Director Zoya Akhtar has presented a simple yet inspiring story in Gully Boy, starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt. The screenplay revolves around Murad, a man fighting poverty, discrimination and facing a myriad of obstacles to fulfil his dream of becoming a rapper. He belongs to the Dharavi neighbourhood in Mumbai. As the movie progresses, we come to know the various problems Murad is juggling all at once – such as his abusive father who brings home a younger wife, unhappy mother, the need to earn, his studies and his job. Alia Bhatt, who’s played the role of Safeena – is a headstrong girl with a ferocious temper who wishes to become a surgeon and is extremely possessive of her boyfriend Murad.
The chemistry between the two is wonderful on-screen and seems effortless. Siddhant Chaturvedi, the actor who played the role of MC Sher and Murad’s mentor, knows the ups and downs of life, as he himself has been raised by an alcoholic father and has been trying to make it as a rapper too. He channelises his anger and grief into his rap and teaches Murad to do the same, asking him not to get affected emotionally by what people say. There is a very powerful scene where Sher shames men for taunting a girl who was performing on stage – through verse and some foot-tapping rhythm.
Safeena has her fair share of struggles too. She belongs to a conservative family. She feels suffocated because all she does is go to college, then to her father’s clinic and come back home. She admits to her parents, much to her mother’s anger, that she wants to enjoy parties, meet people and talk to boys. Her mother keeps pressurising her to get married as quickly as possible.
The movie shows the derogatory condition of the slums in Mumbai, where Murad lives. It shows how completing one’s education is extremely tough and how a streamlined job is all one can go for and choose, ensuring at least a decent meal. It shows the extremes people take to make their lives better, either by resorting to crime or struggling very hard to achieve their dreams. The movie addresses class privilege in a subtle manner – especially contrasted with the character of Sky – a Berkley student who belongs to a wealthy family.
One brilliantly handled aspect of the film is the politics behind who gets to make art and how the entertainment industry caters to what sells.
One aspect of the gender dynamics in Gully Boy proved to be thoroughly disappointing – the relationship between the women in the film. They seemed to be catering to the stereotypes of women being each other’s worst enemies. Safeena’s mother seems hell-bent on ruining her daughter’s life, Safeena violently attacks Sky when she realises that Murad might be attracted to Sky, she also attacks another girl who was flirting with Murad via text, Murad’s grandmother resents her daughter-in-law and seems to think that her abusive son can do no wrong. While delicately portraying the conservative approach to the entertainment industry and chasing after one’s dream, the film should not have casually normalised the trope of women turning on each other.
One brilliantly handled aspect of the film is the politics behind who gets to make art and how the entertainment industry caters to what sells, as opposed to who is making good music. Accessing opportunities in the entertainment industry is one that rests on economic and social capital. Following which, there is yet another barrier in obtaining outreach – which the film encompassed. In such scenarios, one needs a helping hand from someone with economic and social privileges – and Sky turned out to be a much-needed fairy godmother.
Gully Boy features an important message to everyone watching: that one should define their own identity and no one else has the right to define it for you. The movie portrays the traditional conservative outlook as well as a very broad-minded approach to a genre of music like rap. The film dedicates a lot of its narratives into the very definition of music and the standards of music that are enjoyed en-masse. Then diverts into a powerful tale of inequities and how they are harnessed into crafting outstanding art. It is not always required that music that is not mainstream will not be received well by people in general. If only we eliminate barriers for the many aspiring artists and give the general population a chance to receive them.
Featured image used for representational purpose only. Image source: New India Live