The Gully Gang

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You would have to be someone living under the rock, if you haven't heard of 'Gully Boy' until now. I watched this movie on the first day of its release and loved it! While the movie is good, I honestly felt that it was a tad bit long, a trim of 15-20 minutes would have made it great I suppose. What works the best for this movie are its characters. Each and every one of them. Very rarely do you come across a movie that has such realistic characters. I have always loved Zoya Akhtar's visualization of her characters. She keeps them real and flawed, that makes them more believable. Be it Konkana's character, Sona and Farhan's character, Vikram from 'Luck By Chance', or Hrithik's character, Arjun and Kalki's character, Natasha from 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara', or all the Mehras and the supporting cast from 'Dil Dhadakne Do', she oozes life into her characters and they can be anyone among you and me. More often than not, that's the beauty of her movies. The characters in it.

Gully Boy's cast is beyond fantastic. This movie probably has one of the best written characters in Hindi cinema and no, it is not Murad. We'll get to that later. Right from the first frame, we see the introduction of the characters with all their eccentricities. It is raw and rustic. There is a certain beauty to that. The movie only does have a handful of characters, but they are the ones who carry the movie on their shoulders and make it what it is. It is pleasantly surprising to watch the hero of the movie be enamored by the supporting actor. As was watching the jealous heroine break a beer bottle on another woman's head! Who writes such characters these days? In today's vain world where everyone carries a coruscating veneer, the Gully gang does come in as a refreshing surprise.

Here's looking at the characters one by one. Well, most of them at least.

Moeen Arif, played by Vijay Varma: 


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He's clearly the hero in his and the movie's introductory scene, even if it features the hero of the movie, Murad in it. Honestly, I didn't realize there was Ranveer in this scene until the rap angle came in, I thought he was just another guy. After all who introduces the hero as a side-kick in a burglary? Moeen is a carefully written character who is all heart. While he uses orphans to peddle drugs, he also provides them a living and shelter. He sees nothing wrong in what he's doing. Being an orphan left to fend for himself, he doesn't want anyone else to go through it. Ignore the means, look at the bright side is what he believes in. While he's jealous of Murad's new "English speaking" gang, he's still the first one to offer help when Murad comes to him. He never gives up on his friends even if it means that he needs to spend some time in prison for them. Moeen is the friend we all need in our life.

Aftab Shakir Ahmed, played by Vijay Raaz: 

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Murad's abusive father is burdened by the responsibilities of his family and yet doesn't think twice while bringing in a younger second wife, probably one who is younger than his first born. Maybe he did this to have a distraction from his sad, mundane life. He's been a driver to the rich all his life and sees no harm in telling his boss to hire his studying son as the driver in his absence when he meets with an accident. A driver's son should be a driver, the societal norm is what he carries within himself. While he catches his young wife enjoying Murad's rap, one can never say if it is jealousy or a father's concern. The tension in this scene is shown brilliantly. He's the father most of us have grown up with. Maybe not all of them have abusive, but we are all familiar with that burden.

Razia Ahmed, played by Amruta Subash: 


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Murad's silently brave mother stands up to her husband often, but ends up failing every single time. She's exhausted living the dull life, but has no where to go. When she finally decides to leave with her children and ends up at her brother's house who looks at them like a burden, all she asks is for some help to get her tiffin business started again. In spite of having a grown up son who can try to make a living for them, she decides to let him live his dream and take the responsibility herself. Mothers being mothers all the time. The scene where she finally breaks down in her son's arms after being beaten by her husband can send a chill down one's spine. I've heard plenty of such real life stories, seen enough of it in movies too. But the way it was shown in this was something else. No background score, just plain painful bawling. You need to be made of stone to not be moved by it.

Sky, played by Kalki Koechlin: 

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Though she has a brief role, she brings out the essence in the movie, the love for art! Rich and rebellious, Sky is studying music in Berkeley and offers to do a collaboration with Murad and MC Sher, just because she likes what they do. She has the funds to sign on someone big, but she chooses them for their originality and rawness. Clearly attracted to Murad, she doesn't shy away from expressing her feelings for him. When he asks her "What do you see in me, don't you know that I'm from the slums?", her response is "So what? You are an artist, that's what matters". One can never say if what she feels for Murad is love, but there is not one ounce of pity in it. I could relate to Sky in more ways than one. When Murad's girlfriend breaks a bottle on her head, she's understands the envy/passion behind it and clearly doesn't want to complain to the cops about it. She doesn't even bring it up with Murad again. Behind the music and the rebellious streak, there is a wonderful human there.

Safeena, played by Alia Bhatt: 

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She gives the term "possessive" a whole new meaning. Standing like a rock beside Murad, Safeena is the supportive girlfriend who even mothers Murad to a certain extent. As childhood sweethearts, she's been a positive influence during Murad's upbringing in a toxic environment. She loves him, she just loves him, no strings attached. She's privileged to a certain extent and yet never pulls Murad down. She's willing to let him have whatever he wants even if it means giving up something of hers. She's realistic and stands by her man no matter what. The movie doesn't show how she met Murad and how they fell in love. There was no need to. Safeena is as much the hero of the movie as Murad. They way she stands up to her prospective mother-in-law or her own parents, shows the fierce feminist in her. The scene where she screams out in joy while watching Murad perform, is so natural. That scream encapsulates her love for Murad, relief for having escaped the eyes of her parents, support for her man and everything else in between. Safeena is as much the girl next door and yet nothing like it. She's the girl everyone should be, minus the crazy possessive streak.

Murad, played by Ranveer Singh: 

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The hero and yet not the one to stand out, no one but Ranveer Singh could have pulled off this role. It took me a while to realize that this was Ranveer Singh. We are used to seeing him all bright and blingy, but here he was, just ordinary! It takes one time to get used to Murad, only because you know him better as the loud, boisterous man playing him, but once you do, you see the young guy burdened by everything around him. Being a part of a unhealthy household and trying his best to make a life for himself, everyone of us have had a Murad inside us sometime during our life. The scene where he measures the dimensions of Sky's lavish bathroom, clearly comparing it to the size of his entire house, says a lot even without a word being uttered. Burdened by his big dreams and having no clue how to realize it, his silence speaks more than his words. The scene where he's driving his rich employer who is in tears and yet not being able to do anything about it, talks about the divide status brings in our country. When his uncle tells him, "Tu naukar ka beta hai, naukar hi banega (You are the son of a servant, you will be a servant)", he fails to believe it. The idea is to not have him believe it, the whole idea was for him to question it and he does that so well. The talk that he has with his father about dreams and reality is something every kid needs to hear. Murad is as real as a character can get.

MC Sher, played by Siddhant Chaturvedi: 

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No doubts for guessing that he's my favorite character from the movie and MC Sher is one of the best written characters in Hindi cinema since a long time. He clearly has the best introduction scene in the movie with the song 'Bhaag, bhaag Sher aaya', where he tells off a guy for being a chauvinist in the way he knows it best, by rapping! This scene needs a applause every time it is aired. A local rapper, secure with himself, he takes Murad under his wing and nurtures him. It would have been very easy for him to just take Murad's words and make a song out of it, but he's the one who gives Murad the confidence that he can rap. His loves for his sneakers is as evident as his pride when he sees Murad succeed. When he doesn't make it to the finale of a rap battle, but Murad does, there is not a hint of jealousy or anger in him. He's so genuinely happy for Murad that one cannot help but fall in love with him that very instant. Siddhant Chaturvedi is brilliant as MC Sher and does total justice to a role that could have gone either way for him. MC Sher can teach us so much about life. He's the guiding light we all need in our lives.

Gully Boy may not be one of the greatest movies of all time, but it does give us some commendable characters that will stay with us for a long time. It is time for the fake, over the top, immature characters to step out. Let's make room for the real. Let's make room for the unfiltered, raw human characters. It is now time for the Gully Gang!

18 comments:

  1. Absolutely brilliant review of the movie and I agree with every word. I was pleased with the way the characters were given their due and how they shone in every frame. That understated effect is something else. Putting together this film is a tour de force and one I am glad to have watched and enjoyed. So so so well written. You've captured it all so eloquently.

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    1. Thank you my dear Shy! Such brilliant characters deserve some good credit.

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  2. Ok I think I have been living under the stone. I mean I have heard about Gully Boy but not really heard it. But I do agree that I like Zoya's movies and characters. So, will make sure to watch this one too now that I have an insight into the characters from you.

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    1. Please do watch this one, Naba. Such realistic characters seldom come your way in Hindi cinema these days.

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  3. Brilliant recap of all the characters. Needless to say, I loved each one. The movie for me was spectacular and so unexpectedly. I did not expect it to be so good. So many life lessons and that it was based in Bombay was even more special. The lingo, the locations all brought back so many memories. Scenes like that poverty tour that happens so frequently in Dharavi and how Ranveer raps to the amazement of the white guy was chuckle worthy. Alia was badass and lovably so though her madness did scare me. The movie was so real. For me a big plus was that I did not know that we had a thriving rap scene in Hindi in India. The lyrics were outstanding and the movie actually moves forward with those rap songs and battles. I could easily watch this movie again definitely with my kids. Coz it is a story of the win of an underdog, of triumph of a dream, of finding a mentor when one least expects and of realizing the value of never giving up on one's dreams. So pleased to have watched it with Shailaja. That enhanced the experience for me. Wish you had also come with us.

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    1. I so wish I could have joined too, but it was really far for me.

      All scenes were so brilliantly conceived in this one. Every scene, every dialogue, every lyric made so much sense and did total justice to the movie overall.

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  4. Wow! I did see the trailer of the film some days ago, and was so taken by every character in it. And your review, my dear, is the kind of reviews they should print in newspapers! Why don't you try sending them some samples? Seriously, the kind of high funda English those reviewers use in the papers, there are so many words I fail to understand, because of which the review fails to make me wonder when I will watch the film! And, your reviews make me want to go watch the film ASAP!
    Try toh kar! <3 You are too good!

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    1. Comments like these are what we writers live for! Thank you so much, Shilpa for being so wonderfully kind :)

      Do watch this movie, it sure is worth it.

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  5. I'm coming back to read this properly. Anniversary day, so bit of a scuttle. :) Bookmarking it till then. Hugs

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    1. Happy Anniversary to you and your beloved, Natz! <3

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  6. Wow! I confess that I haven’t yet seen this movie but now I want to so bad. Your review has made the characters come alive in your words. Loved it and them all.

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  7. You know what? When I heard the title of the movie, I was like, meh! It’s going to be some stupid cricket movie. (Yeah, I don’t watch movie trailers or listen to music releases. Moving on.). A couple of days before the movie released I saw an article titled The Real Gully Boy’s and realised that this was a movie on the Indian rap scene. I watched it on the first day too, and I absolutely loved it! The characters are so relatable and raw and real! And I adored MC Sher - that’s a true artist; someone who lifts up others around him. And I adored Ranveer and Alia’s relationship - there were many parallels there with my relationship with the husband too ;-)

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    1. Hahaha, cricket movie? That's a first :)

      MC Sher is so adorable, right? Such a brilliant character.

      Hahaha, you share such a relationship with your husband? God bless you guys :D

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  8. Amazing review....zoya akhtar should read this ....it seems to be resonating in words what she tries to show on the screen ....have not seen the movie but after reading this i think i should ....

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    1. Thank you Jayshree. I hope she does too. Do watch the movie.

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  9. Oh I need to watch this film. It sounds FANTASTIC.

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