Rapping is a celebrated form of music worldwide. It came up from the streets and was able to resonate with all sections of society. India too has had a rapping scene and two of them who are quite famous in this category are Divine and Naezy. Zoya Akhtar’s GULLY BOY is loosely based on their lives and has managed to generate tremendous hype. The presence of Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt has also added to the buzz. So does GULLY BOY manage to fulfil all the expectations and emerge as a complete entertainer? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyse.
GULLY BOY is the story of a timid slum dweller whose life changes thanks to his talent. Murad (Ranveer Singh) is a college student who lives in a slum in Mumbai’s Dharavi. He’s in a relationship with the fiery Safeena (Alia Bhatt), a medical student who comes from an orthodox upper caste Muslim family. There’s tension in Murad’s house as his father Shakir (Vijay Raaz) gets a second wife, much to the dismay of his mother Razia (Amruta Subhash). Meanwhile, one day an upcoming rapper MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) performs in Murad's college and he gets floored. After all, he’s always been interested in rapping. MC Sher one day asks aspiring performers to meet him and Murad jumps at this opportunity. MC Sher takes a liking for Murad and motivates him to rap publicly. Murad is hesitant at first but he performs for the crowd who give him thumbs up. MC Sher even gets him to shoot a video which becomes very popular. However, Murad is not able to pursue his passion full time. He is compelled to step into his father’s shoes and become a chauffeur after the latter fractures his leg. He also has a complex on account of his social status. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar's story is promising. The character of Murad is very well written and also the world around him. Many who had criticized Zoya for showing the world of the elite in ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA  and DIL DHADKANE DO  would surely be surprised. Also the writers have ensured that the film doesn’t turn out to be just a story of a rapper. It speaks about passion, aspiration and also makes an important commentary on poverty, social strata, juvenile delinquency, polygamy etc. Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar's screenplay is highly effective. A lot of research has gone into the film and it shows. Several sequences are powerful and they hit you hard. Even the humour comes out very well. Vijay Maurya's dialogues further add to the impact as they are acidic. The poems of Murad are penned by Javed Akhtar and they have their own charm.
Zoya Akhtar's direction is exemplary yet again and she proves she is worthy of setting her film in diverse world and yet emerging victorious. However, the film has a few rough edges and one wishes she had taken care of it. The second half is quite lengthy. In fact, it feels like one is watching a three hour long film. A few characters like Safeena and Sky (Kalki Koechlin) are interesting but they don’t have much to do and are conveniently disappeared in the middle. Also the tone and the theme of the film is such that it won’t appeal to audiences pan India. The film features scenes of rap battle where one is supposed to roast the opponent and get personal. Such scenes may put off a section of the audience.
GULLY BOY is not the usual entertainer and this becomes evident in the first scene itself. However, the goings on are very interesting and suck you into the world of these characters. The entry of Safeena adds to the fun and the sequence where she assaults Albina, a girl who shows interest in Murad, will bring the house down. Murad’s struggles and his bond with MC Sher is also well depicted. A few scenes are exceptionally directed like Murad’s first performance. Another scene that stands out in the first half is when Murad gets the idea of the song 'Doori' in the car. Post interval, the interest dips a bit. The film gets stretched and also has far too many sub plots. The climax thankfully is when the film picks up beautifully. The film ends on a high.
Ranveer Singh gets completely into the skin of his character. He is ten years older than Murad in real life and yet he convincingly manages to essay the role of a college student. Even as a rapper, he seems like a pro and not even once does it feel that he’s acting for the part. Also watch out for the scenes where he’s playing second fiddle to MC Sher in the first half. For a lead actor to do so is quite praiseworthy. Alia Bhatt is explosive to say the least. Her role would be loved and she’s so good that one wishes she had more screen time. Siddhant Chaturvedi makes a solid debut. He has a crucial part and would surely be talked about. Kalki Koechlin leaves a tremendous mark in a small role. Vijay Varma (Moeen) is satisfactory. Vijay Raaz is quite nice and makes an impact, especially in the pre climax. Amruta Subhash is decent. Shrishti Shrivastava (Albina) is hilarious. Jyoti Subhash (Murad’s grandmother) makes her presence felt in a crucial scene in the second half. Others are fine.
There are far too many songs in the film and none of them are conventional chartbusters, considering the theme of the film. But few of them stand out. 'Apna Time Aayega' has got noticed and takes the film to another level. 'Mere Gully Mein' is peppy while 'Azadi' is riveting. 'Doori' is quite touching. 'Sher Aaya Sher', played during MC Sher's entry is decent. Background score is in sync with the film.
Jay Oza's cinematography is magnificent and gives the film a fine look. Even in the finale, the lensman's fine job adds to the effect. Arjun Bhasin and Poornamrita Singh's costume are stylish and realistic. Manohar Verma and Sunil Rodrigues’ action is also quite real. The latter has choreographed Alia Bhatt's action scene and it’s one of the film’s highpoints. Suzanne Caplan Merwanji's production design is authentic. Nitin Baid's editing is stylish but could have been crisper in the second half.
On the whole, GULLY BOY is a fun and moving entertainer that will surely resonate with the youth and multiplex-frequenting urban audiences. At the box office, the four day weekend will ensure that it emerges a profitable venture for its makers.