Meet the women of 'Mirzapur' Video Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

“She’s a dictionary in deviousness and knows how to play men to her advantage,” declares Rasika Dugal when describing her hit character, Beena Tripathi, in the acclaimed Hindi-language gangster saga, 'Mirzapur.' The gritty series transports viewers into the heart of small-town Uttar Pradesh, where guns, drugs, and gore dominate. While the star-studded series – starring the veteran actor Pankaj Tripathi as the patriarch of a crime family entangled in drugs, political intrigue, and murder – is celebrated for its testosterone-driven narrative, 'Mirzapur' finds its true strength in the complex, evolving female characters who navigate a violent patriarchal world with resilience and wickedness.

Ahead of its third season premiere on Prime Video, the formidable women of the critically acclaimed series 'Mirzapur' – Rasika Dugal, Shweta Tripathi, and Harshita Shekhar Gaur – delve into their powerful performances and the show’s unique appeal. The actresses discuss their journeys and how the series breaks traditional stereotypes, portraying women in shades of grey rather than in simplistic, moral binaries. Excerpts from our conversation..

In an exclusive conversation with 'Gulf News', the women of 'Mirzapur', played brilliantly by Rasika Dugal, Shweta Tripathi, and Harshita Shekhar Gaur, discuss their dominance in a testosterone-driven thriller series...

On the surface, ‘Mirzapur’ might come across as a testosterone-filled show with some obnoxious men fighting for power, but it’s truly the women who make this show tick with your power-brokering and manipulation. While the first season set the ground, it’s the second season where your characters evolved in every sense. You shocked and amazed us.

Rasika Dugal: I think I shocked myself too, and the makers of the series shocked me by casting me in the part of Beena Tripathi. I was convinced that I’d go for one rehearsal, and they would say that they had changed their minds and wanted to cast somebody else. But I was very grateful for their out-of-the-box thinking. I enjoyed playing Beena Tripathi in season one, particularly because those were the times before she gets into a revenge-driven scenario in the second season. The first season was about her exploring her sexuality, just being the woman she wants to be, and finding ways to navigate a testosterone-driven house. I was very joyful about playing her in season one, and of course, the second season has all the ‘dum’ [force] of revenge where it culminates in her taking revenge for the way she was violated and humiliated by her father-in-law in season one. Being angelic with some sinister intent is how we roll.

Shweta Tripathi
Shweta Tripathi Image Credit: Supplied

Shweta Tripathi: It was all in the writing. So, when I started reading the first episode of season one, I fell in love with the characters and the world that was created in 'Mirzapur', and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this world because any character, event, or situation that is written by this team will invariably do justice to everybody. The series has evolved in the way women are shown and treated as the seasons progress. We have evolved. Our conditioning has happened in such a way that we, as women, often forget to question. We forget to even question why there are so many rituals or customs that have happened till date, and when I asked those people why they do those rituals, they just say it was told to them. But a change is happening among women, and it’s just not on screen. The power equation is changing, and when such changes happen, the waves are felt throughout. I’m very proud of this sisterhood we enjoy here. When one of us wins, all of us win.

Harshita Shekhar Gaur: The women characters have grown and evolved with each episode. Whether it’s Golu, Beena, or Dimpi, these women show incredible strength. The beautiful writing in this show is what makes this show so popular.

Rasika Dugal
Rasika Dugal Image Credit: Supplied

'Mirzapur' has been written by men. Did you all, at any point, feel that a woman’s voice is missing?

Rasika: I don’t believe that a woman’s voice is missing in this show because it’s written by men. While I do believe that we need to have representation of women off-camera, in my experience, I have been pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity that many male writers have shown. ‘Delhi Crime’ was directed and written by a man. Puneet Krishna, the writer of Season One of 'Mirzapur', understood his women very well. In the first few episodes, you have my character exploring her sexuality. She’s doing what she wants to do, but there’s a side where you see she’s being punished for that. But the show isn’t condoning that in any way. This show is not making that acceptable in any way because that would have been problematic. The women of 'Mirzapur' are so deliciously and deviously written. People often tend to ascribe a lot of compassion and a lot of moral uprightness to women. I don’t know why, but it’s like the entire responsibility of compassion is on women. But I don’t think it’s true. Women are fun, they can be devious, and they can be wearing their sexuality on their sleeve. They can be all that, and writer Puneet Krishna has written all of that. I was very moved by the way he had written some of the women characters in the show. There’s that vulnerability at every stage, and if it’s well-written material, you often tend to empathise with the characters or it propels you to be in their shoes for a moment at least.

Shweta: This show has underlined that it’s OK to have desires and how that desire can be for power to sit on a throne or just using a person as a puppet or for a physical need as well. But like Rasika said, there was no moral policing. Those white and black colours ascribed to women – whether you are a mom, sister, or a wife – to be good isn’t thrust upon us. The belief that women are supposed to be a certain way and exhibit good-girl behaviour was a lot of fun to break in this show.

Harshita: The men who made this show are true feminists, and they don’t put the responsibility of compassion on women alone. They have really understood how women and men are playing hard to be equal in terms of their emotions and their desires, and it all boils down to brilliant writing.

Harshita Shekhar Gaur
Harshita Shekhar Gaur Image Credit: Supplied

You play characters that aren’t likeable in this show. It’s such a departure from the usual virginal roles played by women. You all inhabit the greys and not just white or black spaces. Is that what drew you to the series?

Rasika: Both in life and on the screens, I love watching how women surreptitiously navigate a patriarchal world. Sometimes, there are some women who stand out against it and speak up, and sometimes there are women who quietly find their way around patriarchy. A lot of women I grew up with never had an articulation for feminism, but they had a desire not to follow the norm. Those women didn’t make a statement about it because they probably didn’t have access to that kind of vocabulary. Perhaps they didn’t have a community who would support and encourage those voices, but they always found their way – intelligently and quietly – to navigate that patriarchal world. While I wish they didn’t have to negotiate, it’s interesting to see women do it. I remember this girl from a small town in Lucknow who lived in my hostel. At that time, I thought I was liberated since I lived in Bombay etc., but I was completely wrong. The way she made excuses with her parents to have a good time with her boyfriend was impressive. I was impressed with the way she managed to find ways to meet him.

Shweta: Women don’t navigate just white and black spaces. We come in shades of pink, green, and everything in between. It’s time to accept that. A woman can be any of these archetypes: a Kanya, a Veera, or a Rishika, and have those archetypes within us. We bring those archetypes out depending on an event or a situation or persons that we are dealing with. But it’s in our control and not with anybody else.

Harshita: We are all grey in real life and not just black or white.

'Mirzapur' is a violent, visceral watch, so how do you all snap out of your complex characters once you are done filming? Do you all have some cathartic process?

Shweta: My cleansing process was all about listening to a different playlist. My Golu playlist is filled with dark music and songs that put me in that state of mind. But after the shoot, it was important for me to get out of that dark space. When being Golu and shooting for 'Mirzapur', I dressed like her – in denims. But once done, I switch up my playlist and life to a goofier, Disney-themed one. Playing Golu can take a psychological toll because of what her journey has been.

Rasika: Honestly, I would love to be in that Beena Tripathi mode. But with every part I play, there’s no space where I am conscious of the shooting process. But I remember feeling sexier in season one than I did in other phases of my life. Playing Beena Tripathi has been good for my own body image of myself.

Harshita: I take a lot of strength from the character that I play. She’s decisive and strong, so I never felt the need to snap out of it.

Last question, what makes 'Mirzapur' stand tall among the glut of crime thrillers out there?

Rasika: ‘Mirzapur’ is an interesting mix between snazziness, quirkiness, and putting ourselves out there. The series is an example of some solid writing and character building; otherwise, we would not remain in people’s hearts and heads for so long. Whether you like us, dislike us, or love not liking us, there’s fun to be had. The characters are so well-written and so well-understood by the writer.

Shweta: From the response we keep getting from fans and the media as well, it’s all about the writing and the character. We admire the West a lot and follow great content, but what works for 'Mirzapur' is the ‘desi’ [ethnic] flavour it has. It’s a family show for 18+ and breaks stereotypes, one day at a time.

Harshita: All the events in this show are relatable and can happen in any household.

Don’t Miss It!

'Mirzapur Season 3' premieres on Prime Video on July 5