“Sometimes, it is better to be hated for the truth I speak than the false praises I sing”
While 2019 began on an extremely positive note with ‘Uri – the Surgical Strike’ and ‘Manikarnika’, the month of February upped the ante with ‘Gully Boy’. Directed by ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ fame Zoya Akhtar, ‘Gully Boy’ is a take on how Murad Sheikh [Ranveer Singh], an aspirant for a white collar job, uses the art of rap as a ticket out of the hellhole that his life has been.
The Good –
To be honest, ‘Gully Boy’ is officially the first Indian mainstream movie to specifically focus on the street rap genre. As such, one should give the credit where due. Ranveer Singh has performed well as Murad, who has to live a hand to mouth existence in the slums of Dharavi. According to him, ‘My dreams need not match my reality’.
Displaying the classic mannerisms of an underdog who refuses to give up, Ranveer convinces us as a rapper with a purpose. Alia Bhatt, who plays the role of Safeena, a medical student who is Murad’s possessive girlfriend, impresses us with her street smart, devil may care attitude. It was nice to see vociferous cheers and claps that rang in the hall more for Alia rather than the titular character of Ranveer Singh.
Another good aspect of the movie is how Murad develops his talent in the dreary slums that he has grown up in. The way he has to grapple with his father, who marries another woman, is something not many would love to take up, and one must appreciate writers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti for not treating this issue with kid gloves. Vijay Raaz, in a rare role with no hilarity, nails it as Ranveer’s father, who is way too resigned to his reality to support the dreams of his son.
The Bad –
However, not all is hunky dory about ‘Gully Boy’. While it is a good movie that attempts to portray the struggle of the street rappers, it doesn’t make us emotionally connected to them. The first half took its own sweet time to build up.
The screenplay, despite the rustic charm, felt a bit detached from reality. Also, some of the characters, which could’ve carved a niche of their own in a typical Zoya Akhtar film, were surprisingly not given their due space.
Debutant actor Siddhant Chaturvedi, who strikes big as Shrikant aka MC Sher, a street smart rapper who finds the true talent in Murad’s rap and mentors him, deserved way better than what was etched out for his character in the screenplay. Kalki Koechlin and Vijay Maurya were just average in their respective roles.
Also dear elite Bollywood, when will you learn to be original, and not just copy paste from other movies? While I agree that people can be inspired, but there is a difference in being inspired and imitating something for the sake of it.
Most of the Indian rappers have been heavily inspired by the classic movie ‘8 Mile’, based on the struggles of rapper Eminem. However, what ‘Gully Boy’ did was to just give it a desi twist, and not add anything original to the movie. Even the rap circle is just limited to glorifying the rap scene in Mumbai and mocking anyone outside it.
The Ugly –
If there’s one thing we can observe well from the Gully Boy, it is the fact that elite Bollywood is too reluctant to give up on their dirty tricks. In a scene where Murad enters the rap arena to meet his idol, a rapper is singing a deliberately titled mock rap ‘Jingostaan’, with lines like ‘2018 hai desh ko khatra hai!’
Though subtle, the lyrics of this rap clearly pointed to as to whom the makers of this movie were actually targeting. This, my dear friends, is not propaganda, but films like ‘Uri’ and ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’ are.
Interestingly, the director of this movie was also coincidentally a co-writer of the notorious open letter by elite Bollywood celebrities, which in 2014, appealed to the masses to vote for anybody but PM Modi. Some of the rappers, including the notorious writer of ‘Jingostaan’, have no qualms in supporting the seditious activists of the Tukde Tukde Gang.
However, if we expose their real face, they cry ‘intolerance’. No wonder why a wise person said this right, ‘The only veil that resists to be lifted is the veil of hypocrisy.’ It is shameful to see that the makers of Gully Boy are trying to use an artistic piece to peddle their political hatred against a particular ideology, even if in a subtle way.
Overall, Gully Boy is a decent entertainer that barely managed to conceal the subtle but vicious propaganda that its makers wish to impose on the Indian audience time and again. We are not against any kind of artistic expression, but if we wish to impose politics, we have better platforms than movies to do that. I’d go with an honest review of 2.5/5 stars.