“Gully Boy”… A softer than expected, but hugely entertaining and beautifully made street-rapper story

Posted on February 10, 2019

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Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/gully-boy-movie-review-berlin-film-festival-2019-ranveer-singh-zoya-akhtar-baradwaj-rangan/

Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy acknowledges its inspirations right on top: “This film is a shout-out to the original gully boys, Naezy and DIVINE.” Naezy’s life was briefly chronicled in Disha Noyonika Rindani’s documentary Bombay 70, where the rapper explains that his given name, Naved, means “messenger of happiness.” The name of Gully Boy’s protagonist (played by Ranveer Singh) is significant, too. He’s Murad: “desire”. And his desire is break free of his circumstances. It’s not easy. When his father (Vijay Raaz) brings home a second wife, the sounds of the shehnai echo across their little pocket of Dharavi. Murad plugs in his earphones, and for a while, another music — his music — fills his world. But quickly, his father yanks the cord and the earphone slips out. It’s back to the shehnai. The neighbourhood engulfs him all over again.

Even outside, at work (he’s employed by his uncle), he’s never allowed to forget who he is, where he’s from. This uncle (Vijay Maurya, who also wrote the dialogues; the screenplay is by Zoya and Reema Kagti) reminds him that he is destined to be a servant: one who serves others, like his father, who drives around a society lady. A lot of the time, the cinematographer Jay Oza locks his camera onto Murad’s face — it’s as though the man is boxed in not just by fate but also by the frame. But Murad has other plans. The rather on-the -nose song Ek Hee Raasta goes: Chalte chalte kahin ek mod aata hai / Seedhe raste se bilkul alag / Koi deewana hi hota hai jo udhar jata hai. Translation: Only a madman will take the path less travelled, and Murad is that madman. He discovers he can give vent to his feelings with lyrics like these, which are tailor-made for rap. Or as Naezy’s mother in Bombay 70 would put it: “English ki poetry zor zor se bol raha hai.”

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