Verdict – “Raw and Authentic!”
From Luck By Chance to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do, Zoya Akhtar always strived to explore different genres and contested with new material, even with her twenty-minute short film featured in the 2018 Netflix Original, Lust Stories. Her 2019 directorial, Gully Boy, is no different. Celebrating the underground hip-hop scene of urban Mumbai, the storyline follows our film’s protagonist Murad (Ranveer Singh), a yet-to-become graduate who has a lot going on between his fiery girlfriend, Safeena (Alia Bhatt), friends and family troubles. His love for hip-hop music, poetry and lyrical genius Nas, bring him closer to a locally revered rap artist, MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), who takes Murad under his wings as a mentor. The remainder of the film fleshes out how our underdog hero balanced between his chaotic life and undying passion in a 153-minute musical drama.
The narrative of the movie is simple and straightforward, it’s an underdog rise to the top, which we already saw countless times before. But, what made Gully Boy shine is the relatability factor and the emotional depth that it bodied within the runtime. Every subplot that screenwriters Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar delved into, whether it’s the enduring love story between Murad and Safeena, the hurdles in and between Murad’s family proffered a good enough platform for the movie to sustain without drowning deep into the abyss. With the emotion and heart at the right place, the other profound themes of standing as an inspiration to others, following your passion, time and status were all well exemplified with heartening scenes and the right amount of dialogue and poetry. But, drenched with quite a few subplots and a two and a half-hour runtime, the movie lingers around too much, which in the end only hurts the overall quality of the product. To rephrase, when I came back home and tried to recap the movie, the narrative was unclear as I only remembered parts to and fro which isn’t a bad nor a good thing either.
However, what Zoya Akhtar nails through and through is capturing the vibe and the culture of the street rap scene in Dharavi, Mumbai. Every rap battle, scene, visuals and lyrics felt authentic, raw and intense as Zoya didn’t try to glamorise the locations and didn’t shy away to pull any punches when needed. Along with the music, which is the primary requisite of the movie, the characters also played a significant role in moving the story from point A to B. Murad: The Underdog, Safeena: The Selfish-yet-Adoring Girlfriend, MC Sher: The Uplifting Mentor and Friend, Aftab: The Ruthless and the Orthodox Father were all crucial personalities played brilliantly by the cast.
Ranveer Singh, who is at his top form here embraces his character and plays it with perfection. Everything from his body language, his ability to rap and, most importantly, his ability to perform and carry the entire movie was commendable. Alia Bhatt, once again proves why she’s the best in the business. But, I wish that I saw somebody else play her character because she’s not the focal point of the film and any other up-and-coming actress could’ve utilised the opportunity more. On the other hand, the supporting actors, predominantly Vijay Raaz steals the show with his terrific as the assh*le father who truly terrified me with this demeanour and outstanding performance.
Nevertheless, Gully Boy is raw and entertaining, emotional and inspirational and above all stands tall and adheres to the vibe it created. Although the runtime creates few serious hiccups to the overall product, Zoya Akhtar manages to narrate a beautiful story and at the same time sheds light on the asli hip-hop scene in India which is still underrated and underappreciated despite having some serious talents.