Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddharth Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz, Vijay Varma
A thorough research on the subject brings in clarity and that clarity paves in for an efficient storytelling. Writer-director Zoya Akhtar and writers Reema Kagti, Vijay Mourya crafted such a detailed and thoughtful story of rappers from the streets of Mumbai and India that Gully Boy instantly becomes an admirable and inspirational film. The movie stays with you, ignites the passion flowing inside you and gives the push we all need in our lives. That’s why I love motivational films.
Gully Boy tells the story of a guy from the slums of Mumbai, who is poor, has daily struggles with his family, a violent dad and a helpless mother, his lovely but sometimes high- tempered girlfriend, close friend with a criminal mindset. But, above all these vulnerabilities, he has a gift of words and he wants to rise with those skills and change his life.
Zoya gives time to each character and each premise to strengthen the plot. Murad (Ranveer Singh)’s excitement for rap culture when he sees MC Sher (Siddharth Chaturvedi) winning the crowd with his swag rap triggers his aspiration for this. His failures, fear of rap face-off, finding his true voice, observing the world around him and including it in his poetry have been shown beautifully by Zoya. The screenplay of Gully Boy is powerful; each frame and dialogues are hard hitting, reality portraying, sometimes devastating and at times funny, too.
There are some scenes of Gully Boy which for me, are responsible for taking this film to greater heights. Ranveer as Murad driving the car and watching his owner crying at the back of the car-seat, hinting that we all have our share of happiness and problems, the picturization of ‘Doori’ song with close shot of Ranveer singing, the moment when he sings a song alone and loudly in a car and suddenly, the camera angle is shown from outside the car with his voice inaudible, Murad asking for a help from his car thief and drug dealing friend, when his relative (Mama) tells him that he is a servant, nothing else and finally, the scene where he tells his father that ‘He will change his reality for dreams, not the other way around’. What these scenes have done is that it has made the movie truly deep and genuine. The harsh realities of living in slums yet the spirit of Mumbai guy like Murad who won’t give up on his dreams define Gully Boy in its purest sense.
The film has almost a perfect pacing throughout. The character of Safeena (Alia Bhatt) as Murad’s girlfriend gives the film a comic flavor in the start. But, Gully Boy’s quality gets raised when Murad meets MC Sher. Their chemistry is the biggest highlight of the movie. MC Sher’s mentoring for Murad, his desi and epic talks like ‘Jitne bhi chir-faad artist hue hai na duniya me…’ are so potent and show what Mumbai streets are made up of. The song ‘Mere Gully Mein’ is a delight to watch and the movie is at its peak here. I enjoyed the rap culture, the people, their rap-war, the hunger to tell the story, rebel instincts in them. This is the street.
The rap battles are brutal as well as entertaining. I loved how Zoya displayed them as true and precise as they are. The songs ‘Kaam Bhari’, ‘Har gham mein khushi hai’ are brilliant and are actually from the real rappers which make the movie even more relatable and relevant.
Zoya makes Murad look very authentic. His story is engaging. He is not always a righteous person. He does mistakes, has broken trust and has done wrong things to earn money. Zoya shows that sometimes, it’s not about right or wrong but what’s necessary. That vulnerability is captured rightly. The film constantly maintains its high standard with a wonderful character mix, dramatic-funny tone. Murad’s love for his mother, anger towards his dad and what he thinks about the dreams and his determination to change his fate are superb. For me, this is Zoya Akhtar’s best film as a director till date.
However, some flaws I want to point out. I love Safeena’s role as Murad’s love but in the latter phase, her screen time could have been reduced. Her silly tantrums in the end were stretched and they distract the main plotline to some extent. Sky (Kalki Koechlin) need not have such complex role in the movie. Sometimes, simplicity is fine in the script.
I maybe the only one to think like this but I think, Gully Boy’s story could have been extended to a ‘rebel’ or ‘revolution’ angle. The rap culture is about talking what’s happening around you so how come we never saw anything about the corruption or government? The reason I say this because there are two songs in Gully Boy which actually talk about it: Azadi (the best song of the film) and Jingostaan. These songs talk about the wrongdoings of politicians. The film would have come a full circle if Zoya would have explored that front too. Otherwise, what’s the point of having these two brilliant songs if they don’t match the premise?
Okay now, performances. Ranveer Singh is just taking his acting capability to legendary levels with each film. For me, his best performance was in Lootera, but now Gully Boy is the one. If Zoya Akhtar’s direction was superlative, so was Ranveer’s acting skills. Understand this, Ranveer is a highly energetic person in real life. Channeling that energy into this role to become a calm person Murad, with a deglamorized character is a challenge that he delivered wonderfully.
The way he keeps calm when he sees his mother suffering, writes and practices his lyrics, observes the world and people around him to gather wisdom, loves Safeena, admires MC Sher and learns from him is worthy of an applaud. There is an absolute honesty in his performance which makes Gully Boy a triumph.
Ranveer has achieved such feat in Gully Boy that he looks real as a rapper and you believe and connect with him. The enthusiasm with which he sings songs like ‘Apna Time Ayega’, ‘Mere Gully Mein’, ‘Doori’ is authentic. He has become a great actor with Gully Boy. I loved his acting when he asks for help from his friend and cries. The way he tells his dad about his dream in the end is something extraordinary. This performance will be remembered for a long time.
Siddharth Chaturvedi as MC Sher is captivating. Believe me, in some scenes, Siddharth overshadows Ranveer. He looked natural as a rapper. His hand movements are exactly like how rappers and hip-hop artists do. And then his energy. That ‘Sher aya sher’ song was performed so stylishly by him. From that moment on, he convincingly delivered the mentor role for Murad. His chemistry with Ranveer is a delight to watch. He built a strong foundation for the film with his act.
Alia Bhatt was good but not great. She adds a humor to the movie which was necessary but she didn’t always seem like a girl from the lower class. She could have done better. Vijay Raaz and Vijay Varma give memorable performances as Murad’s father and friend, respectively.
On a concluding note, understand why Gully Boy is made. Rap, hip hop have been existent on Indian street for a long time and now, their impact reached so high that Bollywood was compelled to tell its story. Hats off to Zoya Akhtar for deciding to tell the story and telling it so in-depth and honestly, that it gives justice to all the rappers out there. Moreover, this is why I love cinema. It inspires you to follow your dreams and tells you that you are not alone in this world who is thinking differently.
In the words of Desi Rappers: Gully Boy is ‘Bahut hard, bahut hard, bahut hard!!!’