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Gully Boy, directed by Zoya Akhtar starts by introducing you to Mumbai’s beautifully festooned underbelly – Dharavi. Thankfully, the cliché city scenes (à la cloth line-ups at Dhobi Ghaat or the human chaos on Marine Drive) have been eschewed. The film picks up this small part of the widely diverse city and chooses to explore the story of some individuals who live in it. We follow Murad (Ranveer Singh) in the minutiae of his everyday life – that includes car break-ins along with his friends in the dead of the night, attending college during day-time, stealthily meeting his girlfriend Safeena (Alia Bhatt), or quietly living in a four-by-five-foot chawl (shelter) in tandem with several family members.
Murad soon witnesses his father’s second wedding and drowns his anger in a rap song that loudly plays from his mobile. And we soon know that the world of rap is going to be his catharsis, and the means to get out of the wretched situation that he is in.
Alia, on the other hand, paints a happy-go-‘p’lucky world for her character that puts us squarely on her side even when she is breaking someone’s head with a bottle or beating up a girl who tries to flirt with her boyfriend. She is one of the few people who genuinely loves Murad and secretly hopes that his dreams come true.
Enter a college fest, and Murad witnesses something that he has never seen before – an artist, MC Sher (Siddharth Chaturvedi) who imbues rap with local flavour while putting a handful of troublemakers in the audience to shame. Murad soon befriends the rapper, and through him gets introduced to the rap battles, and the world of heart-on-sleeves music. Enthused at the idea of performing as a rap artist, Murad sets about practising his lines while walking on the streets, or in front of a mirror, or even while waiting as a chauffeur in a car with all its windows shut.
Murad often gets to listen to some offensive slurs and stereotypes (demeaning his low-class position) and takes it personally too. However, he chooses to channelize the rage inside of him to create something beautiful every time.
Zoya juxtaposes stories of local rap and social class in a fascinating and revealing way. That duality between the classy society people and the chawl residents prevails throughout the film. The film manages to highlight the former’s vile intolerance and the latter’s quiet acceptance of their status. There are references on how being born into a “certain” class and family automatically decides the future of an individual.
There are several stand-out scenes in the movie that will simply blow your mind away. One where Murad is mesmerized seeing a posh bathroom with its spotless walls and enormous space. He walks around while measuring the space with his feet. Contrast this with another scene where some foreigners witness the cramped-up space in the chawl and marvel at how the inmates have managed to utilize its every inch. In another striking scene, as Murad is reminded that he is a mere car driver, you see a bevy of lights descend on the surface of the car that he is seated in, and an illumined glow forms on his face as he mumbles to himself, “Apna time aayega..(my time will come)”.
Ranveer Singh as Murad excels at playing the common man toggling between simmering rage and unbelievable incredulity during his rap performances. He is in his top form, immersing us into his world with the lilt of a rap song and quirk of his character, his flaws and strengths intermingle and wash over us.
You will see a restrained Murad throughout most part of the movie, and towards the fag end, you see his sudden and explosive transformation. It is almost like his energy (that may have been hermetically sealed for long) explodes into a cacophony of meaningful metaphors and rhythmic sounds. Eventually, the movie is more about Murad than it is about anyone else. Yet the other characters never fade into the background, and each one brings a unique expression and story to the fore while matching every masterful turn of the script.
That this movie is based on true events is clear when we are shown the song, Meri Gully Mein which was originally recorded by real-life rappers, Divine and Naezy. Director Zoya Akhtar uses the studio canvas to paint some real and beautiful human expressions in all its bold and subdued tints. She engages enormous themes such as gender, race, and class without sounding preachy rhetoric.
To sum it up, Gully Boy is a film that dovetails music and social commentary, while giving us a glorifying end crescendo that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.
Image via Pixabay
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