Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby’s Gully Boy (UA) is the story of an aspiring rap singer and his journey from rags to stardom. It borrows liberally from the life stories of rap singers Naezy and Divine.
Murad (Ranveer Singh) is a lower middle-class boy who studies in college and lives in a chawl with his father (Vijay Raaz), mother (Amruta Subhash), younger brother, Suhail (Svar Kamble), and grandmother (Jyoti Subhash). His father is a driver of a rich family. The father wants Murad to also take up some small job so that he can supplement the family income. However, Murad’s heart is in rap songs. He dreams of becoming a rap singer but doesn’t know how to go about it. He writes his own songs and is very passionate about rapping. His father hates Murad’s passion and can’t see eye to eye with him on that. In fact, the father asks Murad to fill in for him as driver when he himself meets with an accident which sees his leg in cast. Murad obliges but hates the very thought of serving someone in this fashion. So he continues to pursue his dream, now with rapper-friend MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi).
Murad is in love with Safeena (Alia Bhatt) who is studying to be a doctor. Safeena is also mad about Murad and can well understand his passion. Safeena’s parents (Sheeba Chaddha who is a housewife, and Ikhlaque Khan who is a doctor) are unaware of Safeena’s affair.
Even while Murad’s struggle is on, his father marries another lady, Parveen (Tina Bhatiya), and gets her to stay in the tiny house, with the rest of the family. This frustrates Murad even more. Anyway, things are looking up on the professional front as Sky (Kalki Koechlin), a music composer, collaborates with Murad and MC Sher.
There comes a stage when Murad and Safeena drift apart due to differences. Meanwhile, Murad is working hard to qualify for the finals in the rap singing contest which will win him Rs. 10 lakh in prize money and give him a chance to meet a famous international rap singer. Along the way, Murad is forced to leave home with his mom and brother. His maternal uncle, Ateeq (Vijay Maurya), tries to get him a respectable job but is Murad interested at all?
What happens finally? Does Murad take up a nine-to-five job or does he step into his father’s shoes or does he become a rap singer? Does he qualify for the finals and win the competition? Do Murad and Safeena patch up? What had led to Murad and Safeena’s break-up?
The film’s story, inspired by the lives of two famous rap singers, has been written by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar. The story is penned in such an extraordinary fashion that it has the audience hooked on to it right from the word ‘go’. The characters are so real and their aspirations, so relateable that the story, in a way, becomes everyone’s story. The hookline – Apna time aayega – is a fantastic one because it has been an aspirational hookline for every human being at some point or the other. In that sense also, the story becomes the story of every person watching the film.
Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar deserve distinction marks for an outstanding screenplay which completely and absolutely consumes the audience. The screenplay has layers and each layer is splendid. Murad’s family drama has a lot of meat. Safeena’s family story is also extremely interesting. Murad and Safeena’s love story has a lot of depth, humour and emotions. Murad’s journey, of course, is simply remarkable. The sub-plots in the drama are several and each of them has been so wonderfully written that one can’t help but marvel at the genius of the two writers. The screenplay may not make the viewers cry but it does get a tear to the eyes of the weak-hearted while filling the strong-hearted with emotions. The humour is simply delightful. Yes, a film about rap singers and singing and with 17-18 rap songs may not appeal to a section of the over-50 (age group) audience but even they would like the other dramas in the screenplay. Frankly, one was not aware of the popularity of the rap culture in India till the first trailer of this film was out – after which, it seemed as if Indians, especially the youth, have had an affair with rap singing since ages! In other words, there may be some who may be sceptical about an entire film on rap artistes but once in the film, many among those will take to it like fish to water. The climax looks abrupt but the tying up of loose threads in the end rolling titles makes up for the sudden ending.
Vijay Maurya deserves high praise for his mind-blowing dialogues. He has used the language which lower middle-class Muslims use, complete with the accent and all. Not just that, his dialogues are so weighty that they become a major asset of the film.
Ranveer Singh lends tremendous energy to the character of Murad. He does a splendid job and comes out with flying colours. Kudos to him for looking every inch like a lower middle-class chawl-residing Muslim boy raring to pursue his passion, and his awkwardness as a fresher is lovely. He delivers an award-winning performance and proves that no role is difficult for him. This actor is a strong candidate for superstardom! Alia Bhatt shines in the role of Safeena, which she plays with élan. Although the story revolves around Ranveer Singh, there are six to seven scenes which belong to Alia and she stands out so extraordinarily in them that everyone else pales into insignificance. This girl is just in a different league altogether. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that her’s, too, is an award-worthy performance. She looks very beautiful also. Siddhant Chaturvedi looks handsome and is absolutely first-rate as MC Sher. He is so endearing in his debut role that girls will go weak in the knees. Kalki Koechlin is excellent as Sky. Although she has a brief role, she has a terrific impact on the audience. Vijay Raaz lends a great deal of authenticity to his character. He performs beautifully as Murad’s father and looks the character. Amruta Subhash is lovely as Murad’s suffering mother. Sheeba Chaddha has her moments as Safeena’s mother. Ikhlaque Khan is restrained in the role of Safeena’s father. Vijay Maurya stands his own as Murad’s maternal uncle, Ateeq. Vijay Verma is natural to the core as Moeen. Nakul Roshan Sahdev is very good as Salman. Rahil Gilani makes his presence felt as Rishi. Jyoti Subhash (as Murad’s grandmother), Tina Bhatiya (as Murad’s stepmother, Parveen), Rohini Ramnathan (as Murad’s maternal aunt), Svar Kamble (as Suhail), and Malika Singh (as Suhani) provide excellent support. Srishti Shrivastava (as Albina), Ved Thapar (as Sher’s dad), and the rest are also lovely.
Zoya Akhtar’s direction deserves distinction marks. She needs to be lauded for having the courage to make a commercial film on rap culture and making such a wonderfully entertaining film. Her narration keeps the audience totally engrossed. She will win a lot of praise for her direction. Music is excellent. ‘Apna time aayega’, ‘Mere galli mein’, ‘Doori’, ‘Azadi’, ‘Asli hip hop’ and ‘Kab se kab tak’ are excellent songs. ‘Apna time aayega’, of course, has already become a rage. Although all the music directors and lyricists deserve pats on their backs, the ones who stand out are music directors Spitfire, Divine, Naezy, Sez On The Beat, Rishi Rich, Major C, Dub Sharma, Ankur Tewari, Karsh Kale, Ace and Ishq Bector, and lyricists Spitfire, Divine, Naezy, Javed Akhtar, Dub Sharma, Kaam Bhari, Ankur Tewari and Ace. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics of Murad’s poems deserve special mention. Bosco-Caesar’s choreography is fantastic. Background music (by Karsh Kale and Savage Audio Collective) is terrific. Jay Oza’s cinematography is brilliant. Manohar Verma and Sunil Rodrigues’ action scenes and stunts are lovely. Suzanne Caplan Merwanji’s production designing is of a high standard. Nitin Baid’s editing is super-sharp.
On the whole, Gully Boy is a blockbuster. Its hookline, ‘Apna time aayega’, is so identifiable that it will resonate with the audience. There would be a section of the audience which may find the rap songs too much to handle but there will be a huge chunk of young viewers who would go bonkers over the film. Repeat audiences will be aplenty. Yes, the film may not work in several centres but its business from the big and medium cities will be so huge that it will turn out to be a richly rewarding enterprise.