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A flawless film that stirs the underdog within all of us to rise, shine and be a howling success


 Film Review                                                          Gully Boy


Gully Boy takes inspiration from the rags-to-fame journey of two rappers Divine and Naezy. The film’s protagonist is Murad (Ranveer Singh), a son of a driver, a commoner raised in a dysfunctional family in a slum amidst suffocating circumstances. All along he has been dominated by his subservient father not to poke his head out of the shell and live a life ‘as any other somebody’, with no specific identity and dreams to bank on, with lots of cluttered emotions building within him. Murad represents underdogs who live in clumsy lanes, where dreams and reality run on different tracks, where people just exist and not live, where a dozen humans are housed in pigeon holes, where the face muscles have forgotten how to smile. It is here where this gifted boy recognizes his passion to be a rapper and works towards achieving what he deserves. This is not a spoiler, the story is predictable but the powerful art of Zoya Akhtar’s story telling conjures it up into a buoyant watch.
Zoya Akhtar presents Gully Boy with hardly any detectable flaws. Her competent team working towards co-writing, editing, music, lyrics, screenplay and the impeccable support landed by all the actors makes it a strong film. Each frame resonates with richness in detailing and the Midas touch of a perfectionist, not missing out on any nuances required of a film made in a claustrophobic atmosphere. The genuine presentation of characters in authentic conducive texture makes the film gullible. The actual lives and problems of people here and the contrast with the luxuries of the filthy rich, all has been executed with precision. Each character is introduced briefly but made to be understood fully. Zoya completely encapsulates the spirit of a slum in Mumbai, the aspirations of its residents, their talent, conflicting circumstances, strength and weaknesses, bringing a rush of dopamine through some reverberating moments.
Ranveer’s role symbolises hope and zeal to win against all odds. He remains the focal point and other actors convincingly help him build his character. His girlfriend, Safeena, a role played so well by Alia Bhatt, is a strong and focussed Muslim girl. She knows how to snatch opportunities and take things in her stride not with calmness but with adorable arrogance. She doesn’t mind bashing the defaulters. She is razor sharp and brave. Alia evokes every element with loads of ease.
The surprise package discovered in debutant Siddhant Chaturvedi as M C Sher, Murad’s mentor, friend and guide will floor everyone. At places he overshadows Ranveer with his amiable presence and large-hearted character. As a rapper he helps Murad to bring out all his years of bottled angst through his rap battle. The frustration capsuled in him due to abhorrent living and constant humiliation posed by his father’s abuses, the pity generated while seeing his feeble mother’s suffering, the insults borne on duty as a driver substituting his father; all culminate in his rap, stirring the emotions vigorously. Even the ones who have no idea about rap and hip hop get an unadulterated feel of this genre that has a strange war of words by rappers. Through ‘Apna time aayga’, Ranveer just sweeps away the audience with right timing, powerful presentation and meaningful lyrics.
Vijay Varma is a pleasure to watch as the basti boy and senior buddy to our gully boy. He maintains high spirits in despondent living. His slum charm is infectious and his presence builds the story towards what it aims for. Vijay Raaz as Murad’s arrogant father, who always gives a cold shoulder to the family, carry his exasperations brilliantly. Amruta Subhash as his despondent wife bears all the mortification in her part.
The first peep into the sweet romance between Murad and Safeena is gripping. The silent sequence of few minutes in a local bus loudly speaks of the depth of their relationship. What emerges as the most impactful scene is when Murad defends his corner confidently, confronts his father’s degenerating views, and talks about linking ‘his’ reality with ‘his’ dreams. It underlines the essence of the film and the conviction of a passionate artist in him. The film also throws light on many other interesting stigmas. There are delineations of economic caste divide through the song, Doori. There are many casual but relishing moments, like the foreign tourists who find the khouli of this family ‘wonderful’ and merrily start capturing the exemplary use of every inch in that tiny room. Murad sings the famous rap of his favourite rapper, and on being clicked covers his face with his hand while lying down in a corner; a million dollar scene shot.
Kalki Koechlin as Sky joins the band wagon as a musician who helps Murad in his music. She is rich and develops interest in him, adding another dimension in his romance with Safeena. Ranveer while using Sky’s luxurious bathroom measures its size with his footsteps finding it bigger than his home. He folds the used towel at the place where it was picked from; these minutest of psychic gestures dealt with coherent understanding leave a mark and generate loads of admiration. A night spent together by both, painting the streets with meaningful messages, making ‘fair and lovely’ into ‘Brown and Beautiful’, a starved model demanding food and many other mindset-changing actions, all indicating the change makers in youth. In another scene where he is sitting inside a dark car of his master, dazzles of lights embellishing the car from outside but the gloom and darkness within him makes a clamorous sound. All these brilliant elements add to the radiance. Zoya makes use of every moment in the film to make it shine.
Gully Boy is a brilliant film not to be missed at any cost for its superb rap battles, stimulating dialogues, supreme direction and exquisite acting by all.
I go with four stars.