While nearly all music genres have had strong representations in cinema – from biopics and documentaries to dramas and musicals – hip-hop and rap have been relatively underrepresented. Hence, while watching Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, the strongest reference point that I readily recollected was the visceral, gripping and intensely personal Eminem vehicle 8 Mile which was based on the hip-hop icon’s own life. Though, purportedly, it’s loosely based on two Indian street rappers, some resemblances to the gritty Curtis Hanson film were quite evident, even if they’re only coincidental given the very essence of what this music genre and culture represent, viz. expression of rebelliousness by social outsiders. The movie’s focus is Murad (Ranveer Singh), a young resident of Bombay’s Dharavi ghetto; his father (Vijay Raaz) is an angry, disillusioned man who’s just brought home a second wife; his friends are street loafers, and includes a guy (Vijay Varma) peddling in drugs and stolen cars; he’s in a relationship with his spunky, feisty childhood lover (Alia Bhatt), a medical student belonging to extremely conservative parents. Murad’s life seems destined to be stuck in a rut of despair and silent acceptance, but all changes when he befriends MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), who mentors him out of his diffidence and provides the catalyst to vent his talent for rap poetry on alienation, angst and dreams. The film comprises of some terrific compositions – ‘Apna Time Ayega’, ‘Azaadi’, ‘Doori’, etc.; fine performances – Varma was especially knockout; and moody atmosphere. However, that said, it isn’t provocative, discomfiting, subversive or politically upfront enough, fails to do away with stereotypical narrative tropes, and Ranveer, despite his slow-burning act, appeared way older than his character.
Author: Zoya Akhtar
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Musical