ME – That’s a nice book.?
SHE had buried her face in a fat novel. We were in a flight, SHE was my co-passenger and that was how I chose to kindle our first ever conversation.
SHE – (smiles) I Know.
She adjusted her large round glasses before returning to her novel. She hadn’t answered my question and I had to bother her again.
ME – Oh no.. That was a question..!
SHE – (acting surprised) Ah.. Was it?
ME – Yeah. See. that’s the thing..
SHE – (confused smile) That’s the thing about what?
ME – About spoken English..! It’s different from novel reading. You need to master the art of picking question marks and punctuations..! I asked ” That’s a nice book?” and you thought it was a compliment.
SHE – Ah.. ! All this while I thought mastering the art of basic grammar helps. For instance, had you asked ‘ Is that a nice book?’, it would’ve made both our lives a lot easier.
Was she being sarcastic? I grew confused and forced a smile. I returned to my silence and she returned to her book. After a while..
ME – Is that why you read novels, to learn the grammar?
SHE looked at me and this time the smile had grown fainter.
SHE – Na.. I read novels to kill time. But right now, I don’t think there’s any such need. Because you are anyway killing my time and mood..
Awkward silence. She was about to resume reading.
ME – (confused) Did you mean it in a good way or bad?
SHE – (sarcastic smile) Ah.. I am sorry. That was me offering compliments.
ME – See that’s the problem with mastering the art of grammar. People with poor grammar, the ones like me, can’t sense the mood and understand the meaning..
SHE – Ah..! Perhaps paying attention to the tone and expression of the person would help.
My smile dropped, mind grew numb and repartee went dry. She turned the other way and to the next page of the fat fiction. Or maybe it was a non-fiction.
ME – You are irritated..
SHE – (irked) I am sorry.. Was that a question?
ME – Ah.! No.. Your crash course on grammar has helped. I said ‘You are irritated’ and that was a statement.
SHE – Good.!
ME – What’s good? Me learning the grammar real quick or you looking irritated?
SHE – The fact that you could finally sense that I am getting irritated, is good.
Both of us looked at each other for a while. Odd silence.
The airhostess arrived at our seats with the drinks cart. I grabbed a beer and she an orange juice.
ME – cheers
SHE took a real deep breath and put up a straight face.
SHE – You do know that you have been irritating me, right?
ME – ( stutters) Yeah I guess.!
SHE – And you still continuing to do it, you know what is it called?
I began to think for a while and when nothing crossed my mind…
ME – I don’t know.!
SHE – This is stupid.!!
I returned to silence for a moment and then..
ME – (sighs) Man.! Thank god.! I thought you would mistake it for indecency. You know what, you are not only good at grammar but also good at reading faces.!
SHE – So does that mean you are stupid?
ME – Stupidity is a very subjective thing.
SHE – (irked) Care explaining how?
ME – Do you know that light shifts its path when it travels from one medium to another?
SHE – Yeah I had chapters on ‘refraction of light’ during my primary schooling..
ME – Yeah.. and you do know that light travels at 3Lakh km/sec
SHE – In Vacuum yes. but in air it’s a little less..
ME – Good.! Now see, the person behind us who is overhearing our conversation would think that you are a science genius..
SHE quickly turned back and the passenger behind us panicked. He smiled uncomfortably and rushed to the lavatory. She looked at me and laughed Mildly. I shrugged my shoulders and continued.
ME – But you thinking that I am stupid and yet discussing the high school physics with me. Now I would see that as stupidity.!
Her smile disappeared, but then it returned, rather quick and with far greater intensity. She burst into laughter.
SHE – That was offensive, you should know that.!
ME – Well, I do. But the fact that you are laughing, your right shoulder favouring me now and you no longer crossing your legs, tells me that you are interested in furthering this conversation.
She grew conscious, shrunk her smile and crossed her legs again.
SHE – So you think your poor sense of humor piqued my interest?
ME – (winks) Na.! I think it was the high school physics!
SHE – (smiles) And what else could you decipher about me?
ME – The one common between you and your book.
SHE – (confused)That both of us are fat?
I thought for a while.
ME – Okay. Now I know two common things about you both. One, that you are fat. Tell me the other.
SHE – (laughs) That was offensive again. But anyway.. I’ve no clue.. You tell me.
ME – The names.. I don’t know both your names..!
She laughed like she hadn’t in years and then held the book towards me. The title read ‘Chicko – The street boy’.
ME – That’s a nice name. And what’s the name of the book?
She laughed again, but I chose not to. That was the thumb rule – Don’t laugh at our own jokes.
ME – Ah.! That’s the name of the book.! So what is yours? Would I find it on the first page of the book?
SHE – Why would my name be on the first page of the book?
ME – (curious) So is it there in the last one?
SHE – (laughs) Nooo..! Why would it be there?
ME – I don’t know.! People with large round glasses have this habit of writing ‘THIS BOOK BELONGS TO’ and their name, with a dirty looking signature.
SHE – (laughs) Sorry to disappoint you. But I haven’t picked the bad habit.
ME – (winks) Ah.! I can help you pick habits.!
SHE – That was kind.! But no thanks.!
ME – Lady.! What should I do to know your name?
SHE – May be wait.!
ME – And for how long?
SHE – May be until we cross paths again.
ME – That we would.!
SHE – Was that a prophecy.?
ME – Na. That was me praying! ( laughs mildly) And your grammar wouldn’t help you understand that.!
We smiled and took a sip from our respective drinks can.
ME – So if I decide to write about you, what should I be calling you in the story?
SHE – You could call me ‘SHE’
ME – SHE is beautiful.!
We both smiled.
SHE – And what should I be calling you?
ME – The first adjective that came to your mind, when I first spoke to you.!
Silence…. and then she smiled.
SHE – That was Stupid..!
It was as much blue as much it was green
It first kissed her lips, When she turned a teen..!
With stick turquoise, she shared a great bond
She was no Hermoine, but it was her magic wand..!
Staying in her bag and at times in denim pockets
It knew her joys and those buried secrets..!
Cheeks, goblets and on few lips – she’d left its stain
Few remained beloved and many turned disdain.!
Quivering of her lips, her lust, angst and agony
It hid them all across seasons – hot, cold and rainy..!
It wasn’t just her decor, it was her masking veil
Sometimes strong and sometimes frail…!
What lied beneath the turquoise lipstick, no one knew!
It was a weird color – Few found it glitzy and many just sneered.!
It’s a weird color that lived a mysterious life with her
Gleaming when she smiled and smiling when she cried.!
It stayed in there, for long few weeks
In the grand old keg, with no big leaks..
Five days away from the month of Jan
It was locked and sealed, in a large tin can..!
The pale brown beer soon wanted to leave
But a week from now was new year’s eve..!
With song and dance, under white moon light
The beer was promised a merry night…!
When the frenzy crowd sang ten to one..
A man picked the beer, the lady a bourbon.!
At the sight of her, it bubbled with joy..
She looked as pretty as the lady in troy..!
To propose to her, while she stayed in poise..
The man lacked words and the beer a voice..!
She clinked the glasses and called for cheers
He sipped the beer and it melted his fears..!
He confessed his love, when the light went dim
Was it the man or the beer inside him?
Looking at her, I wonder what he said
But her smile had died and the face turned red..!
While the rest were busy wishing new year
He turned grim and spoke to the beer…!
I liberated you, set you free.!
But you turned sour and you lathered,
spilled my secrets and all over.! – He alleged
What did the beer say?
My life is short, I don’t age like wine
My froth is the key, but the fools do whine..
You set me free, is what you think..
Contrary is the truth, Now shut up and drink..!
Oh Mr. Vagabond, oh dear happiness
While you seek home
Hopping from one heart to another
And sometimes taking shelter in those deluded minds..
If you come across him
Stay there for a little longer,
Stay with him, But not forever..!
Caress him; fill his heart with joy, but not too much..!
He is ambitious
His is a nomad, like you…
Seeking shelter in one dream and another…
Dreams that only grow bigger and better…
Leave him before he grows content
That would be a contempt, but a necessary evil!
Like a horse that has to go through the dressage
He needs to be roughened up, he needs to be broken down, forever and ever…
Oh Mr. Vagabond, oh dear happiness
In every person who has been a part of his life, Leave a part of you..!
May be that’s the purpose of his life…
May be that’s the truth he should be veiled from..!
He is a delirious mind on a perilous path
Let him be in that never ending pursuit of purpose..!
The word ‘success’ is a relative term that comes with varied definitions. For a teacher it could be helping her students pass an exam, for a farmer it could be that first crop of the season, for a poor father it could be educating their kids and for ‘Murad’ it’s rapping his way to break all shackles.
The tagline ‘Apna Time aayega’ resonates with the emotions of every aspirant out there and it’s no surprise that the song has turned into a new anthem of success.
What’s in the story?
Gully boy is your rags-to-RAPS-to-riches. It’s the traditional story of an underdog making his way to the top, that has been encompassed in mumbai’s underbelly. I must admit that the ghettos have never been painted so beautifully on screen.
We have Ranveer as ‘Murad’, who has a thing for writing and an ear for rap. Murad’s father is a driver who curtails his son’s ambitions to roti-kapda-makhaan, for he thinks that reaching for the skies is a thing cut out for the privileged.
The audacious Safeena (Alia Bhat) is his love interest. Her antics supply the doses of humor to make us laugh and smile. And her affection supplies the much needed dose of life to murad.
Winging his dreams is MC Sher – another rapper from the by-lanes of mumbai, who has earned his own bunch of followers. When the underconfident Murad meets Sher, the former discovers his definition of success.
Sher provides rhythm to Murad’s rich poetry and turns him into a rapper – GULLY BOY.
GULLY BOY battling his socio-economics and winning the coveted ‘rap contest title’ forms the crux of the story.
Hip-hop has been an evolving subculture in certain parts of the country. Underground rappers must have been an unheard thing for most of us, until DIVINE and NAEZY rose to certain prominence.
While the movie isn’t their biopic, it has certainly taken a leaf or few from the lives.
Familiarising us with an alien tradition, weaving an underdog story out of it and still making us root for the protagonist is perhaps the biggest win of Zoya and her fellow writer Reema Kagti.
The ghettos of mumbai isn’t a new destination on the maps of Indian cinema. But offering a new visual perspective to it, perhaps, has added to the movie viewing experience. It looks familiar yet new, beautiful yet real.
Montages is Zoya’s forte. Her montages supply powerful photographs of human emotions.
And replicating her style in ZNMD, she has made a wise use of her father’s poetry skills – giving us poems filled with worldly wisdom.
RANVEER, ALIA, MC SHER AND THE ENSEMBLE CAST
We all know that Ranveer is a capsule of volcanic-energy. Burying his off-screen persona behind that baby-innocent face, he pulls of a restrained performance that could be labelled as ‘tremendous’.
In Dil Dhadakne do, he was a rich-kid with a lost voice and in here is a lower middle class guy with a similar conflict. Reflecting melancholy in his eyes throughout the movie, he is endearing as ever. This movie is a valuable addition to his short filmography that boasts of diverse and memorable roles.
Similar thing could be written about Alia. In here, she churns out those giggles, brings out those smiles while playing the second fiddle to Murad.
Camouflaging herself into every character that she plays can’t just be tagged as ‘talent’. There’s a lot of hard work that she puts in there.
Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC sher picks your attention. He stays with you for his effortless performance and because of the beautiful way in which his character has been written.
The cast that also includes his friends Mohin, father Vijay Raaza and his mother other among others, is one of the best cast ensemble in recent past.
NOT JUST ANOTHER MUSIC-MELODY-FEST
A movie about an aspiring musician is bound to be loaded with umpteen songs and this movie is no exception.
But what Zoya has certainly done right, is preserving the historical essence of hip-hop culture. The songs reflect on the socio-economic problems and comes across as a channel to vent out personal frustration. And every rap provides a powerful commentary relevant in present times.
Music has been composed by wide range of musicians, mostly hip-hop rappers. ‘Mere Gully mein’ the original song by DIVINE and NAEZY, has been reprised with similar visuals. May it was the director’s way of paying them a tribute.
I particularly loved the way the background score leans towards classical music in the later part of the second half, culminating in to the beautiful ‘train song’ 🙂
‘Apna Time Aayega’ led to whistles and cheers in my screen.
WHAT ‘I FELT’ COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
Something that was seen in all her movies – ‘Luck By Chance’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ and now ‘Gully Boy’. Her obsession with ‘keeping it all tidy’.
It wouldn’t bother us when we watch a glossy ghetto in foreign movies, but while watching a desi one, may be keeping it a little more rustic would have helped us get soaked in the lower-middle class life. Owing to this fact, his socio-economic problems ‘appeared’ like first-world problems, in spite of being important. (or maybe it was only me)
In her segment of ‘Lust Story’, the platform for empathy was beautifully laid out ‘visually’. In here heavy banking has been done on the performances and the writing.
Also the musical life of Murad rarely sees a failure, except for his first underground rap battle. In the rest other parts of the movie – It’s an upward curve. May be planting few more failures would have added to the emotional quotient.
The forced twist in the auditions – MC Sher’s eviction and Murad’s selection were two distinct and powerful emotions.
I don’t know if it was the execution, editing or writing, but neither the sympathy for MC Sher’s eviction nor the empathy for Murad’s success reached its emotional fulfillment. There was an emotional confusion.
Well as they say, nitpicking is a lot easier job then going out there and shooting your own movie. But my tiny little complaints shouldn’t take away the glory of the movie.
THE FINAL WORD
‘Gully Boy’ is a beautifully packaged movie with traditional narrative but impeccable performances accompanied by powerful music.
Understanding the prose of the rap would be an additional take away, but the underlying story of ‘rags to riches’ is a formula that always works.
If you have an ambitious person in you, go hit the theatres. And while ‘Apna time aayega’ plays, root of the underdog ‘Murad’ and the underdog in ‘you’.
PS: Movies like this should be watched without an interval to savor its beauty.