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Gully Boy Is A Masterpiece

Subhash K . Jha

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BGully Boy

Starring Ranveer  Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi,  Vishal Verma,Vijay Raaz, Amruta Subhash

Directed by Zoya Akhtar

Rating: *****(5 stars)

A  boy from the chawls craves  to make  a name as a rapper. But his tyrannical father wants  him to get a safe-income job. The  older man feels the poor have no right to  dream beyond their means. BFTC(boy from  the chawls)  follows  his dreams.And…

We all know the rest,right?

Not quite. In the  magical hands of Zoya Akhtar the familiar tale acquires a texture and tone all of its own.  Tone  bole toh…the  music  and  the songs  of this subtle  and rich  film abide absolutely and unconditionally with the  hip-hop aspirations  of its hero.

Gully Boy moves in expected  yet  mysterious  ways. Tracking down  Murad’s dreams  to  fruition, Zoya Akhtar doesn’t miss a single heartbeat .She  gathers the sounds ,sights and smells  into a warm embrace  that expresses  a cross between warm acceptance and uncomplaining despair.  Embodying  this undefeated spirit  of Mumbai is Murad, Zoya Akhtar’s hero in a film that  has many heroes.

It is  a common cliché to exclaim  after every film that is  set  in Mumbai that  it captures  the  city like  never before. But Gully Boy actually does it like  never  before. The crowdedchawls where , as  a touristic film crew  that comes visiting the slum,.  marvels,every inch of space available in the  rooms is used by its inhabitants.

Zoya does the same. She doesn’t allow even moment of  her  generous playing time to be frittered  in frivolity. Not that the film is devoid of fun and laughter.

 Tightly squeezing into the  kerchief-sized rooms of  the slumMurad  simply wants to fly. His face lights up each time he  meets the love of his life Saifina.Alia Bhatt with her head  veiled and smile unveiled,  plays Saifina with an impish charm that brings sunshine  into not just Murad’s heart. We  too wonder what life would be  like  without her  kindered  presence.

 That  brings me to Ranveer Singh’s  rapper’s role with a dream that won’t be cut down to size. The actor  disappears  into his  character  in every conceivable sense.When he speaks he’s   a hesitant chawl ka chokra trying to  grope his way through the  dark alleys  of his unfathomable dreams.When  he is with his ill-treated mother(Amruta Subhash , with a face that launches  a thousand slips) he is that devoted son who just wants to kill his brutally self-serving  father(Vijay Raaz an actor who can never get it wrong).

Ah, but when he is  with Saifeena, Murad is  like  a deserter  drinking  water.Propitiously, Murad and  Saifeena don’t  sing a romantic duet. The focus is  on the  hip-ho and rap .The  duets can  go take  a hike. Shankar Mahadevan’s feral sounds jump out  of the screen to grab us whenever Murad and  mentor-friend Sher(Siddharth Chaturdevi, a natural-bornscenesetaler) jam together.

Yes, this is Mumbai  like never before. The city is shot exquisitely by  Jay Oza with  minimal embellishment and maximum picture-postcard purity.  If the camera never lies, Zoya’s  universe of bridled  despair is buying that.

In the second-half  some  of the scenes seem   under-written.  How did Murad allow the fey Sky(Kalki Koechlin, charming) to get so close to him when  he has known from age 13 that he can  marry  only one girl. And that is Saifeena. Alia and Ranveer’s relationship contextualizes  the drama to a point of  enlightened lucidity.We can’t miss the sheer force  of  the lov  that these two fighting spirits feel for one  another.

 This is why I found their temporary separation  in the second-half to strenuously designed  for drama. Arrey yaar ,we all know  Murad  can’t look at anyone else. Saifeena makes sure of that.Kalki  makes  the  mistake  of  doing much  more than looking. She ends up with  a broken bottle on her  head.If  Saifeena wasn’t in love she’d be psychotic.

The  certainty that  Zoya Akhtar imbues  in almost every frame comes from a selfawarenessthat eschews  overstatement. Zoya  is  the  only big-time  mainstream  filmmaker I know who  doesn’t take the audiences’ intelligence  for granted. The scenes are  never over-explained and  hence never over-written.

 Zoya and Reema  Kagti’s  writing surrenders  to  Mumbai’s city’s  class differences  with a sigh that  never grows  into a groan. The  drama  is distilled in faith  and  an understanding of  the power structure that makes the city so throbbing and vibrant.While Ranveer Singh’s performance  anchors  the narrative’s implosive energy the  sound design and  the songs are  used to indicate  the  hero’s  losing battle with conformity.

 Gully Boy pulsates with the  music  of anxious yearnings. Sometimes  we have strain to hear the  sound  of  distant  anxiety.There  is  a sequence where Ranveer’s Murad  plays chauffeur to an upper-class girl sobbing  in the backseat. Murad remains sullen and  silent on the wheel. But his voice comes alive in the background to create a song on class distinction on the front  seat  of  the car.

By the time this masterly study  of self-discovery comes to a  screeching halt, the film’s vilest  character , Murad’s father has  found his lost humanism. No,  it isn’t too late for him to make up  for  lost time. Gully  Boy tells us  it is  never too late to find one’s  bearings in life.The time to follow our dreams is  now.Because as Zoya Akhtar has already warned  us earlier, Zindagi na milegi dobara.

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