GULLY BOY: internalising desire

In Gully Boy, Director Zoya Akhtar internalizes desire. The underdog protagonist Murad (means desire) desires to break free from the interpersonal conflict, it’s a numbing voyage. Murad’s habitat is juxtaposed against the high-rise, as tall as his achievement of desire. Sky, a supporting character helps him undermine “Sky is the limit!”, but he limits the other desires. Mumbai’s underground hip-hop scenario is uplifted by well-written characters, there’s no jealousy or competition – Gully Boy desires art as a collective form. Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy translates the desires of underdog through a simmering narrative which is highly effective in its predictable approach.

Gully Boy is the coming-of-age story of Murad (Ranveer Singh), a rapper, and his journey from realizing his love for rap, to chasing his dream and to inadvertently transcending his class. Writers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti weave a predictable story bridging the gap between dream and reality, as Murad’s abusive father makes him understand the bridging of the two is impossible. Zoya Akhtar who has always been accused of dealing with elitist problems, now faithfully embraces the lower end of the spectrum in its truest nature. Her dealing with minute details whether in relationship dynamics, psychology or even facial nuances is commendable. Here, she patiently scales up conflict through Murad’s psyche, the defeating conflict is convincingly used as character arc – denial is challenged. Writers make us feel the restlessness of Murad through an elaborate narrative which mends all arcs and sub-plots. As breathless rap-battle erupts on-screen, the characters sink in seamless with enough breathing space – while the overcoming of underdog strikes resonating chords.“Art is a distant dream for the colonized poor of India and poetry is conscious of the city’s socio-economic fabric and highlights the challenges faced by the disenfranchised youth in the minority population.” Gully Boy manufactures indulgent spirit which never erupts, Murad’s internal saturation erupts through fiery and hard-hitting words. The film never actualizes Murad’s dialogue, “This isn’t art, it’s a war” – it wages a robust perceptual/verbose war. Zoya Akhtar’s finesse as a director can be noted in her scene staging where she ably maintains the mood and pace through silent nuances. Dialogue-writer Vijay Maurya packs in the locale lingo understated with punchlines without losing the qualitative essence.
Kitni Doori Hai (there is so much distance), Yeh Bhi Kaisi Majboori Hai (what kind of compulsion is this?) – as Murad’s poetry written by Javed Akhtar consciously routes the coming-of-age narrative, Gully Boy’s raw essence comes from its technical beats and rhythm, finely tuned upon “space”. Cinematographer Jay Oza captures the aesthetic rawness of the Dharavi slums, often posed against the high-rise. The frames which squeeze-in space lends an artistic canvas for the protagonist’s evolution, and in a literal sense make us feel and live the despair and agony. Editor Nitin Baid impressively modulates the pacing while traveling seamless into the music videos. There’s an exuberant rhythm in Gully Boy which rousing-ly mounts evocative life-story, BGM by Karsh Kale and The Salvage Audio Collective fits in rage.

Zoya’s previous Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) watered down Ranveer Singh’s energy while delivering a subtle yet effective performance, as Murad, she extracts the sensitivity as well as intensity. Ranveer shoulders the restlessness without a hiccup, it seems as if he longs for his hyper-activity eruption which captures Murad’s conflict-of-interest. Alia Bhatt as Safeena is thunderous while Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher delivers a terrific charming performance. Amruta Subhash and Vijay Raaz lend rousing support along with Vijay Varma and Kalki Koechlin in character roles.

Zoya Akhtar subverts a lot of elements including the political scenario, which waters down the hard-hitting lyrics of the songs into merely as words. Gully Boy echoes the sentiment of thousands of Murads (desires), evidently witnessed amidst the rage and craze constantly erupting during the screening. Gully Boy throbs in rebellious energy and craft of filmmaking, Zoya Akhtar once again internalizes the dysfunctionality post her elitist ventures Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do!

Uth Ja Apni Raakh Se Tu, Uth Ja Ab Talaash Mein
(get up from the ashes, get up and search for your identity)


Language: Hindi
Release: 14 February, 2019
Rating: 4/5


Copyright ©2019 Ninad Kulkarni. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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