lenge. Shayad uss wajah se woh aap ko off nahi lagta hai bhale hi Mirzapur se Lucknow chale gaye hai geographically.
Same thing with Balia. Balia mein bhi Lala aur unki beti ki jo rehen-sehen hai, jo tareeka hai, jisme production design, costumes bohot important part play karte hai, vo halka sa alag rakhne ki koshish isliye ki gayi hai taaki aap ko lage ki ye different world hai, but at the same time, it’s an accessible world for you while you’re watching Mirzapur. Toh ye khayal rahe hai dimaag mein hamare iss alag-alag worlds ko mila ke ek world banane ke liye.
Ubaid Aziz: When you’re stitching the characters and the events of the narrative together, what’s the fine line where we should stop to connect them together so that the universe and characters look believable?
Puneet Krishna: Badi fine si line hai, par hamara tareeka ye hai likhne ka ki hum jab likh lete hai uss scene ko aur pachaas baar fine tune kar liya toh uske baad we try to look at it from a reader’s point of view, which eventually becomes the viewer’s point of view at the end of the day. Toh agar woh paanch scene padhne ke baad character accha lagne laga hai toh phir hum ye umeed kar sakte hai ki haan ye believable character ban gaya hai. Ab ye kuch aisi cheezein kar sakta hai jo aap maaf bhi kar denge, par aap uske saath rahenge.
Jahan tak rahi baat believability ki, uska basic sa rule jo hum follow karte hai Mirzapur ki duniya mein, zaroori nahi hai ki har kahani mein follow ho, woh yahi hai ki isme se koi bhi character perfectly black ya white nahi hai. Sab grey hai jaise hum real life mein hote hai. Toh, mere khayal se, woh kar dene se aap ko believable lagne lagta hai. Woh shayad ek tareeka hai, baaki iska koi science nahi hai.
Vineet Krishna: Dusra, ek jo mujhe lagta hai, jab bhi hum likhte the toh mujhe yaad hai ki hum log hamesha ye sochte the ki whether we can fall in love with this guy in real life or not, if we get to meet and know this guy. Jab tak hamare mann mein ye rehta hai ki hum iss aadmi se milna chahte hai, iss aadmi ke baare mein jaan na chahte hai, iss aadmi ka bhutkaal kya tha, iska bhavishya kya ho sakta hai – hamare har ek character apni ek zindagi jee raha hai. Sirf kaagaz pe woh two-dimensional figure nahi hai. Hamare mann mein hamesha lagta hai ki iska ek past hona chahiye, ek future hona chahiye, for a character as small as, maybe, Raja – jiske baare mein hum jaan na chahte hai ki ye Raja kahan se aaya, Raja aisa kyun hai, Raja iske baad kya karega. Toh hamare mann mein hamesha ek ye khayal rehta hai ki uss character ko itna lively banaya jaaye ki log usse connect kar paaye, or whether we can fall in love or make him our friend in real life if we find a guy with similar traits.
Mihir Desai: I think you guys are right. Coincidence ka darr, like you said, hamesha rehta hai, but woh ek third point of view se kahin-na-kahin dehna hi padta hai. Kuch bhi karke, soch ke, aap ko dekhna hi padega ki is it still feeling like a coincidence at all or not. It’s also always an instinctive reaction. I really don’t know if there is any sort of science to this at all.
Nilay Bhandari: How do you ensure that the direction speaks in a single, cohesive voice in a two-director arrangement such as this?
Mihir Desai: In many shows, usually what happens is, a director is specifically called to do certain scenes, and then they move on to other projects. But luckily for Guru and I, this show has let us be a part of the project right from the writing stage all the way to the delivery – including post production and everything.
Our goal has always been, in that first writing stage, when the four of us get into a room, to really put everything on the table – what we disagree on, what we agree on – and try to get on the same page in the pre-production stage itself, be it casting, be it costume, be it script. So, once we do that and get on set, where we are left on our own, we know that the core is something that we’ve discussed – the core being the character arc or the emotion of the scene or the graph of the scene. How we execute comes on us. We’ve never, in the pre-production, discussed that you shoot this scene with this lens or with that kind of lighting. It should be: Guddu’s emotion is this, how do we make sure that this comes out through the scene; and once we’re on set, we do it the way we have to.
There were very few times we were shooting separately. Most of the time, we were together – it was like an Abbas-Mustan situation. It’s always about pre-production, get on the same page, then things will be easy. That translates in the edit as well. If I’m working on a scene specifically in the edit, of course, Guru’s point of view comes in, he’ll make a tweak and it changes for the better. So, we have to be very open-minded in that sense, and the editors play a huge part in that.
Smriti Kiran: If somebody had to sit down across people who were giving them work, can they say, ‘Guys, I would like to be involved not only from the writing stage, but I would also like to go all the way up until delivery. I would like to take up a project like this.’? So, how does the allowing bit come in? Do you get paid for that entire duration so that you don’t have to take up other work? How does it work logistically?
Mihir Desai: Absolutely, you can, and I feel you should ask for that. Money, I’m not sure how that would pan out, but as a creative thing, if you’ve made something, it’s only fair that you see through it to the end – you can’t just abandon it. That’s where I come from. I just tell the producers that I would like to be a part of the editing process, because editing is rewriting – whatever you’ve worked on set can either get better or ruined.
So, by allowed I meant that it’s the format that television has sort of caught on. That differentiates between movies and television. With movies, it’s all about the director; the director is always there throughout. In television, there’s always been a creative director, a director, a creative producer – so then that gets very ambiguous. What do all these roles mean? This being a film production house and all of us having worked on films before, it becomes very easy to just have a conversation and say, ‘Okay, so we’ll treat this show as a movie itself. So, let’s get on from the writing to the post-production so that we are in tune with everything.’ And because there will be times on set when the team is not together, but if you’re there in the beginning, it becomes a lot easier to execute later. So, it’s just about that.
Smriti Kiran: It’s your name, your work ethic, your reputation on the line. Everybody would want to do it, but sometimes because of logistical reasons, it’s not possible to devote that kind of time beyond the work that you’re contracted for. Do you think the industry is now opening up to the fact that if a creator wants to be there, they could somehow enable that process by making sure that it’s comfortable for the person to give that kind of time?
Mihir Desai: When you shoot something on your own, you would automatically figure out and give time. In times like this, what COVID-19 has taught us is you can work remotely. So, even if you don’t have the time, you can always call for a cut and edit, watch it, give your feedback. That’s the least you can do.
It was an allowance for me because I was new at that time. But for a lot of the people, I think the industry is very receptive, and they would want the director to see through the project. Also, I was coming from television. So, in my head it was like, ‘Okay, maybe I just have to direct it.’ So, I am that way very detached. But it was good to see through everything that you worked on, and things pan out just the way you imagined.
Chetan Kumshi: How does a creator think about the psychology of the audience when it comes to which character would entertain or challenge them, especially now as people are becoming more aware of what to watch and when to watch?
Puneet Krishna: We deliberately try not to think too much about it, because, again, it will hamper the process. Audience koi ek insaan nahi hai – audience laakhon log hai. Psychology jo aap keh rahe hai woh X ki Y se bhi different hai. Toh agar psychology ko pick bhi karenge toh kis ki pick karenge. So, technically speaking, it’s not possible to follow that. As I said earlier, it’s probably dangerous to follow that, kyunki agar woh hi ho raha hoga toh phir pipeline mein Henry Ford ki cars hi bana rahe hote. Toh mere khayal se woh zaroori hai ki woh hum na hi follow kare toh accha hai.
Vineet Krishna: Mujhe yaad hai, jab hum Mirzapur season one bana chuke the aur season two likh rahe the toh hamare office ke storyboard ke upar ek line likhi rehti thi: Bas maza aana chahiye. So, that was the only thought which we carried in our heads. Hum kuch bhi likh rahe hai, kuch bhi bana rahe hai, kuch bhi soch rahe hai, usme maza aana chahiye. That is the only guiding light that we have always followed while writing Mirzapur.
Puneet Krishna: Guru aur Mihir ne toh ghar pe bhi laga rakha hai print kara ke.
Avinash Madivada: Which characters are your favourite in the show? Did you have a debate amongst yourselves regarding this in the writer’s room?
Puneet Krishna: Main deliberately Guddu ya Munna ka naam nahi leta hoon kyunki it’s very difficult to choose kyunki dono hi bohot pasand hai. Unke bahar dekhe toh Compounder bohot pasand hai, Beena bohot pasand hai, Vasudha bohot pasand hai – these are apart from those characters which anyone would say: Guddu, Bablu, Sweety, Golu, Dimpy, Munna, Kaleen bhaiya, inke bahar ki main baat kar raha hoon. Toh ye teen characters mere bade pasandida characters hai.
Vineet Krishna: Season one mein Bauji bohot pasand the kyunki unka ek arc hai jo aap dekhenge bohot violent hai but phir bhi woh bohot zyada family man hai. Aur phir jo ultimate episode hai hamara season one ka, usme unn ka asli roop saamne aata hai. So, this is one character which is definitely not grey. This is definitely real, real black. Toh woh mujhe season one mein bohot pasand the.
Season two mein mujhe Robin bohot pasand hai, kyunki zyadatar characters agar aap dekhenge toh woh sab larger than life hai: hamare paas CM hai, CM ki daughter hai, jo ek poore season ka aadhar-shaila jaisi hai, hamare paas bohot saare dons hai jo real life mein unn logon se aap kabhi nahi milenge. Robin ek aisa character hai jo bohot zyada accessible hai, jo aap ki galli-mohalle mein ek banda hoga jo Robin jaisa ho. Toh uss character ko jab humne create kiya toh main aur Puneet bohot khush the ki hum ne ek aisa character dhund liya jo har kisi ke life mein as a dost hoga – jo chameleon ki tarah rang badal sakta hoga par utna hi zyada endearing hoga. Toh shayad ek kaaran woh hai. Toh mujhe ye dono characters bohot pasand hai.
Mihir Desai: Jab hum script padhte hai toh koi character humein pasand aa jaata hai. Jab bana rahe hote ho toh sab lines blur ho jaate hai. I quite enjoyed reading Beena’s arc, and I love Lalit, unfortunately.
Smriti Kiran: Do you face the danger of being a little more charitable to a character that you really like?
Mihir Desai: Personally, no – not for me it hasn’t been. It’s a tough one to answer because you’ve been through the journey and you’re working on so many things that you focus on that particular job for that minute. If it’s a Beena scene, you’re just working on that scene, making sure that works out well, even when you’re editing it. So, no, it hasn’t happened to me yet. Maybe on some other project it will.
Vineet Krishna: Mere aur Puneet ke saath bohot zyada hota hai. We fall in love with the character and then we kill that character like Vikrant Massey, in season one. Agar aap dekhenge toh season two mein hum ne wohi kiya: hum ne ek character ko bohot zyada pyaar kiya aur usse maar diya. So, we do that all the time.
Ria Sanghvi: Does writer’s block actually exist, or is it just something in our mind?
Puneet Krishna: Writer’s block wohi hai na jo fancy word hai iss cheez ke liye ki aaj likhai nahi ho rahi? Wohi hai na? Haan, bilkul ye exist karta hai. Kabhi-kabhi toh aisa lagta hai ki galat jagah par aa gaye kya, hamari koi skill hi nahi hai, koi kala hi nahi hai hamare paas? Aisa bohot baar lagta hai. Bohot baar aisa bhi hota hai ki you probably need a nudge from someone, like a friend or a loved one, who will tell you that you can do it; then, you’re probably able to do it when you wake up next morning. But aisa bohot baar lagta hai ki yaar ye hoyega hi nahi hum se, and you wake up in cold sweat; that has happened a thousand times: feeling panicky and having cold sweats. If we can come back, I’m sure anyone can come back from that.
Vineet Krishna: Aaj hi evening mein meri baat ho rahi thi Puneet se, toh usne kaha, ‘Maine chaar din se ek line nahi likhi.’ And he’s working on a very interesting project. Toh agar uss project mein chaar din mein ek hi line likhi gayi hai toh I’m sure writer’s block is real. Trust me, it’s there.
To watch the full video of the Dial M For Films session of Writer’s Block with Team Mirzapu in conversation with Smriti Kiran click here.
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