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There is storytelling gusto and fun in this Mumbai-set romantic drama teetering cheerfully on the edge of camp, about a young guy called Murad who dreams of being a hip-hop megastar. He lives in the tough slum district of Dharavi with his extended family, who all work hard to make ends meet and take cash from insensitive, selfie-stick-brandishing British and American tourists trooping through their front room on “poverty tours” of the district.
Murad, played by Ranveer Singh, is listlessly taking a business studies course, and coming home every night to the overcrowded family apartment, into which his dad (Vijay Raaz) has brought a second wife, creating all sorts of unease. Murad hangs out with his friends, smoking weed and getting involved in petty crime. He nervously tags along when his dealer pal steals a car, almost out of pure boredom. The rest of the time he earnestly writes rap lyrics in his notebook, in time-honoured 8 Mile style.
Murad has long had a semi-secret romantic understanding with Safeena (Alia Bhatt), his childhood sweetheart, who wears the hijab and is the apple of her respectable father’s eye. Their relationship is a secret, we assume, because he is from the wrong side of the tracks. But Murad is a little afraid of Safeena because, despite her demure image, she has flashes of violent jealousy. Murad’s life is changed when he meets Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) a local hip-hop star, who introduces him to the world of rap battles, and also to Sky (Kalki Koechlin), a wealthy and glamorous white woman with music industry connections. Soon Murad is reborn with the new rapper name “Gully Boy”. But will he forget about his old friends, and maybe break Safeena’s heart?
The set piece and high point of the film is the uproarious video that Murad makes on the tough streets of Dharavi itself, which naturally goes viral and makes him a star – and as we see it being made with establishing shots of the camera crew and the dolly tracks, etc, it is just about plausible, and very enjoyable.
Murad himself is likable precisely because he does not fit the template of the macho, misogynist rapper: he is diffident, hardworking, with a style in personal grooming that could almost be called metrosexual. When his dad is injured at work, and Murad must temporarily take over his job as a chauffeur, ferrying spoilt young women all over town, he does so with a kind of martyred dignity, reflecting on the injustices of class and squirrelling away his observations in his rap notebook.
In the end, Gully Boy runs on very traditional lines, and maybe comes too close to cliche, but is always engagingly dead set on entertainment.
• This article’s headline was amended on 14 February 2019 to remove a description that did not conform to editorial standards.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Gully Boy review – shy rapper from the slums is breakout star | Film