Gully Boy opens with Moeen (Vijay Verma) walking the gullies of Mumbai smoking a cigarette
nonchalantly before he whistles out to Murad (Ranveer Singh). A simple and no frills attached
entry for one of the biggest stars in India. This underlines what Gully Boy is all about. It’s not
only about the breakout of this rap star from the dark belly of Mumbai but it is also about the
scores of Moeen’s who can’t make it out. This is conveyed in the later scene where Moeen is
behind bars and even though Murad gets away despite being an accomplice, the composition
frames him within those bars because he simply can’t get away from this vicious circle.
The love story of Safina (Alia Bhatt) and Murad has started long before the film starts. It is
beautifully conveyed when they both sit side by side in a crowded bus while listening to music
through the same pair of earphones. It not only conveys the temporal aspect of their relationship
but also the calmness they exude expresses the comfort level that they share. Safina comes
from a conservative background but is clear about what she wants in her professional and
personal life and will always push for it. Visually it is conveyed by the fact that she is the one
always walking up to Murad and the only time he walks up to her is when he realises what he
wants from the relationship and apologises.
Gully Boy has rousing music but it is never used as a crutch to increase the dramatic levels of
the film. There are several storylines in the film, all connected to Murad. They have a place in
the story but they are never placeholders. When Sky (Kalki Koechlin) enters the story she is not
just a vehicle to take Murad out of oblivion. Sky is also symbolic of the world that Murad aspires
to. His interaction with her is his interaction with his aspirations. There is a beautiful moment
when Murad is uncomfortable in the plush bathroom of her apartment. He ends up measuring it
with his feet and it is clearly connected to his house which feels less spacious than his house.
Siddhanth Chaturvedi makes a debut worthy of a star. There is fire in his performance which is
the guide as well as a perfect foil to Ranveer Singh’s measured calm demeanour. Vijay Verma is
heartbreakingly good as Murad’s friend, Moeen. Moeen asks moral questions not only to Murad
but also to the audience. He is asking us that if you can judge me then why can’t you empathise
It’s an enviable task to score music for a Musical. But the soundtrack is pitch perfect. It doesn’t
give you rap for the sake of rap; everything has a purpose. In fact the magic of the original
music video of “Mere Gully Mein” was in its simplicity and is ruined by the polished production
value of the film. And even though you know what to expect in the finale, you can’t help but
cheer from your seats for Ranveer’s rendition of “Apna Time Aayega”.
Zoya Akhtar has given a rare “bollywood” film which has superlative layered visual storytelling.
The real achievement is not in the attempt but in the fact that she does it with such aplomb. One
of the standout moments of the film is when Murad is rapping to his own words in the confines
of his boss’ car. But when the camera moves out, the music vanishes, only the glittering lights
reflecting on the polished car can be seen and Murad looks like a mad man. This reminds us of
what Friedrich Nietzsche said – And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by
those who could not hear the music.
Vishal Naik is a film editor, writer, producer and director based in Mumbai. His short film Nanne Munne Bachche Teri Mutthee Main Kya Hai charts the crossroads of philosophical and existential aspiration. He is a writer and producer on the Hindi remake of the Malayalam thriller Irul which will be made as a trilogy.
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