Produced by : Zoya Akhtar, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani
Directed by : Zoya Akhtar
Screenplay by: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti
Star cast : Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Kochlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi
FILMFARE ME STARS: (4.5)
For expats like us, a film like Gully Boy is a point to prove to the population that believes that Bollywood cinema is clichéd. It is a card that silences cynics who don’t watch Hindi cinema because it is too escapist and unreal. Chucking fancy Switzerland and the tourism sponsored locations interpolated in cinema of recent times, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti take you to underbelly of Mumbai, to the gulleys of Dharavi. Filled with gritty realities, lack of living spaces, poverty, domestic violence and a life devoid of ‘privacy’, the film establishes the life of Murad Ahmed a young college student who discovers that music is his weapon to fight the world and expresses his angst.
A film that is not ‘filmy’, we are led into Mumbai’s underground music movement that features talent from what was once, Asia’s largest slum – the well-popularised Dharavi that you have read about in Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram. The film bases itself on a true story of the pioneers of this movement – Naezy and Divine. The ‘tapori’ Hindi spoken in Dharavi is an endearing part of the film and fits into its colourful landscape, Dialogues by Vijay Maurya derive from popular conversation and TV habits of the population – the usage of words like ‘KBC’ for instance.
The screen-play by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti take us to the thick of action with the opening scene of the film that involves a car theft and Ranveer Singh (as Murad) is in the background as an accomplice not the central character. His introduction is without the fancy ‘entry’ of Bollywood film heroes and heroines. The surma wearing Ranveer Singh endears in the role of Gully Boy and lets his eyes do most of the talking when he is not rapping. Alia Bhatt as the fiery medical student, the hijab clad Safeena plays his girl-friend and is a ‘force’ to reckon with in the film. Alia Bhatt looks innocent in her role but is the real gangsta and earns the name ‘Danger aapa’. She is territorial when it comes to her boyfriend and will kill for him. Do check out the film to see who she addresses as “Octopus.” Alia holds her ground in the film with her sharp dialogues that are a rage today though she doesn’t have the screen time that Ranveer has in the film.
Sound and music are like characters in Gully Boy. Every time the character of Ranveer faces a crisis, he plugs into music and pens his pain into poetry. A scene beautifully established when his father takes a second wife and he has no option but to participate in the occasion and watch his mother in misery, all the while plugged to music. Ranveer Singh submits and surrenders to his role and is not afraid to be vulnerable. He is like a sponge absorbing all that is around him – that include his pain watching his mother suffer, his father’s new bride who is his fan, the sounds of his parents fighting in the adjacent room, the sounds of a hip crowd celebrating Happy New year, watching his father’s employer’s daughter shedding tears – all of this adds to his stored angst that he expresses through his lyrics every time there is a setback.
The scene takes us to Open Mic auditions that chooses talent, the opening up of inhibitions, facing your fears and the upsurge of confidence. Some scenes that stay in memory – A scene where his father’s new bride pushes his first wife s clothes under the bed. Or when his grand mom asks for 500 rupees to foreign tourists (sight-seeing Dharavi) keen on taking pictures of their home. Or a very short but evocative scene when Ranveer, dressed in a driver’s uniform (when he is proxying for his dad) catches himself in the hotel’s reflecting wall. Or when Ranveer watches drivers discussing a pressure-cooked recipe while waiting for their bosses. Or when he uses a tea-strainer to give texture to his voice. Or when he measures Kalki Koechlin’s bathroom that is probably larger than his home.
But what brings out the tears is not the story of the success of the underdog. The film softens you when it shows us the bond between friends. A scene where Murad’s friend Moin (played by Vijay Varma) is jailed but refuses help because it would mar Murad’s auditions. Or the scene where Murad’s mentor, MC Sher (played by Siddhant Chaturvedi) loses a round of audition but celebrates Murad’s selection – without a tinge of jealousy. Rivalry between the main charecters is not a part of the film at all. In that way, it romanticizes the lives of the under-privileged.
Seems like the anthem of the film, Apna Time Aayega, echoes into Zoya and Reema’s kind of film making. You want to say after watching Gully Boy – “Apna Time Aa gaya!”
A film to watch several times!