Director: Zoya Akhtar
Starring: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz
Written by: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti
Dialogues: Vijay Maurya
GULLY BOY is the story of a young boy, in his twenties, called Murad (Ranveer Singh), who has a father Shakir (Vijay Raaz), a mother, a sister and a grandmother who are all living in a slum in Dharavi. He also has a girlfriend since nine years called Safeena (Alia Bhatt) and they both are in love. Murad writes poetry and that’s how he expresses himself as he is plagued by problems in his own house and life in general. They already have monetary problems at home and his father goes on and marries for the second time and brings the second wife home and he sees that the household is deteriorating in a way because of that. One day, he sees a rapper in his college, M C Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), they meet post that and he realizes that he wants to become a rapper but he doesn’t know how to. He writes poems, lyrics but he doesn’t know how to get in the flow and get the rhythm, which become his early teething problems. Overall the film has an arc of an underdog story. The film takes that trajectory overall and how he is able to differentiate between his reality and his dream and make them meet, form the core of the story. The film is littered with many layers, in terms of how there is a different arc of his and his girlfriend Safeena, there is a track of him and his friends he has met and his friends in the Dharavi slum area, his relationship with his father & his mother. Then there is a story arc of him trying to achieve his dream of being a rapper. All these things come culminate at the end of the film and that is basically how the story unfolds and how all these things affect Murad to get there.
The film is one of the finer coming of the age film that we have seen in the industry in a long time. The story is great because it is an underdog story like very few, it has various layers as mentioned earlier and it also has a great connectivity. There are some standout scenes in the film, for instance, when he is driving for the first time, when he is filling in for his father and when he has an epiphany about what his dream in life is; to become a rapper. Another standout scene in the film is with his father and himself right before the pre-climax of the film when he argues about his dreams with his father, which is a delicate scene which is very well acted and executed beautifully. The other stand out thing is the dialogues, the grammar of saying what they are saying and how they are saying, it’s to the point and it’s very well executed and all the other finer things in the film stand out really well too. One of the downside of the film was its length. At 2 hrs and 36 minutes, it gets tedious because at the end of the day it is an underdog story and that arc doesn’t change; you already know the trajectory of the character and how it is going to pan out. Also because we have so many films in the past like 8 mile which is based on Eminem, Notorious based on The Notorious B.I.G. and 50 Cents’ Get Rich Or Die Trying, it draws a lot of similarities from these films because these are genre specific, hiphop and coming of age films, maybe because there are a lot of similar beats, that is something they could have avoided and made something a lot fresher. Another thing we felt was an issue was Kalki’s character, it is very basic of all the characters in the film and there are a lot of them. Everyone has something or the other going for them, they have an ‘X’ factor, they are bringing something new to the table, which with Kalki’s character was very random in its approach and it just felt forced.
Production values of the film are phenomenal. The production design by Suzanne Caplan Merwanji is great; it actually looks like houses that are lived in and makes real good sense of watching it. Cinematography by Jay Oza is top notch. The story by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar is great, it has great layers and it hits the right points. Dialogues by Vijay Maurya are to the point and they’re one of the best dialogues I’ve seen in a Hindi film in a very long time. He gets the lingo, punctuations and everything spot on, that’s why what the characters are saying translates to something much larger on screen. The music by so many of these younger artists supervised by Ankur Tiwari and many others who have actually worked really hard on the music, is really shining through in this film. Songs like Apna Time Aayega, Mere Gully Mein and Asli Hip Hop are popular in their zone. Stand out songs while watching the film were Doorie by Rishi Rich and Azadi by Dub Sharma. Background Music is superb. Editing by Shangeeth Sathyanathan leaves a little to be desired. It’s a little patchy, it could be more crisp; at 2 hours and 36 minutes, the film feels 20 minutes too long. There are various points in the film where the time could have been brought down.
Performances from the actors were simply brilliant. Ranveer Singh gives one of his finest performances as an actor till date. He restrained, he is tentative, he doesn’t have this swag that he carries himself with, off films and his real life. He is just different and that difference is hitting the right notes all the time. One of my favourite characters in the film is Alia Bhatt. She is superb. She is brilliant as Safeena, she is doing the right things, she is saying the right things, she is really on point with what is going on in the film. She has a fiesty outbreak a couple of times in the film, those are like gallery scenes which bring the house down, people are rooting for her. Even though she is a little out there, but she is phenomenal. The debutant Siddhant Chaturvedi is really good. He does really well with his persona. He does the M C Sher look, his gravitas superbly in the film. Vijay Raaz is one of the more talented actors in the film, he is outstanding. Amruta Subhash is really great as well. Vijay Varma who plays the character of Moeen in the film is really good. Kalki does well. Vijay Maurya is good in his part as Murad’s maternal uncle. Others provided more than able support in the film.
As the director, Zoya Akhtar gets many a things bang on. She has made a really contemporary coming of age film which in a long time we haven’t seen; it is a love letter to the city Mumbai and it is evident in the way she is framing each and every shot. She gets amazing performances from her actors. I feel that a couple of characters in the film and also a lot of the film’s running time which is the major issue in the film, could have been curtailed and she could have made the film crisper and that would have made the viewing experience richer.
At the box-office
The film has taken a tremendous start and it is working great in the metros and it will continue to do that and hopefully build on this great number on day one and get to a very good lifetime total.