Mumbai University announced a course in Hip Hop studies for aspiring rappers. Divine and Naezy became overnight sensations. Actors Siddhant Chaturvedi and Vijay Verma were chased by film journalists. Gully Boy impressed critics and audiences alike; India sent it as the official entry in the Best Foreign Language category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The fact that this movie won 13 Filmfare Awards should, therefore, come as no surprise.
The movie is loosely based on the lives of rappers Divine and Naezy. In terms of box office numbers, movies like Uri: The Surgical Strike, Kabir Singh, and War marched ahead of Gully Boy, while it earned ₹238.16 crore and managed to remain one of the top 10 highest-grossing Hindi films of the year.
It would be fair to say that Zoya Akhtar’s sixth directorial venture managed to tick almost all the right boxes.
Dharavi, for instance, where the lead protagonist Murad (Ranveer Singh) resides is captured beautifully by cinematographer Jay Oza. Murad’s colleague Sky’s (Kalki Koechlin) house is shown in clear contrast with his ramshackle house underlying the fact that music connects individuals across classes.
Subtlety is the new classic
The 153-minute film is dotted with many such ordinary scenes; subtly proving significant points. Unlike the usual Hindi film romances, college sweethearts Murad and Safeena’s (Alia Bhatt) equation is relatable and no time is wasted to highlight the possessive nature of the girlfriend even adding a dash of evil humour.
True, Gully Boy is about a slum resident penning down poems, listening to international artists and climbing up the ladder to become a successful rapper himself; but one cannot miss how an ambitious Safeena fights her own battle against her mother to continue her medical studies.
Murad, on one hand, struggles to explain his art to his father, while Safeena’s mother doesn’t realise how attending college and becoming a doctor is more important for her daughter than participating in family weddings and meeting prospective grooms.
Consumerism is the new villian
Consumerism is a villain and Akhtar finds a way to reflect this angle. On a night out, Murad and Sky repaint and tag billboards with skinny models and fairness cream ads across the streets of Mumbai.
There’s no politician and no mention of politics yet the track Jingostan with words like Do hazar athra hai desh ko khatra hai touches a relevant subject, lynching. All credits to writers Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar and dialogue write Vijay Maurya, the scenes never get dramatic enough at any point to become filmy.
Each supporting character, starting from the caring mother to angry father to the troublemaker-cum-helpful friend and the unselfish mentor MC Sher added different layers to the story.
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Chaturvedi and Verma, two brilliant actors who deserve to act in more movies, shone in their respective parts. Vijay Raaz as Murad’s father, stage actors Amruta Subhash as his mother and Jyoti Subhash as the whining grandmother fit into their parts with ease (Amruta and Jyoti are daughter and mother, respectively in real life).
Was it necessary to paint Singh’s face to make it look darker? The matter is debatable. Is it inspired or copied from Eminem-starrer 8 Mile? Some plots are same, it is undeniable, but the film can’t be called a copy.
Striking the right cords
Try to recall when was the last time a movie got so many things right — a love story with perfect chemistry between the actors, strong female characters, soulful tracks, and meaningful lyrics, social messages without deviating from the script, and phenomenal acting — Gully Boy hits it out of the park in every department.
After winning 13 Filmfare Awards — best film, best director, best actor, best actress, best-supporting actor, best-supporting actress, best screenplay, best dialogue, best music director, best lyricist, best production design, best cinematography, best background score — Gully Boy has faced immense flak on social media, in particular.
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Riding high on the nationalism wave, Kesari — which depicts how 21 Sikh soldiers in British Army fought 10,000 Afghan warriors at the Battle of Saragarhi — lyricist Manoj Muntashir announced that he will not attend award shows till his “last breath” as the jury “failed to honour the words which made Indians cry” referring to his nominated song Teri Mitti.
Social media was abuzz with many voices pouring in support of Muntashir. #BoycottFilmfare and #BoycottFilmfareAwards remained the top trends on the microblogging website Twitter for many hours.
Actress Yami Gautam also expressed her disappointment with a long post on social media as she failed to make it to the nomination list for her performances in Bala and Uri: The surgical strike.
In the past, actors like Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan, Kangana Ranaut, and Avinash Tiwari and musician Amaal Mallik have raised pertinent questions on the rules, procedures and methods followed or not followed to give nominations and awards in these events. There are flaws in the process, there are unanswered questions, and there are differing opinions, but this doesn’t change the fact that all these 13 winners equally contributed to deliver a gem of a movie.
Article 15 and Sonchiriya, two other remarkable films of the year, rightly deserved the Critics Best Film award. Interestingly, they weren’t nominated in the Best Film category along with Gully Boy and vice-versa.
Many years ago, Farhan Akhtar made his directorial debut with Dil Chahta Hai, a super-hit movie. It is still praised, watched, and discussed. Not only did it give Saif Ali Khan’s career a new lease of life, but it also introduced the Hindi film audiences to a new style of filmmaking.
The idea wasn’t fresh, there were stories on friendship even before, but the narration and characterisation made the movie believable and more such watchable ventures were delivered by Hindi filmmakers post-DCH’s success.
Now, it is Farhan’s younger sister’s turn to teach a few lessons on how to make movies based on real individuals. Inspired by true events, Saand ki Ankh, Kesari and Super 30, released in the same year, did decent business, however, they failed to garner attention like Gully Boy.
A string of biopics in the making like 83 (Kapil Dev and the 1983 Cricket World Cup-winning team’s story), Thalaivi (J Jayalalithaa’s biopic), and Shabaash Mithu (Mithali Raj’s biopic), Shakuntala Devi (the maths wizard’s biopic), and Gangubai Kathiawadi (sex worker-cum-mafia queen Ganga Harjeevan Das Kathiawadi’s biopic) can only hope to emulate the success of Zoya Akhtar’s film.
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(The writer is a Bangalore-based journalist who pens features and reports on movies, politics, and human interest issues.)
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not reflect the views of The Federal.)