No mincing words, no flinching courage,
With heads held high comes the convoy,
The commotion starts, emotions rise,
Look to your right, Enter Gully Boy!!
Well, the movie has got me pumped and my sleepy poet awake. Joyce Meyer put it aptly when he said, “ Words are containers for power. You choose what kind of Power they carry”. What two hours and thirty minutes of Gully Boy does is bestow each one of us with the power of reclaiming our individual thaumaturgy. Yes, most of us are not from the ‘Gully’, but boy do we relate to the movie! It is for the simple fact that everyone has been through numerous travails and rejections, almost feeling subjugate to a destiny which isn’t our design. But we pick ourselves up and rise and that is exactly what Gully Boy is. It’s a simple story told in the most lucid manner, with a few killer beats to boot.
In 2014, with an Ipad in hand and zero budget, a 22 year old boy from the slums of Kurla unleashed his pent up frustration in a DIY video called ‘Aafat’. The boy was Naved Sheikh, more famously known as Naezy today. He went from writing rap songs about the people in his chawl to collaborating with Divine for Sony Music in the highly popular ‘Mere Galli Mein’. And that song became the inspiration for Gully Boy. Ranveer Singh and Siddhant Chaturvedi play loosely inspired versions of Divine and Naezy and unleash the ‘Bombaiya style’ of rapping to the world.
Gully Boy is a product of love and inspiration for Zoya Akhtar. Rap itself is at a nascent stage in India. The ‘Asli hip hop’ is still confined to these independent artists shooting their own videos and using Youtube to promote their ‘bhaasha rap’. What Zoya saw in them was an opportunity for a cultural change. These artists needed a platform to enter the mainstream. Divine, the poster boy for such rap artist is on his way up with many Bollywood projects, like Mukkabaaz, Blackmail, the web-series Sacred Games and the rest are following suit. With a A-lister like Ranveer Singh portraying a rap artist, these performers have got a mascot now. Ranveer has been very vocal about how close this project is to his heart. And it shows. He puts his soul into the character of Murad, a hustler who is limited by the place where he lives, but that does not seem to deter him from expressing. It is a welcome diversion to watch Ranveer tone it down here. When he says ‘ Koi duusra mere ko batayega, mera aukaat kya hain?’ (somebody else will tell me my value?), he does not scream or screech, but he makes the point. And all that anger, frustration comes rushing out creatively on stage where he is a different beast altogether. Gully Boy is an exploration of channelling our inner turmoil in the right manner.
Alia Bhatt is an absolute treat in her role as Murad’s love interest, who is as feisty as they come. She is restricted by her traditional upbringing, but she aims to soar despite that. Not for one moment does Alia’s Safeena comes across as simply the token love interest of our protagonist. And I credit this to the maturity of the filmmaker. Zoya uses the ‘supporting’ cast with exceptional dexterity and I would even go as far as calling for spin off movies for Safeena and Siddhant’s MC Sher characters. Siddhant Chaturvedi is almost unrecognisable from his Amazon Prime’s Inside Edge character Prashant, who was abused and insulted by his team mates in the series. Here he is the lion who roars with a mic in hand. In fact, in some of the scenes, I was left admiring Siddhant more than Ranveer. Vijay Raaz as the abusive father, Vijay Varma as the crook friend Moeen hit the perfect notes.
Gully Boy is about music and how it liberates us, albeit momentarily, but has the potential to start a revolution. Rap culture started in the west as a sort of defiance against the social norms and atrocities, and these Gully boys have taken it and given it a desi flavour which I am sure every Hindustani will be enjoying ‘meeting’ after this movie. Next time you wear a hoodie and hang out with your friends, the beats of ‘Azaadi’ will invariably come rushing to your heads.