Gully Boy (2019) is a Hindi musical movie based on rap artists DIVINE and Naezy. The movie is directed by Zoya Akhtar and written by Zoya and Reema Kagti. The movie stars Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, a new comer Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Varma, Kalki Koechlin Vijay Raaz, and many other artists and all of them have a special place in the movie. The amount of attention paid to details is immense and it shows the hard work of writers, director and the all the actors. Usually when I watch a movie, I always get the feeling that this could have been written better or may be shot better. But while watching Gully Boy there was nothing better that I could think of.
The movie is not just about rap, it has a whole lot of different elements in it ranging from polygamy to poverty, crime to unemployment, marginalization to an identity crisis, domestic violence to child abuse. The story has studded all the jewels in the armour of rap battle.
The starting scenes show Murad (Ranveer Singh) bemoaning about the rap scene in India. He feels that they don’t rap at all, they just talk about their cars, shoes, alcohol and girls. This thought resonates very well with the ideas of DIVINE and Naezy. The lack of meaningful rap in Indian music motivated them to write and rap the stories of Indian Gully.
Murad’s family is gripped by a lot of complexities which is actually the reality of minorities in the country. Though it was been nowhere shown explicitly but, occasionally it kept coming, like the question of employing Muslims. His father orders him to work as a driver saying that nobody employs a Muslim. He is under the grip of poverty and deprivation and has a dysfunctional family. His father remarries early in the movie and his second wife is of the age of Murad and her flirty interactions with Murad show the complexity of polygamy where the second wife is almost the age of his husband’s son.
The character of Murad is that of a dreamer, a non-conformist who declines to accept the reality and tolerate the routine life. He disagrees to accept that we are limited, our talent is limited or the fact that dreams are only for rich. I particularly loved a scene where he is sitting in parking area in the car as a driver and people are celebrating new year. The scene features a premium car with the reflection of lightings.
And all he does is repeat to himself, Apna time aega (my time will come.)
There is another scene in the movie where he doesn’t talk to lady in the car even when she is crying shows the rich poor divide which has been beautiful described in the song called Doorie. He struggles, he fails, he disappoints his friends, family but he doesn’t stop. That’s Murad! Ranveer has fully justified his the portrayal of the character and his acting is improving time and now matches perfection whether it’s about dialogue delivery, body language or expressions. They all sync without a miss. He deserves a lot of appreciation for his role. And most importantly, he has sung most of the rap songs in the movie himself which is a rare occasion in the movies. We all knew that Ranveer is an amazing rapper but he has lived his role like a professional rapper.
MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) is actually a very impressive character, possibly based on the life of DIVINE. He is the true leader of all sorts, from initiating rap in India to helping Murad, he is the true leader. Though he loses the rap battle, he gives unconditional support to Murad which shows his team spirit.
As a new comer, Siddhant has a promising career ahead. If you don’t have prior knowledge you will be shocked to know that this is his first movie and his acting can seriously challenge seasoned actors. He looks like a real rapper and that too a dominant one. Though being quite young than Ranveer Singh, his body language, physical appearance, use of tattoos outweighs the age difference. He is confident and knows what he is doing. He is a treat to watch.
Safeena (Alia Bhatt) is a breath of fresh air. Whether it’s her role of a Muslim girl or girl friend of Murad. She is different from the usual portrayal of Muslim girls in movies who are shown to be a victim of their condition, restricted by religion and crushed under patriarchy. She is a brave heart, a revolutionary of all kinds. She is a brilliant medical student donning hijaab over her western dresses. She defies the orders of her parents and wilfully challenges them which is quite contrary to earlier portrayals where the woman quietly accepts the circumstances and suffers.
She is a possessive girl friend who also happens to be best friend of Murad since school days and is a driving force behind his passion. She is slightly violent and beautifully covers up her mischiefs with an adorable smile.
Alia suits the role perfectly well and yet again proves that she has a strong acting acumen and she is not easy to be beaten in that. She is jolly, carefree and it makes the portrayal of Safeena easier. She is a perfect match for Safeena. The doppleganger.
Sky (Kalki Koechlin) is a music producer for the famous song, “Mere Gully mein” and she is the epitome of success for Murad and she is the figure that Murad aspires to become in life whether it’s about making music or living a luxurious life. She is the support that comes at the right time and the kind of support that every person needs. But, Safeena doesn’t like her for obvious reasons.
Moeen (Vijay Varma) is an important role in the movie. The one with right intentions but wrong means. He is a drug dealer and steals cars occasionally which Murad never approves of. But he has to take Moeen’s help to support his mother financially. Murad warns Moeen to keep children out of drug dealing to which Moeen replies that he gives them square meals and he is not to be questioned. Instead, Murad should question people who left the children to starve. He is the classical example of dilemmas which exist in society. He has to feed himself and others while having no stable income. He is not left with any other option than to steal, do illegal activities which give quick cash.
Vijay Varma deserves a round of applause for his effortless acting and such a mature role where he cracks jokes at times and does illegal works in others.
Since it is a musical drama, the songs are life of this movie. All the artists involved have done stupendous job in writing, singing and composing. The song Apna time aega was written, composed very well and used in the movie at just the right time and it is easily the usp of Film’s music.
Other good songs in the movie are “Azaadi” which is sung by DIVINE and it throws light over the social and economic problems faced by Indians. The lyrics of all the songs have a meaning and they are not like usually and casually written rap songs which we listen in movies. They have a deeper connotations. Another good song is “Sher Aaya Sher” which talks about male ego and their habit of objectifying women. The song “Doorie” is about the contrasts of words, the rich poor divide, the economic disparities, political corruption. My personal favorite from the movie is “Train song” composed by Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale and sung by Raghu Dixit which is not necessarily a rap song but a beautiful song which comes towards the end of movie and displays all the good vibes
Other songs are small raps used in the movie like “Asli Hip Hop”, “Jingostan” and “Kab se kab tak”. All these songs are equally pleasing and content worth listening to.
The Direction and Script
Zoya Akhtar is an established name in film making and her earlier films have been really good. But she crosses all her earlier benchmarks as a blessed director with this movie. I think the main task was to show that a struggle of person is meaningful and has a destiny attached with it and to also show that a good team is an essential part of this struggle. Zoya justified all the characters and showed them in the light they deserved, without overshadowing any character by the lead, as usually seen in films. The scenes are moving, cameras perfect and she has brought the best in all the wonderful actor she has chosen for the film.
She also took the huge task of bringing light to the underground rap setup in Mumbai and with this, more artists will be discovered and given a chance to add another gem to Indian music industry: hip-hop. She also showed the struggle of rappers DIVINE and Naezy who deserve all the praise.
The slums and chawls of Mumbai have always been a fertile ground for bhasha (language) rap, a style adapted from American rap but Indianised, that found a willing community online. But Naezy and Divine -who collaborated on the 2015 hit, Mere gully mein -told an authentic and original story that people have identified with all over the country .
Mere gully mein represented the emergence of real, Indian hiphop. It echoed the same story that gave birth to hip-hop in New York -the story of the streets.
If you haven’t watched the movie, please do.
Have a happy day.