Minutes into the film and we see a family dispute turn violent in a shanty in Dharavi. This sets the tone for life at home for our protagonist Murad. Gully Boy, inspired by the lives of rappers DIVINE and Naezy The Baa, portrays how managing an abusive father, an orthodox family, a possessive girlfriend, shortage of income, and the general hustle of the life Murad led contributed to his lyrics and his rise in the scene.
An off-screen Ranveer Singh who is flamboyant in his mannerism exercises great restrain while playing Murad. He pushes it far enough to show that his character is sufficiently cocooned in self-doubt to even attempt performing his own lyrics. Singh’s body language gradually changes through the course of the film indicating that Murad is now comfortable in his own skin and the struggles that come with being who he is. An obvious added bonus for performing the rap in the film’s version of the soundtrack Mere Gully Mein.
An over-possessive girlfriend who doesn’t think twice before attacking a threat to her relationship with Murad, Safeena played by Alia Bhatt, appears to be the long-lasting pillar of support to her lover. Their relationship as the film conveys has lasted years, and has stood the test of time. This is portrayed in the subtlest way through their conversations. They say little to each other but appear to understand a lot more.
With Bhatt nailing the nuanced traits that Safina exhibits, it is safe to say that with a track record that includes Highway, Raazi and now Gully Boy, the actor has figured out what definitely works for her.
It is rare that supporting roles in a Bollywood film outshine or are on par with the lead actors. The script of Gully Boy allows for everybody in Murad’s circle to be a much stronger and outward personality than he is. To begin with, we have Vijay Raaz who plays the role of Murad’s father. His character, with his sense of ownership over people, doesn’t hesitate before displacing his wife and sons’ status in the family when he brings home a second wife. He frequently resorts to violence and insults to get his point across and warns his son that dreams that are larger than life are not for people born in a gully. He is, predictably, not supportive of Murad’s passion.
Siddhant Chaturvedi effortlessly essays the role of MC Sher and takes on Murad a.k.a Gully Boy by now, under his wing. Singh and Chaturvedi share a lot of screen time during which a constant fear was that perhaps the narrative will allow Gully Boy to outshine MC Sher because of B-wood’s unsaid rule: the hero has to look better than everyone else. Well, something on those lines does happen,. but not to an extent that would sideline MC Sher. In fact, MC Sher is perhaps the only part of the film that Gully Boy didn’t have to work for.
Next up is Vijay Sharma who plays the role of Moeen, a dear friend of Murad who is a hustler and doesn’t believe in questioning the morality of what he does. He believes there is only dignity in his labour.
Lastly, we have Kalki Koechlin who portrays the role of Sky, a student at Berklee College of Music, who introduces Gully Boy to the good life and the ways of being an urban rebel.
The film drives the audience to know more about the individuals that inspire this story. Its recreation of DIVINE and Naezy The Baa’s original track Mere Gully Mein feels like something is amiss. We’ll let the reader be the judge of that.
However, this is not to take away from everything the film offers – great music, visuals, acting and an introduction to Indian audiences about a music scene that is thriving within their country in the city that never sleeps.
To know more about Mumbai’s rappers check out Kya Bolta Bantai by Vice.
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