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Gully Boy (2019) Movie Review | A cathartic musical extravaganza

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  • 8/10
    Critic's Rating - 8/10
A cinematic experience needs an inlet to let the audience walk into the world of the film; in Gully Boy, the inlet is the infectiously energetic MC Sher ( Siddhant ). He is a street rapper who compels Murad ( Ranveer ) to magnify the smidgen of hope that he sees. Gully Boy is based on the booming Rap scene in Mumbai, Dharavi. The story is loosely based on the lives of two breakout rappers, Naezy and Divine, one of whom even makes an appearance in the film ( wait for the cheer it generates in the hall ).
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Zoya Akhtar makes it clear from the first shot of the film that it is not just a film about a boy’s story of Rags to Riches. The first character we see is not Ranveer ( Murad ), he’s walking in the background as another character on whom the camera focuses, walks ahead. Zoya’s vision for this film, overpowers any possibility of a heroic tale of a single Boy. Her detailed and nuanced vision encompasses a myriad of lives and conflicts which give this film a beating heart. Zoya and Reema Kagti, the writers on the film do not offer a distant, privileged gaze at the slums of Dharavi, they instead hold our hands and walk us into the lives of these people who take 500 rupees from foreigners who come into their miniature houses and marvel at the conjusted spaces. The framing and cinematography by Jay Oza, beautifies these conjusted spaces and squeezes life out of them. Zoya’s choice of frames is genius; be it a car covered in lights and Ranveer sitting inside it in the dark or the scene that feels like a tribute to the eternal Romeo and Juliet as Safeena ( Alia ) converses with Murad ( Ranveer ) through an open window as he is sitting downstairs, Zoya creates frames that speak.

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The rampant theme in Gully Boy – Depiction of Co-Existence

It takes tremendous writing and directing to maintain a consistent theme throughout a film, as you tell your story. The abundance of talent, with Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, this theme of Coexistence of two extreme stratas of Mumbai is depicted poetically.
Everytime we see the entire city in a shot, we see both the skyscrapers and the slums in the frame. Flyover is a recurring image in the film, the frame is such that we see the flyover and the road ‘ under ‘ the flyover, depicting the ‘ Upper ‘ and the ‘ Lower ‘ class in the same city.The biggest metaphor to this theme, however, is Murad’s home; there are two wives in the house. The new wife who is privileged and gets all the attention and love and there is the old wife who is mistreated and abused. The new wife is the Privileged class of Mumbai and the old wife is the oppressed class, abused by the city and the house is Mumbai City.
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Zoya Akhtar’s storytelling thrives on the indigenous talent at her disposal to create a film that can be proud of its authenticity. Zoya’s style of filmmaking has always had a unique sense of quiet about it. Gully Boy, which is otherwise pulsating, is inherently quiet. This quietness is what defines the titular character, Murad. Ranveer Singh, in his incredible performance as Murad, brings to the character a lovable earnestness that is surprising to be found in a Superstar that he is, today. He sheds all the vanity and flashiness is substituted by Passion and the energy is substituted by a simmering desire to realise the dream. This is a performance that will be remembered for ages. He is recording his first song, Doori and he looks at Alia who is sitting in the studio, as he prepares to record, Alia looks back, they look at each other and a burst of love and great acting explode on screen. These are two actors who have realised their true potentials under the watch of a filmmaker who has proclaimed her genius with Gully Boy.
The craft of writing execls in this collaboration of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. They seamlessly tie-in the multiple storylines. A fulfilling character arc is what makes a good story but this film has multiple characters that have a journey we explore and each of them speak right to your conscience. The actors essaying these incredibly written characters are, Vijay Verma as Moin, Siddhant as MC Sher and of course Alia Bhatt as Safeena. These performances are bereft of any falsity. It is a treat to discover these fascinating characters in the film. Alia Bhatt as Safeena is electric. The already well-written character is exemplified by an acting performance that will go down as one of the best in recent times. In a long list of good characters Alia has portrayed, Safeena will storm her way to the top of that list, stamping herself as the best.
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There is a poetic touch with regard to Murad and Safeena’s characters and their professions. Murad is a rapper, who are expected to be vocal but he has a hushed tone while he talks. Alia is a surgeon ( or to be one ) a profession that is inherently sensitive but Safeena is violent and outspoken. This beautiful contradiction is just another reminder of the writing talent at display. Dialogues by Vijay Mourya are hard-hitting, seeped in the local lingo, the questions they ask seem to emerge from an angst that is common for every oppressed, universally.
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Gully Boy is a very well made film. The sound design is crisp and the raps sound exhilarating. The craft of the film is intricately integrated with the theme of the film. Sound is used beautifully in a telling scene, where we first see Ranveer rapping with great energy inside the car and cut to we see him from outside the car and the sound of his rap is muffled, suggesting that the world has not yet heard his voice, life has stifled his voice. Calling Gully Boy an underdog story would be a criminal understatement. It is about so much more. It is about parenting, about domestic abuse, poverty, the manipulative, opportunist system, the ever-widening disparity between the two extreme classes of our society. It is about the coexistence of two worlds completely removed from each other. Zoya and her team create a dense narrative complimented by a pulsating soundtrack by the local talent. The soundtrack of this film is a game-changer.
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Throughout the film, Murad’s eyes are filled with self-doubt and vulnerability but as he grabs the mic at the end and sings ” Apna time aayega “, his resounding talent shatters the vulnerability and fear. Every cheer in the theatre from the audience was an acknowledgement to the film’s success in stirring up the dormant souls and infusing them with an anthem that will echo for a long time; Apna time aayega. Zoya Akhtar has arrived.

About the author

Kandi Sachin Venkoba

Kandi Sachin Venkoba is a strong believer in the significance of cinema in building a society. Naturally drawn towards films dealing in the dynamics of human relations. Always open to all kinds of films/TV series that tell compelling and relevant stories. Favourite TV Series, Black Mirror; highly original and daunting.
He believes that every person we come across has several stories to tell, we just need to tap the surface and the stories shall slowly fly out; just get hold of one and tell it. He aspires to tell stories, be it in words on a piece of paper or with a camera, on the big screen.

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