There is a particular sequence in Gully Boy where Ranveer Singh tells his father, "I would not alter my dreams to match them with my reality. I would rather change my reality". This may as well have been said at the beginning. Or in the middle. Or anywhere. Because this is what sums up the essence of the film. A boy born amid plenty of dirt, dreaming beyond the dirt.
A populated dwelling in Mumbai’s Dharavi (Asia’s largest slum) is home to Murad (Ranveer Singh) and his family. The family is put through a tense patch of time as Murad’s father, usually always dispirited (Vijay Raaz) marries for the second time. Murad, meanwhile, is cupid-struck with Safeena (Alia Bhatt), a young, beautiful and intelligent medical student who is trying to keep their relationship discrete from her old-school, higher caste family. Murad, a guy with fireballs hidden beneath his breath, meets Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi). Sher, a passionate rapper who churns out his essential inspiration from the social-economic injustice all around himself, wants Murad to walk the same path.
With this unfolds a battle of many layers. Murad, who is slowly coming to recognise how much the angry beats excite him, is also a victim to too many tensions. He proxies up as a chauffeur when his father meets with an accident, is made to witness the throbbing abuse that his father subjects his mother to (which eventually leads them to flee from home), and combats his father’s wish of him joining his uncle’s office.
It is then that he also meets Sky (Kalki Koechlin), a music producer who is drawn by Murad’s prowess; and there grows their proximity, leaving Safeena absolutely covetous.
Essentially, it is the encircling duress that cooks Ranveer’s character to perfection. He has assimilated the traits of a slum boy determined to rise above odds but carry the same love for his roots. "I will rebel against power and personalities, all the time. Always, I will," Paul Thomas Anderson once said. For Murad, who doesn't discover but only unleashes the rebel on him, the music isn't a source of gratification. It's his language of rebel. His restrained protest that gradually gets louder, meets Alia Bhatt's honest expressions of love and they together brighten up the screen. Alia is a true performer who has nailed her love, possessiveness, anger, guilt, hurt and happiness.
Siddhant Chaturvedi is the biggest discovery of Gully Boy. With his dominant screen presence, the powerful debutant is here to stay. He's the kind that's never overpowered, never overlooked.
But above everything, this film belongs to Zoya Akhtar. Undoubtedly one of the best minds in the industry right now, Zoya plays like a master on this one. Her characters are strong and stubborn. She makes Sher fix his eyes on Murad and say, "sab comfortable rahenge toh rap kaun banayega?". She makes Murad cross his father's glare and say, "koi dusra mujhe batayega main kaun hai?" Her cinematic language is fixating and truthful. She's the one that borrows elements of a regular film; romance, crisis, disappointment. Yet, her work stands out. And, it will be remembered. This film belongs to Zoya.
As the film began, they said it was a 'shout out to original Gully Boys Divine and Naezy'. In the process, though, Gully Boy escalates being a narrative of class conflict, struggle of existence, passion at its rawest form and above everything, of a person who conquers all of it. And a SHOUT OUT to thousands of Gully Boys we are yet to discover.
Watch Gully Boy, because it’s truthful, important and most importantly, flamboyant on your nerves.