Zoya Akhtar's "Gully Boy" Review: Ranveer Singh shines as a street-rapper

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Ranvir Singh and Alia Bhatt in Gully Boy
Ranvir Singh and Alia Bhatt in Gully Boy
There is a scene in Gully Boy where in a girl with a dusky complexion spray-paints a hoarding publicizing a fairness cream with the words ‘Brown & Beautiful’. In the very next scene a guy uses the same bottle of paint to create graffiti on the wall reminding that unlike the old times, food, clothing, and shelter are no longer good enough for survival. For, the youth requires a fourth entity that has become a necessity in today’s age: internet. The message is crystal clear. The youth is in no mood to abide by the outdated standards of beauty or living. Gully Boy is set in the slums of Mumbai and focuses on the underground artists who try to give voice to those at the bottom of the pyramid.  Inspired by the lives of Mumbai-based street rappers Divine and Naezy, Gully Boy is essentially a film about rebellion against the society. Well, that’s what the rappers do anyway!

Gully Boy encourages people to dream and dream big. Aren’t we all a victim of our circumstances? The film reminds us that the only way to succeed is to take on the obstacles head on. At the centre of Gully Boy is Murad (essayed by Ranveer Singh) who lives in the slums of Dharavi but dreams of becoming a rapper. He is one of those few who dare to look at the stars. We have seen many underdog stories but what makes Gully Boy different is the subject’s treatment in that how it leverages upon the power of rap to propagate the story. If the movie doesn’t succeed in starting a rap revolution in the country then it may at least prove to be a game changer as far as use of music and lyrics in Hindi films is concerned.
Kalki Koechlin in Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy
Kalki Koechlin in Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy
But despite offering refreshing content for the most part Gully Boy ends up embracing populism. The finished product fails to take a departure from the run-of-the-mill stuff that commercial Hindi cinema keeps churning out. Perhaps, it’s impossible to resist the temptation of employing the usual Bollywood-esque tropes. Box-office compulsions are often the driving force behind such creative decisions. Ultimately that’s a choice every filmmaker must be willing to make. Zoya Akhtar nonetheless succeeds in answering her critics that telling rich people’s stories is not the only thing she is good at.
Siddhant Chaturvedi and Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy
Siddhant Chaturvedi (right) in Gully Boy
Ranveer Singh’s Murad is certainly the best thing about Gully Boy. Alia Bhatt is nearly wasted in the role of Safeena, Murad’s feisty lover. We have seen her capability in movies like RaaziDear Zindagi, and Highway, but Gully Boy somewhere doesn’t do justice to her acting talents. Also, another supremely talented actress Kalki Koechlin seems to be wasted in the movie. However, the newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi impresses in his role of Murad’s fellow rapper MC Sher. Also, Vijay Raaz is brilliant at Murad’s father. Gully Boy suffers from some pacing issues; clocking at 155 minutes it is at least 25 minutes too long. Also, it gets a bit preachy at times. But, you will probably not mind all that if you love hip-hop.
Rating: 6/10
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.
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