With almost the entire nation taking up Apna Time Ayega as its anthem, Gully Boy in the hands of the most able director Zoya Akhtar managed to become a pioneer of hip-hop musical drama in India. It is a pictorial genius which leaves you in awe.
When and after you watch the movie, all you can think of is, what made you love the movie the most? Is it the intrinsic detailing of the plots, subplots, and characters weaving together to give one big tapestry? Is it the cinematography? Is it the music? Is it the actors? Is it the dialogues? What is it!!!!!!
A biographical movie based on the lives of hip-hoppers Divine and Naezy, Akhtar’s Gully Boy has successfully managed to show the struggle in the life of a youth who wants to live is dreams and how reality often stands as an obstacle in his ways. The movie is so convincing in its portrayal of the mundane daily lives of the Mumbaikars in Dharavi, that even the introduction of the protagonist is not with any kind of hullabaloo. In fact, in the first scene when Ranvir Singh as Murad is brought to the screen, he is out of focus. I literally realised that it was Ranvir after almost five seconds of his coming to the screen. That is the beauty of the movie, that is where Akhtar made it clear that this musical drama is rooting for nothing less than authenticity.
The highlighting factor of the movie are the gullies. It is set in Mumbai, but we never for once get the view of the breathtaking Marine Drive, or the prominence of the Gateway of India, or the Sea Link. The movie’s heart beats in the narrow alleys of Dharavi. The cinematographical genius Jay Oza captures the slums of Dharavi breathing amidst the skyscrapers that overshadow them. The alleys almost make you feel claustrophobic. The originality of the movie is reflected in the costumes, the trashes around which the lovers Murad and Safeena meet, the houses, the societal issues, etc. The weaving of the characters to the settings and the technicalities is highly refined. Not even for once does their lives in the slums seem fake.
Ranvir Singh! Oh, what do I even say about him? It is not a hidden fact that this man can act like he is living in the skin of the very character. Till date, his role as Khilji in Padmavat had been my favourite. But this time as Murad, Ranvir nailed it in the head. I don’t think anyone could have done it better than him. Murad coming from a Muslim family is in a turmoil of his own. His father denies leaving their roots of being servants and believes in the practicality of killing one’s own dreams, his mother is broken with the coming in of a second wife of her husband, and he wants to live his passion for becoming a rapper which becomes difficult because of the obstacles that his daily life sets in his life. Writers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti do not write the movie as if it was just a fantasy. Authenticity again plays a role in the decisions and the progress that Murad makes. He never forsakes his studies, his need to be an employee at an office or a driver to the elite, his responsibilities as a son, and as a friend in order to achieve his goal. His problems in life almost bind him from even knowing that a culture of hip-hop and rapping is subtly flourishing. His character is built in a manner that his emotions and needs to break the shackles almost burns in his eyes. His eyes speak starting from his initial lack of confidence to the time he is welcomed by the people of Dharavi. His hunger to attain his goals hooks the viewers to travel the path along with him. The layers of Murad’s character is swerved by Akhtar where he moves from being a dark horse to a top-notch rapper.
Alia Bhatt, playing the role of Safeena, a medical student hailing from a conservative Muslim family is like a detonator. Her love for Murad, her undying aspiration to become a surgeon, and her white harmless lies all throw light on a strong message of feminism. She behaves in a strong-headed and heated woman who often explodes at situations which threaten to hold her back from doing what she wants. The comfort level her character shares with Murad is commendable. Her often coming off as a crazy girlfriend is like comic relief in the movie.
The supporting cast of the movie including Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, Vijay Varma, Amruta Subhash, and Siddhant Chaturvedi contribute to making the story poignant. My personal favourite was Siddhant Chaturvedi, who plays the role of MC Sher and takes Murad and guides to make him realise and live his dreams. This actor has miles to go and we as the audience can definitely count on him.
Something which is commendable about the movie is the dialogue in it. Vijay Maurya who also plays the role of the maternal uncle of Murad magnetize the viewer to the rawness of the movie. Dharavi and its soul amidst the glittery Mumbai live in the dialogues. The dialogues had to be tough enough in order to match with the hard almost on the face raps in the movie. The music is almost like a character in the film. The lyrics speak to you. They echo the situations of the characters in a powerful manner. Apart from the highly acclaimed song Apna Time Aega, the raps in Doori, Mere Gully Mein, and Azadi is just ‘mind is equal to blown.’
However, something that can be a point of criticism in the movie is its length. It runs for two and a half hours and can become a difficult experience to sit through and watch the main character succeeding (which is an easily anticipated aspect). Trying to tie down the themes of minority, feminism, and patriarchy almost dangerously makes the movie a little long. But, every time you think that it is being stretched, Akhtar almost jolts you back with the emotions of the characters or the dialogues that they deliver into the story into the gullies.
Everything considered, this movie is a motion picture genius. It has been able to make a mark in the minds of people and inform many like me about Indian hip-hop of which I had but limited knowledge. It is a movie which has the ability to make one fall in love with new music, story, and characters.
So to RAP it up, there should be no holding back to experiencing this brilliant art coming on screen.
Watch the trailer of the movie:
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