Two years ago, when Amazon Prime Video's Mirzapur exploded on our screens, we were treated to a series of extreme action sequences, and even more violent swear words.
Over its two seasons, the show solidified its position as a gritty, revenge-fuelled saga, where characters were either brooding or bakchod, but never both.
With the exception of, of course, Guddu Bhaiya.
Across the 2 seasons, Guddu Bhaiya transforms from a brash body-builder to a brother out for revenge but restrained in his actions. And naturally, Ali Fazal's phenomenal performance left people in awe of his talent.
#AmazonPrime #Mirzapur I would like to say that Mirzapur is an awesome series and whole cast played very well. I watched whole season in just two days 🙂 I love everyone’s acting but Ali Fazal played outstanding performance and didn’t recognised him in his role 👍 next season?— Dr. Shalabh Pradhan (@kooldude2014) November 21, 2018
Finished Mirzapur 2 and now Ali Fazal is my favourite actor.— J Kumar (@jkwritesstuff) November 15, 2020
Just done watching #Mirzapur A Good watch with fabulous acting, great dialogues and okayish storyline. Ali Fazal was a revelation - improved a lot since I last watched him. Divyendu acted well. @TripathiiPankaj and @battatawada great as usual.— Les Misèrables (@theguy_you_hate) January 4, 2019
Mirzapur 2 is a festival of amazing acting... ali fazal has outdone himself.— Sohaib Chatri (@SohaibChatri) November 2, 2020
.@alifazal9 's machismo is like the bunch of smouldering coals that attract fire after being gradually stoked with the ammunition of revenge and redemption. There's a lot of subtlety. When he talks,the magic of novelty takes over. The way he shuts off Lala is class!#Mirzapur2— Faridoon Shahryar (@iFaridoon) October 26, 2020
While there is no denying that Ali Fazal does complete justice to this role, personally, it isn't Guddu Bhaiya who tops my list of favourite Ali Fazal characters.
No, it's actually his role of Zafar in the Fukrey series.
Yes, Fazal has various noteworthy roles under his belt and has shared screen space with truly talented actors, from Pankaj Tripathi to Judi Dench.
And yet, the role that first left me impressed with his ability to speak volumes through his expression, and tugged at my heartstrings, was Zafar.
In Fukrey, Ali Fazal plays the role of a heartbroken musician, struggling to succeed, who falls on hard times when his father suffers a paralytic attack. In a comedy-drama that scored high on comedy, Zafar could have easily felt like a misfit.
But the endearing vulnerability with which Fazal played the character made sure that this doesn't happen.
A comedy of errors that soared high on Choocha's (Varun Sharma) idiocy, Hunny's (Pulkit Samrat) recklessness, and their envious chemistry, Fukrey was a sleeper hit that was so well-received, it birthed a sequel. While the sequel tried riding on the success of the original, it could not match the inanity of the original.
But, across the two films, Zafar's 'nice guy' persona never failed to impress. The voice of reason in a group of wrongdoers, Fazal nailed Zafar's portrayal, from his guilt at failing his father to his surprise at finding his partner-in-crime wooing his ex-girlfriend.
Simply put, in a madcap comedy where nothing was as bizarre as Choocha's origin story, he was the sobering element that actually helped make the fictional world appear more relatable, enabling the audience to connect to the story.
After all, every college has that one senior whose story is more famous than he is! Just like Zafar bhai.
All images from Amazon Prime Video, unless specified otherwise.