Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy echoes the sentiment of thousands of Murads (desires) which throbs in rebellious energy and craft of filmmaking. As breathless rap-battle erupts on-screen, the characters sink in seamless with enough breathing space – while the overcoming of underdog strikes resonating chords. Zoya Akhtar’s knack for visual language has been perfectly handled and absorbed by Cinematographer Jay Oza, who captures the aesthetic rawness of the Dharavi as well as Murad, often posed against the high-rise. The frames which squeeze-in space lends an artistic canvas for the protagonist’s evolution, and in literal sense make us feel and live the despair and agony.
Below are four frames from Gully Boy which puts stakes on “The Visual Language: The Elements of Art”:
1. BRIDGING THE GAP
Beyond all the chastity of socio-economic disparity, Murad (Ranveer Singh) and Safeena (Alia Bhatt) come from distinct classes, who meet on a bridge escaping from the chaos of their individual lives. The frame depicts the trail of social disparity and bond, beyond all the odds of escaping from each other’s despair; they bridge the gap. The local train passing behind anchors a rhythmic movement for their dynamic relationship, it connects two different tones in terms of distinctive characters. And the climax features “The Train Song” depicting the two aiming and longing for the love of each other – “And I Found Myself At The Station One Day, I Was Headin’ To The Heartland Of Desire”.
In visual language, the frame features an “implied line” in the form of the local train. An implied line visually connects the space between the heads of Murad and Safeena, we have a sense of jagged motion. It also denotes visual stability (with the static bridge), a sense of compatible understanding between the two and lends a direction for the visual gaze as well as for individual journeys.
2. FIRE AND ICE
The term “Fire and Ice” works in duality in terms of personality and struggle for the two, Murad and Safeena. Fire represents “desire” (Murad means desire), Murad’s desire to fight for “his time” from inner as well as societal demons. Safeena owns a fierce personality testament against forced conservatism, she’s hotheaded and Murad nicknames her as “Danger Aapa”.
Fire and Ice work in cordial relationship, but in Robert Frost’s poem by the name same – Fire is a symbol for desire as the speaker agrees with those who say that fire will end the world by speaking: “From what I’ve tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire.” Desire clouds the mind, and those who desire something so fiercely become blind to the means they use to ascertain it, no matter how drastic. Somewhere down the lane, Murad’s calm nature is soaked by raging personality as he breaks through rap-battles and becomes fierce. He burns the inner and societal demons, that completes the “fire”. Murad is calm and always carries a suppressed chill attitude, at times, he cools or rather soothes down Safeena’s temper. Nevertheless, Ice also symbolizes the inflexible attitude for stubborn people (Safeena’s adjustment) and a flexible attitude (Murad’s enrichment) for those who are calm by nature.
In visual language, “color temperature and contrast” plays a crucial role in making the frame expressive. Since, the two color components (supposedly, orangish and turquoise) are complements. When placed near each other, complements to create visual tension; it is desirable when a dramatic effect is needed using only two colors.
3. BLANKET OF STARS
This is the most favorite frame from Gully Boy, let’s call it as a tribute to Michael Mann’s Thief (1981) which featured a frame on similar lines – certainly, it isn’t plagiarism. Murad is under a blanket of stars, these stars are beyond his reach and in an elite world where his existence is mere. Murad is trapped into social disparity, here, the rages-and-riches divide while the underdog plot is about rags-to-riches. He’s inside a curbed (and luxurious) element: car, his psyche wants to overcome the mere existence and sparkle across. And inside the curbed element, the angst sizzles and words make the breakthrough, “Apna Time Aayega/My Time Shall Come”. Because beyond all the rages-and-riches element, humans were born naked (Tu Nanga Hi Ho Aaya Tha/You Were Born Naked) and will cease to exist without any materialistic takeaway (Kya Tu Ghanta Leke Jayega/So What Do You Think You Will Take Along?).
In visual language, the “foreground and background relationship” sizzles volume of the story. There are stars in the background, and the particular scene is his first getaway towards being a star. The blanket of stars provoke him and pour brightness into his unraveled and weary walled life. I stumbled across an interesting thought while continuously observing the frame, it comes closer (I may be wrong) being “pointillism”. It is a technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors, which become blended in the viewer’s eye which was developed by Seurat with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of color. I presume these stars (dots) complete Murad and his desires by being an ensemble and fulfilling elements from the demons around. And the luminosity of the stars is carried forward in the climax shot…
4. A STAR IS BORN
This frame is from the climax, Murad is now a star. The blanket of stars is now within his reach; since he has conquered and fought the battle with the demons; he has reached for the stars which are now precisely, beneath him. It’s a partial silhouette where Murad has overcome the distance from his suppressed being and transformed into a star. The luminosity of the frame and the soothing color usage adds emotional tension.
ADDITIONAL. Easter Egg
Zoya Akhtar’s universes meet late night when Murad drives past a poster of Made In Heaven (The Amazon Prime Series), created by Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti which released few weeks after Gully Boy.
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