Mirzapur showrunner Karan Anshuman, director Gurmeet Singh on creating the gritty world of their Amazon Prime show

It is a friendship that was born 15 years ago. The two friends in question – Karan Anshuman and Gurmeet Singh, showrunner and director, respectively of Amazon Prime Video India’s upcoming series Mirzapur – believe that they have now nearly reached a point of telepathic communication. “We both follow a slightly non compartmentalised way of working. Both of us had put Inside Edge together, him as producer and me as director. It’s very easy for us to slip into each other’s role. If a scene demands certain kind of treatment, we both are very much on the same page. Even with very little brief to sort of tell, the other guy knows exactly what is to be done,” says Karan.

Shot amidst the backdrop of Eastern Uttar Pradesh’s local carpet industry, Mirzapur is primarily about the personal demons and struggles of two families which come in the way of their ambition and aspiration. Gurmeet recalls the exact moment when the seed of Mirzapur was sown. “It was sight of two brothers, presumably, riding a bike with one brother brandishing a gun in his han which set things in motion for the plot of Mirzapur. We both actually saw someone and the image stayed with us.”

Karan further mentions that the canvas of Mirzapur is big and is soaked in with a lot of influences and things he has grown up with. According to the showrunner, the story of Mirzapur was something he wanted to tell, and there was also inspiration from his love of Westerns. “After Inside Edge, we wanted to do something that was little more rooted – a world which was lot more relatable. We loved the idea of portraying violence in a more unhindered poetic manner which we have not seen so far in a long time, in a Hindi production.”
It is uncanny that the title of the series Mirzapur shares vague resemblance with Wasseypur, the setting of Anurag Kashyap’s coal mafia saga in Gangs of Wasseypur. Karan clarifies that it is just a coincidence. “We set the plot in Mirzapur because the setting of the series is in a town which has a huge carpet industry and one of the primary characters, portrayed by Pankaj Tripathi, in the series is called Kaaleen bhaiya. The carpet business is more like a front for all his nefarious activities and thus, there are a lot of scenes that show the carpet industry of that region. It was also something that gave us visual space in form of dyes running in the gutters or the way carpet is made.”

A look at the trailer of Mirzapur also reveals the gritty nature of the show and there too, it is bound to invite comparisons with Gangs of Wasseypur. This time, Gurmeet takes charge and argues that the similarity ends with the milieu. “People are jumping to conclusions may be because of the language but there also have been films like Omkara and most by Tigmanshu Dhulia in the past, which are set in the same world. The kind of characters who inhabit the world of Mirzapur, they are poles apart from Gangs of Wasseypur. Gangs of Wasseypur was an out and out revenge drama while Mirzapur is about youngsters and their aspiration to survive in a world that’s hostile.” Gurmeet further says that the show has many shades that a film will never be able to touch and he was able to explore all the shades in a very detailed fashion.

Born and brought up in a small town of Bihar, Karan reveals that he has travelled extensively across UP and Bihar and thus, was familiar with the milieu of Mirzapur. He adds that both the co-creator and the co-writer of the show hail from the same zone and thus, things worked to their advantage. “Puneet, the co-creator of the show, and Vineet who has co-written the show, have studied in BHU (Banaras Hindu University) and done their schooling all over UP (Uttar Pradesh), especially Purvanchal, and so they had a sense of that world. Of course, while writing and researching, we went to lots of places where we wanted to work for the series. Though we did not meet local gangsters, we had firsthand information and knowledge of such things. I myself have witnessed, during my growing-up years, the growth in the kidnapping business in Bihar, so we had a lot of material at our disposal to toy with,” adds Karan.

While Karan’s debut film Bangistan was declared a disaster, Gurmeet is yet to taste success despite having directed three films in the past. Ask Gurmeet what gives him the greatest pleasure – directing a web show or a film, and he points out that they both are like chalk and cheese. “Both of them have their own charm but directing Mirzapur has been more fulfilling and enjoyable because with a series, you have a deeper material to work with and they are also much more layered compared to a film. Films are bit limiting because of the commercial pressure one has to adhere to.”

Before signing off, one definitely has to compliment the two for bringing a galaxy of actors under one platform. “Well, it was not an easy task but once they read the script, the task got a lot easier. The bigger names had reservation with the whole new format but I think the success of Inside Edge tilted things in our favour. The way it looked and the way the whole show was mounted coupled with a really strong script made things a lot easier for us to sign the people we wanted for the series. They were also getting a chance to do meatier stuff which a film otherwise would not have allowed,” says Gurmeet.