Gully Boy: A Bollywood gem worth watching

Anabel Sanchez

Online Editor


What happens when you combine catchy Hindi hip hop, two major Bollywood stars, and a masterful supporting cast within a story about the disenfranchised?

Sheer cinema brilliance.

Gully Boy, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival February 9, is helmed by dynamic Hindi film director Zoya Akhtar. The film is inspired by the lives of real Mumbai rappers, Divine and Naezy.

At its core, it’s a coming of age story about a young Muslim man named Murad, played by Ranveer Singh, who is struggling to find his way in life and fighting to dream for more.

Murad lives in Dharavi, a slum in Mumbai, India. Inhabited by a marginalized population and suppressed by the caste system, Dharavi becomes a hotbed for Hindi rap where the youth took their frustrations and formed it into art (just as U.S. rappers did in the 1980s).

Singh demonstrates his wide acting range in this film with one of the most delicate and nuanced performances of his 9-year career. Murad will have you laughing one moment with his brief instances of naïveté and crying the next as he is relentlessly challenged.

Along the way, he discovers his true talents, penning socially conscious lyrics to the rhythm of infectious beats. However, he also experiences a troubled home-life, which becomes more severe once his abusive father brings home a second wife.

This is further intensified by the tightly confined space in which they live—a choice that was excellently made by Akhtar. It’s as if there’s nowhere else for their emotions to go, and so they bounce off the individuals in the home.

The pain that Murad’s mother endures and the helplessness on Murad’s face never fails to strike an emotional chord. Dialogue writer and actor, Vijay Maurya, who plays Murad’s uncle in the film penned some of the hardest-hitting dialogue ever heard in mainstream Bollywood in recent times.

When in a heated argument Murad’s father takes a nasty pot shot at his mother—making a cruel reference to their sex life—she quickly replies if he has ever learned how to touch her.

These are truly bold words coming from a female Muslim character in a mainstream Hindi film. The wail of utter despair she lets out afterwards will have your heart breaking in two.

Murad’s girlfriend, played brilliantly by Alia Bhatt, is a dynamic counterpart to him. Feisty but loving, she will do anything to support him. His friends Moeen and MC Sher, played by standouts Vijay Varma and Siddhant Chaturvedi, were wonderfully memorable as well.

The characters were so effortlessly fleshed-out that they were all worthy of their own films.

Apart from the story content, the visuals are also a treat. Akhtar is known for her distinctively sleek aesthetic in films. She makes the slums of Dharavi look beautiful in their own way, even in the bleakest of surroundings.

At 2 hours and 33 mins, the movie is quite lengthy. But at the same time, it’s damned good, that you won’t even feel the length. This is not your average Bollywood movie. It transcends star names, typical Bollywood cameos and throw-away party songs.

This is a film made of profound substance that was carefully crafted to shine a light on an often excluded, talented people, all while telling a stirring, motivational story about a boy who becomes man.

And you don’t need to know Hindi or be all that familiar with Indian cinema to fall in love with this one. It’s a movie with a message that regardless of whether you like hip hop or not, is universal: never be afraid to turn your dreams into reality.

Image: Official poster featuring Ranveer Singh. Photo courtesy of

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