Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Varma, Sheeba Chaddha
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Five minutes into the movie Ranveer Singh's Murad and his friends are shown driving on the streets of Mumbai. The scene in itself is eventless but the shot is precise, clinical and expressive of Mumbai's beauty. It is perhaps in that scene one realises that they are now witnessing a Zoya Akhtar creation. Akhtar repeats the same shot later in the movie. The scene remains same while most things in the movie changes by then. In a nutshell, Gully Boy is nothing different from that shot. It is beautiful, precise, clinical, and expressive and accentuates the pulse of the city of dreams.Throughout the movie, there is a running conversation about dreams. The setting is the perfect backdrop for this conversation, even though the dreams in discussion are markedly different from each other. Every character in the movie fights in its own way to achieve those dreams and the two pivotal characters that do not are steeped in their own bitterness and anger.
Talking about characters, Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar etch out the contours of each individual in such a complex - albeit human - and fine manner that the viewer is served with a metaphorical box of chocolates with uniquely different flavours.
The best of that lot is Murad, who dreams of rapping. He has the words but needs a bit of polishing when it comes to the rhythm. A sensitive person, Murad juggles a lot of things at the same time - his passion, an abusive father, an unhappy mother, a feisty but needy girlfriend, his new mentor and his best friend who, he fears, is up to no good as well as his studies. However, Murad is not frustrated with the hand he has been dealt. He is sad, definitely, and sometimes fearful, but always fighting to get what he wants. Ranveer Singh is a sight to behold as Murad. He eases into the central character's innocence, happiness, grief, discomfort, disappointment without a flinch and then at the next moment he is pumping in energy only he can muster in his raps.
Alia Bhatt's Safeena is perhaps the freshest character in recent times. She dreams of becoming a surgeon and is head over heels with her boyfriend. Her possessiveness - something not readily available in Bollywood - over Murad leads her into the murkiest of scenes. Bhatt plays Safeena to perfection by delivering the sweetest of smiles right after she tries to gouge someone's eyes out.
The chemistry between the lead actors is palpable. Murad and Safeena are not only partners but also the best of friends. Theirs is a childhood romance, which as Safeena yells at a potential threat, is thirteen years old. Singh and Bhatt look every bit like that - in love and at ease.
Vijay Raaz as the father, Aftab Sheikh, is as fine as ever. The bitterest of characters, he hates everything in this life, often lashing out at his first wife and son. He is so loathing to his family that he likens his son, Murad, to a 'saand' or a bull who eats a lot. He is a terror that nobody wants to face, yet, when he breaks down, one can feel his pain.
The rest of the cast too fits the bill to the T. Standing out in the ensemble is newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi who plays MC Sher, Murad's mentor. He has the confidence that Murad lacks and knows the ways of the world. Sher is the anchor to Murad's rather lost ship.
This brings us to the core of the movie - hip hop. Rap in itself is not everyone's cup of tea but the makers made it not only palatable but highly enjoyable. The soundtrack is the vein of Gully Boy. Perhaps there is no medium better suited to emote a life replete with hardships and challenges. As a resident of Dharavi, living with a dysfunctional family and no proper room to call his own, Murad takes the same medium and transforms it into art, or as he says, his voice.
Akhtar and Kagti have made a film for years to come. It does not only shed light on the underground rap scene, but also highlights the stark difference in lifestyle of the rich, middle class and the poor. In one scene, Murad who is at Sky's (Kalki Koechlin) house is measuring her washroom by walking across it. In another, the rich are celebrating New Year, while Murad is blankly sitting inside the car because such celebrations are only for the upper class. Then there is that scene when a bunch of Londoners land up at Dharavi to witness poverty and treat Murad's home like a museum. The entire movie is peppered with such comparisons, which are far from subtle.
One can go on and on about the beauty that Gully Boy is but it is a work of art that is best left to the audience to experience.