Catch new episodes of The inCulture Room on Spotify!

Mirzapur – Violence as ‘Gratisfaction’

Written by Kartik Sundar,

October 24th, 2020,

*mild style spoilers for Mirzapur season 2 ahead*

Badla. From the final scenes of Mirzapur’s first season, till the closing shot of its latest one, vengeance remains central. And the form it espouses is one wholly characterised by brutal violence.

Mirzapur revels in the debauchery and barbarity of its characters, all of whom exist as either morally ambiguous or morally devoid. Critics often slap the show with accusations of gratuity, particularly concerning its overuse of violence. By and large, this may hold. Guns exploding in hands, murders conducted with hairdryers, and fingers snapped with sugarcane machines are just several of the deliberately ridiculous scenes the showrunners employ to shock their audience. But as much as cultural critics deride the show for this, audiences, myself included, don’t seem to care. 

What Mirzapur does for the audience is cater to the most visceral desires we all hold. Munna Tripathi’s actions in the previous season, blowing off Bablu Pundit’s head with a shotgun and shooting a pregnant Sweety, set the entire tone for the second season. Intentionally horrific, it imprints itself in the mind of the viewer who vicariously yearns for badla through the eyes of Golu and Guddu. The zest for life that Ali Fazal infused into Guddu Pandit in season one is absent in its successor. Never smiling, season two’s Guddu will settle for nothing less than the complete and cruel destruction of those who wronged him. As a viewer, this undying desire for an ‘eye for an eye’ form of justice should repulse you. But in Mirzapur, there is no scope for being “the better man”. Grudges are deep, and the only institution of justice is unbridled retribution. 

Screengrab from Mirzapur Season 2 Trailer

The show slowly conditions you to expect increasing levels of ingenuity for each subsequent violent act. It won’t be long before the person who chopped off his adversaries finger has his own arm severed. Like any show into its second season, Mirzapur has to deliver on payoffs. The audience’s investment in the characters and plot bases itself on this. We binge episode after episode in the hope that the final shot gives us what we want – badla. 

But it isn’t enough to have the hero or villain win in Mirzapur. They have to exact their revenge in a sadistic way, one that is sufficiently brutal to render the initial wrong a petty crime. The instance of violence is itself redundant; it is the scale and depravity of its form that matters. 

I used the word “Gratisfaction” in the title to signify the dual nature of the payoff that violence in this show grants to the viewer. At one level, you might feel satisfied that a particular character has been able to exact their revenge on those who tormented them. But alongside this base contentedness, you also feel gratified; pleasured to see inane violence meted out to those who deserve it.

We have to view Mirzapur for what is – an overly dramatic and fantastical take on the authentic issues of sexual and physical violence, toxic masculinity, and institutional frailties. There are no role models here, nor should they be. But the portrayal of these flawed and repulsive characters lends itself to the same kind of criticism that every gangster movie or show falls prey to – glamorising violence. Any honest viewer can’t deny this reality. Guddu’s father, the only character who appears to have a distaste for violence and crime, is far from centre stage, at times even belittled for his weakness. Guddu and Munna, on the other hand, drive the story and derive unnerving amounts of pleasure when engaging in violence. 

How much this cultural fetishisation of violence translates into the real world is a neverending debate. Quentin Tarantino, arguably the most famous filmmaker to liberally use violence, defended himself in a 1994 interview“Violence is just one of many things you can do in movies,” he said. “People ask me, ‘Where does all this violence come from in your movies?’ I say, ‘Where does all this dancing come from in Stanley Donen movies?’ If you ask me how I feel about violence in real life, well, I have a lot of feelings about it. It’s one of the worst aspects of America. In movies, violence is cool. I like it.”

Mirzapur’s is no different; it’s unabashedly cool with its portrayal.

The show is far from flawless, but it is addictively entertaining. To a viewer willing to view it for the fantasy that it is, the violence depicted in the show becomes an uneasy form of catharsis. Season one has already set the viewer up to experience this gratisfaction in its next iteration. And, after binging it in its entirety in less than two days, it delivers so sensationally. Not every OTT show needs to be a cinematic masterpiece; some can be pure unadulterated fun for those willing to allow themselves to see it.

Experience Further: The word in the title, and that defined the feeling I tried to convey through this piece was actually coined by Julian Casablancas in The Strokes’ 2011 Album, Angles. Although fairly pessimistic, Gratisfaction sees Julian describe the conflation of these two seemingly similar yet acutely different feelings.

About Us

Anant Shah

Anant Shah- Founder

Anant Shah (just as his Instagram bio says) has always been interested in connecting people though their different cultures. He is drawn to this goal, given his background of a family of artists, as well as his work at several different organisations such as the People Tree with Orijit Sen, The Conflictorium in Ahmedabad and The UN (AIDS) Communications and Global Advocacy Team in Geneva. As a graduate of History and International relations at Ashoka University, he co-founded and set up the Ashoka Literature festival in 2019. Longing to increase this critical discourse on contemporary and traditional Indian Cultures he finally decided to start InCulture.

Kartik Sundar- Founder

Kartik Sundar loves nothing more than opining on cultural content. An avid writer for many publications, the decision to start one of his own came from recognizing a substantive lack of critical discourse around Indian culture today. He graduated Ashoka University with a degree in History & International Relations and wishes to complete further education with a focus on media and cultural studies.

Who We Are

We at inCulture are looking to shed light on what we see as an emerging new Indian culture as well as paying dues to the traditions that have been integral in shaping the current space. We want to try and create a space where critical reflection on cultural events, individuals, works of art, or practices can be fostered. Rather than exist as a cultural news outlet that merely serves as a bulletin board for the latest releases, inCulture will look to curate multi-medium pieces that seek to inform readers about aspects of our culture that make you think beyond an immediate reaction. In particular, we strive to look critically at Indian culture by investigating it under four distinct categories – film & theatre, music, spaces, and society.

Disclamer

All views and opinions expressed in the articles, videos are personal to the Author/Editor(s) and don’t mean to offend any individuals, organisations, institutions or communities.

More Stories
Raga Rock – Classic Rock & Indian Classical