Disclaimer: This review is only going to be full of applauses and admiration to the brilliance that Gully Boy is.
India’s first true-blue street musical, Gully Boy chronicles the life of Murad, a boy living in the world famous slums of Dharavi, inspired by the real rappers – Divine and Naezy.
An actor of the explosive energy levels of Ranvir Singh, who was last seen making an almost 10 mins long full-blown Bollywood hero entry in Simba, simply appears as the third (least) important person in soft focus in the opening scene of Gully Boy. In focus stays his friend (played by the supremely talented Vijay Verma) who sets up the scene of Dharavi and the humdrums of its residents for whatever is to follow.
As the story progresses, Murad’s exploding frustrations translate into burning rage of hip hop beats. He breaths in angst, hatred, loss and breaths out rap. Rap in the film, as in reality is truly inspired by life and hence feels realistic even to the novice listeners (likes of me). This subculture of hip hop is still a very vaguely known phenomenon for most of us, but the film does not rely on anyone’s liking of this genre.
It would have been an easy call to write some juvenile rhymes or less likeable raps for the supporting crowd for the Hero’s heroism. But this film isn’t about Murad or Ranvir. It is an ode to Mumbai first, the truth of the gully boys of Dharavi second, and the rising and very Indian swanky Hip Hop culture third. Hence, every word, every beat, of every character is precious and essential to the big picture.
You do not have to be a fan of the rap, but in this 2 hour 30 minutes you will find yourself admiring the ability to express such pragmatic eccentricities of life in extempore verbal wars.
There is not a single character or scene placed without a concious contribution to the big scene. They are all intricately defined and developed by the writer and director. Each character comes with as many details as you care to explore. In a scene which might seem like a diversion from the central story, you see a group of rebels graffiting across the walls of Mumbai addressing plenty social issues in a couple of minutes. Amidst this, our Dharavi guy innocently spray paints ‘Roti, Kapda, makaan+ Internet’ over a wall full of ads, precisely the truest truth of his story. This is just amongst many scenes where you’d be giving a mental applause because it’s not loud and obvious but is strikingly beautiful.
You know what all of this is leading up to, yet the storytelling is truly magical. It is an amalgamation of emotions, humour, poetry, music in right amounts at the right time.
The outstanding cinematography of Jay Oza highly contributes in keeping everything so authentic and away from the clichés of a shallow ‘Poor Bombay’ glasses of the world. His compositions are almost poetic, true to the spirit of the film. As the film mocks the tourists who come to Dharavi for the ‘aww so raw’ instagram feed, the slang and unapologetic swag of the place takes you by storm.
Ranveer Singh breaths life into Murad like no other actor could have. He amps and drops energy like he is living every detail of the character. The certain restraint we last saw in Lootera is back and beautifully used by Zoya. His hard hitting performance makes up for all the past present and future wardrobe outrageousness that he puts us through.
Alia Bhatt is her usual electric self shining brightly even in a supporting role. Her character Safina is feisty, dynamite, bold and a ‘muh-tod-jawab’ to patriarchy without even meaning to be feminist.
Newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher is phenomenal. How Zoya Akhtar has given space for so much talent to explode and yet keep focus on the narrative is again applaudable.
Vijay Maurya almost gives a master class of dialogue writing throughout the film, delivering punch after punch with such precision.
But Gully boy in all its glory is still safe, subtle, non-outrageous, not bold, not uncomfortable, which contradicts its very own dialogue ‘sab comfortable rahega toh rap kaun karega?’ Does this truly and entirely depict the underground raw subculture if Hip Hop is still questionable.
Neverthless in today’s day and time , Gully Boy is a masterpiece. It could have been only Zoya Akhtar and only Ranvir doing what they did. Not to miss!