GULLY BOY (2019)

  • Release Date: 14/02/2019
  • Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Varma, Vijay Raaz, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Varma
  • Director: Zoya Akhtar

Murad (Ranveer) is someone who is at bottom of the barrel in a society that not only chooses to ignore his very existence but also ensures that he is not even allowed to dream. His father, Shakir (Vijay Raaz) in a poignant scene points out to him that they have a certain place in the society and they need to be strictly within the bounds of these limitations. He tells him in a trembling voice weighed down by surging emotions and concern for his son that he needs to walk with his head hanging and shouldn’t even dare to break free. Murad after listening to all that his father had to say chooses to dream big and shrugs off any inhibition that comes tagged with his existence. Gully Boy is a chronicle of this indomitable spirit of the protagonist related in the backdrop of the 90s underground Rap cultural surge.

My knowledge of Rap is very limited but whatever little I know of it has created a certain picture of the Rappers in my mind. Ranveer Singh’s Murad fits this image to the ‘t’. I just loved the way in which his character grows from being someone who can’t even face an underground duel to facing a top-notch audience in the process leaving an indelible mark on the society as a whole is a treat to watch. He hands over his poetry to MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and requests him to use it for his rap. “Bhai, mai kuch likhela hai, Aap bol do na bhai…” mutters Murad. “Agar tera poetry tereko nai bolne ka to mai kyu bolu? (Why should I mouth your poetry that you are not willing to mouth yourself?) roars MC Sher and then goes on to inspire Murad to rap for the first time. Ranveer is quite a sight as he breaks into his first Rap.

Even if one takes out the Rap from the film, there is a lot of it that is left. The film does an extremely good job of drawing a character portrait of Murad through his interactions with a gamut of colorful and different characters. His father Shakir is abusive and destroys the self-esteem of Murad whenever he gets a chance to. Safeena (Alia Bhatt) is madly in love with him and would not hesitate to kill for him or kill him. She is madly possessive that is nearly suffocating for Murad and yet somehow she, in all her eccentricities, is the only oasis of calm and respite in an otherwise dreary desert of a life that Murad lives. His friend Moeen (Vijay Varma) is a crook and more than once gets into a tangle with Murad but he is also the one who aids him whenever he needs help. Sky (Kalki Koechlin) walks into his life at a time when finally things start looking up and literally sweeps him off his feet with her carefree nature, addictive charm and her close proximity to music. However, she also makes him realize how much he values Safeena and how without her he is incomplete.

Last but not the least, MC Sher who literally takes him under his wings and gives him a voice is someone who is constantly inspiring and comforting. For someone like Murad who is subjected to brutal and frequent abuses, Sher becomes the big brother that he always craved for and it is in his presence that he realizes his true potential and the reach of that he is capable of doing.

The influences of all these characters shape Murad’s poetry and make him become the rapper that he ends up becoming. His trysts with these characters are not only his inspiration for his poetry but also the window through which he views the world and deciphers its beings.

Each of these supporting cast members hit a perfect timing with the essay and mood of Ranveer Singh’s Murad. It ends up making their acts not only realistic but also captivating. I was surprised by how much comedy this film exuded. For the kind of subject matter that it deals with, comedy should have been a far cry but there is a lot of it and it is present in such subtle doses that one would not only enjoy it but also find it situational and organic. I was literally rolling on the floors in the scene where Moeen after learning about the prize money in a Rap battle asks every rapper to step aside as he was arriving. The spates of violence that Safeena unleashes on unsuspecting girls who try to dolly with Murad are some organically quirky bits of comedy in the film. There is a lot more and its best experienced firsthand.

Gully Boy’s cinematography is top notch. It captures the essence of Murad’s existence and in doing so is also able to paint a kind of picture of the innards of Mumbai Chawls that not only looks great and feels authentic but also has a character of its own. Wide sweeping shots are used just as proficiently as claustrophobic close takes in the dimly lit interiors of Murad’s house. The life of the opulent are just a few steps away from the Chawls and when the director takes us to it, we can see the stark difference between the two even which is carefully underlined by the visuals. For all this and more, Jay Oza (cinematographer) deserves a pat in the back.

Zoya Akhtar takes a U-turn from what we generally expect from her and makes something ravishingly beautiful, heart-wrenchingly sad and yet boisterously fun. Gully Boy is in so many ways reminiscent of the changing face of Bollywood cinema. Akhtar’s films are a slow burn getting better with each subsequent viewing. I love Dil Dhadakne Do and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara more than I loved them when I watched them for the first time. I believe in days to come to Gully Boy will become a cult classic for its storytelling, performances, cinematography, poetry, and music but it will take a lot of ruminating before it becomes your favorite. This might be the only detrimental factor for the film as many looking for quick and on your face entertainment will find this movie bland, stretched and maybe even boring. However if one gives the film time to let itself grow on you, there is a lot of rewards to be had.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)



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