February 14, 2019
Based on real-life Dharavi rappers Divine and Naezy, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy cements Mumbai’s underground hip hop in the mainstream Bollywood stratosphere. Actor Ranveer Singh, after a string of operatic performances (Padmaavat and Simmba), returns to his more subdued work à la Lootera. Akhtar wields Singh’s soft charm as a weapon, in order to create her fictionalized Naezy.
The demure Murad, aka Gully Boy — an artist with big dreams, confined by predicament — battles the rigid economic hierarchies that divide both Indian social strata and hip hop artistry. Murad resents popular tracks about cars and yachts — not only for their vacuousness but also because they represent the callous hegemony he straddles as a personal chauffeur. The only way for him to make it is to navigate that same world: many of the rappers he battles are children of privilege.