Gully Boy Movie Review: Iska time aa gaya bhaay!
Gully Boy is a new kind of 'Angry Young Man' movie, in effect - seamlessly merging sub-culture with pop mainstream.
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi
What does it take to so gently bottle up an overflowing volcano like Ranveer Singh, into a completely subdued bloke like Murad? Who is yet someone with such seething anger within, wholly internalised, that you can almost sense his brain inhaling life and surroundings, and exhaling potent words of poetry, in response? It's the script/story, Gully Boy, of course.
Kya bolta hai, bhaay! Lead actor Singh, like this newspaper, grew up in the city this film is set in. He's perhaps, for the first time, playing a character so close to home, and yet so far. For it's also a city that so perennially lives in the cross-section of classes, that all it takes for you to see Bombay and Mumbai at once, is to draw your curtains wide, from any point in the bustling metropolis.
Singh's leading man Murad operates from right at that casual intersection - a college-going temp driver during day (or night), and an amateur rapper, 24x7. There's, on the one hand, plush interiors of high-rise Bombay. And, on the other, stuffy squalor of the city's lower-deck (worthy of poverty tourism), shot by Jay Oza, in a natural gold-dust palette - almost like a dream.
Around these two natural extremes, and with several layers between, Gully Boy is foremost a befitting tribute to Bombay - among very few places in the world where popular art has traditionally existed as possible exit-route for someone born into rags, or resigned to fate/naseeb.
A lot of the times, it's taken a full chawl/slum to raise a star (lyricist, composer, actor, name it). Besides, Internet has made showbiz redundant, making it possible for anyone to pole-vault into stardom, with growing hits, likes, and shares on social media - a fact that was equally well tackled, around a Baroda girl, in Advait Chandan's recent Secret Superstar (2017). And it's the same Internet providing access to inspirations, worldwide.
This is in that sense a global story with a Mumbai heart - totally bereft of any obvious, on-screen self-awareness. Only fair that it should come from director Zoya Akhtar (Luck By Chance, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara) who, if I'm not mistaken, first developed deep interest in filmmaking through Mira Nair's iconic Salaam Bombay! (1988).
Not one to make gender distinctions among directors, or indeed actors (talent's talent, of course), but I do feel it is Akhtar's deft touch that allows for the female lead character (25-year-old Alia Bhatt: astoundingly amazing, almost as always), and her life's story and insecurities, to take root, and equally flower within a film that is essentially centred on two Mumbai, local, raapchik Rap artistes.
And there's as much to be said about the fact that while the film entirely belongs to Singh, it's his co-rapper (brilliant debutant Siddhant Chaturvedi), who gets to walk around with all the swag instead. It's the interplay between the main and minor characters, spot-on twang, dialogues (by Vijay Maurya), and indeed a superb play-list (put together by Ankur Tewari) that truly makes this movie, the food of love - at 155 minutes, very much a long main course, too.
Maybe because I watched Gully Boy among an altogether Mumbai audience, or perhaps it would the same anywhere: Never have I observed folk at a press preview periodically break into loud claps during key dramatic sequences, especially given that the scenes have been quite subtly staged, in fact. This is a new kind of 'Angry Young Man' movie, in effect - seamlessly merging sub-culture with pop mainstream.
People in my hall, or indeed outside it, would have first heard about a booming, Mumbai Rap/Hip-hop underground scene, with open-mic nights, and proper gigs at venues like Anti-social (also referenced in the pic), only a few years ago. It's almost at the same time that stand-up comedies in the city began to draw totally untested, raw greenhorns concentrating on the all-important self-expression - or content (which can't be taught) - and then, delivery (which can be learnt).
Rap, or Rhythm and Poetry, you can tell, similarly opens lines of (a very visceral form of) communication - between heartfelt (often antsy) words, thumping beats, and the crowds that instantly relate to both.
This film, as per its opening slate, is a "shout-out" to budding Mumbai stars Naezy (Naved Sheikh) and Divine (Vivian Fernandes). Their story, and of desi rap itself, is still unfolding, as we speak. When it's written in hindsight, I'm pretty sure, this film will be considered, the high-point, if not the turning point, for the genre, after all!
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