A giant triumph for the Indian Hip Hop scene amplified by Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt’s extra-ordinary performances
As a representative of a radio station that has been ardently involved in celebrating and recognizing independent talents from across the country, it fills me with immense pride to watch a movie where Indian hip-hop artistes aren’t reduced to mere cameos, but are actually essaying instrumental parts in Zoya Akhtar’s ambitious and committed vision of a story, inspired from the lives of home-grown Indian rappers, Vivian Fernandes aka Divine and Naved Shaikh aka Naezy. That it is amplified through the sheer brilliance and effortlessness by a terrific ensemble cast, makes ‘Gully Boy’ the only thing you need to watch, this Valentines’ Day weekend.
Murad (Ranveer Singh) is a young lad who lives in a match-box sized space with his parents, his younger second mother, brother and grandmom in Mumbai’s Dharavi. Despite the background he hails from, he is representing all of us. In the face of adversity, he dares to dream of becoming the nation’s best rap artiste. Whether his aspirations find parental support (Read Vijay Raaz and Amruta Subhash) or not, his passion is kept alive through the relationship he shares with his childhood sweetheart Safeena (Alia Bhatt), an aspiring medical student. Together, they are fire and ice, yin and yang. Murad’s journey further finds him making his first breakthroughs when he discovers Shrikant aka MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi, a revelation) and Shweta aka Sky (Kalki Koechlin). Emergence, collaborations, distractions, confrontations and eventually resolve, form the narrative.
The excellent technical department deserves a round of applause. Take a bow Nandini Shrikent and Karan Mally (for putting the best cast together), Arjun Bhasin and Poornamrita Singh (for costumes that look like they are actually lived-in), Vijay Maurya (clap-worthy dialogues), editor Nitin Baid, production designer Suzanne Caplan Merwanji, DOP Jay Oza and lastly, the story, penned by Reema Kagti and Zoya herself. Despite making a movie about a scene largely dominated by men, trust Zoya to seize any opportunity to strike a dialogue against toxic patriarchy. The film is pretty much a celebration of feminism and is beautifully portrayed in two touching scenes. One which involves Murad’s helplessness to offer a shoulder to his woman passenger and another which involves him questioning his grandmother about his father’s upbringing. The film is laden with many outstanding scenes and you have to give it to Zoya on how has she managed to tell so much in two and a half hours without digressing from the larger narrative. Also, this film should easily silence all her detractors who’ve felt that her films are mostly about the rich and elite.
After his back-to-back blockbuster performances in ‘Padmaavat’ and ‘Simmba’, Ranveer Singh has practically dried us out of words to even begin with. Murad channelizes the actor’s quieter side and Ranveer delivers an internalized yet liberating performance. Watch out for him in the climax before he takes centrestage at the finale of a rap battle. You are likely to jump from your seats. It’s to the credit of Alia Bhatt to leave lasting impressions with lesser but significant roles (Remember Kapoor and Sons?) As Safeena, you root and hoot for her despite many of her questionable actions. Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher and Vijay Verma as Moin are excellent. They really come across as street-side smarties that we’ve encountered. Vijay Raaz and Amruta Subhash are equally commendable as parents. My only complaint is with the way Kalki’s track is completely sidelined. For those familiar with the Indian hip-hop scene, it’s a visual treat to watch some of our favorite artistes share their moments on the 70mm screen, including Dee MC (Char Logon Ki Baatein), Slowcheeta (Make It Happen, To The Top) Emiway Bantai (Sadak, Tadak Padak), Brodha V (Let Em Talk, Way Too Easy), Kr$na (Vyanjan), MC Altaf (Chhote Sunn), Kaam Bhaari (Kaam Bhaari) and so many more.
‘Gully Boy’ eventually tells you that any form of art does not require your rewards or recognition but it demands respect. This one will make you dab in admiration.
PS: Nas fans are in for a pleasant surprise