With Gully Boy, director Zoya Akhtar brought hip hop and street rap out of Mumbai's underbelly and introduced it into mainstream cinema. It is an explosively entertaining musical that raps home truths about class, gender and religion divides, telling an underdog story that sticks to formula, yet resonates with an undeniably real energy and touch.
It cracked open a way of seeing a rapper's life in a place like Dharavi that would have ripple effects for decades. Focusing on the life of one gully rapper, Murad (Ranveer Singh), by tracing his growth from his senior year in college, Gully Boy is a portrait of minute-by-minute inevitable struggle and hardships that he must endure to move closer to his goal.
Murad has always dreamed of being a famous rapper and sharing his grooves with the world. Just when it seems that such a fantasy is hopeless, he chances upon MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), who introduces him to the underground rap scene and motivates him to let the volcano inside him erupt. Their encounter incites his desire to pursue his musical goal and embrace a second chance at life.
The best part about the movie is that there is very little time devoted to feeling sorry for these characters. MC Sher is not a particularly likeable gentleman, but he has infectious energy and strength and the people in his life have faith in him. Only through him is Murad able to shine brighter. Together they channel their fury into the beats of Naezy and Divine.
Skillfully evoking the gritty texture and soul of the Dharavi slums, Gully Boy is a passionate drama shot with fluency and style. The film, written by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, also digs deeper, examining how rap music struck a chord with many who felt alienated and marginalised in India, left behind by a classist and casteist society. Vibrant, powerful tracks like Apna Time Aayega, Mere Gully Mein and especially Azadi pointed political commentaries meant to rattle the establishment and the privileged, and attack the systemic inequality.
Moreover, Akhtar marvelously manages to balance gritty realism against creative aspirations as we dive head first into a set up rarely seen on screen.