Super Deluxe Movie Review: Sink into the ethereal blissfulness

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Source: Twitter | Gopi Prasannaa

Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong)

Greatness of Director Thiagarajan Kumararaja, who garnered towering praise for his debut film Aaranya Kaandam, was well-known. His second film Super Deluxe is beyond greatness. It’s blissful and enlightening. After a thrilling and exceptional neo-noir gangster movie like Aaranya Kaandam, Thiagarajan has taken several leaps forward since then and there’s an unprecedented masterclass shown by him through his latest film. Super Deluxe leaves you with thoughts – about life, our existence, the perception of normalcy and questions over what is considered right (or wrong).

Super Deluxe has three disconnected stories (Not to forget that it is powered by super-stylish background score of Yuvan Shankar Raja). When I say disconnected, it means that they have no real dependence on one another and the events in each of those stories are taking place without any relation to the other. But somehow their worlds collide at some point and alter the lives of characters involved completely. There’s a lot happening in these stories that keep you on your edges throughout the movie. A small kid named Rasukutty (Ashwanth Ashokkumar), in the first story, is excited to see his father returning home after several years. And when his father returns, he is, now, revealed to be a transwoman named Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi) which leaves his wife Jyothi (Gayathrie’s dejected and shocked countenance in this role moves you) in utter shock. The second story shows a group of teenage boys adroitly planning for a movie time together. Why is planning required in the first place just to watch a movie? They are planning to watch a porn movie and revel in sexual pleasures that they will obtain from it. The ultimate revelation as they play the movie on television is that the actress turns out to be one of the boys’ mother. The third story shows that Vaembu (Samantha Akkineni) has slept with her ex-boyfriend in her home and he has died just after the sex. While she is frozen with horror, she looks out from her window and sees that her husband Mugilan (Fahadh Faasil) is returning home on his motorcycle. The intriguing start to all of these three stories sets the wheels turning right from the incipient stage. The film never allows you to slip into a train of thoughts and its interesting turn of events keeps you engrossed throughout.

The entire first half of the movie is evenly mixed with both the seriousness and the humour. It is only in the second half that the gravity of those grave situations starts to overpower the hilarity attached to them. Take the case of transwoman Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi has outstandingly shed his masculine nature and has lent a terrific performance). It is hilarious when Rasukutty repeatedly runs to the door to see if his father has arrived. And when he does arrive, Rasukutty’s grandfather, funnily, due to his old age, has no clue who that is. Even though Rasukutty accepts his father for what he is now, the outside world has not welcomed Shilpa with open arms. Shilpa is sexually abused by a police officer Berlin (Bagavathi Perumal is amazing in this character) and even mocked at by school children (A direct potshot at the importance of sex education for children). In another story, there are comedic instances where Vaembu openly confesses that she had intercourse with the man who died immediately after sex and her husband Mugilan tries to take a look at dead man’s penis to figure out if that’s the difference between him and the dead man. Later, a threat from police officer Berlin and his demand for intercourse with Vaembu makes you uncomfortable. In the story involving the teenage boys, their meet up with the boss of goons and their pursuit of money remains one of the most side-splitting instances in the film. But one of the boys is admitted in a hospital and it’s agonising to see his mother Leela (Ramya Krishnan), a former porn actress, begging to Doctor to start the surgery. It shows the horrifying reality of some of the hospitals taking no interest in saving lives but to rake in money. The situation gets worsened when Arputham (Mysskin), the religious and superstitious father of the dying boy, takes his son to his place of worship in the hope of saving his life (You really get annoyed by this superstitious Arputham character. That’s how well this character is written).

I was mesmerised by the camera work and the detailed shots. Shots captured using still camera were phenomenal (As Shilpa is strolling along the street with Rasukutty, in one scene, the colourful posters on the wall makes up for a picturesque shot). Sometimes, the background scenes play important role in defining a moment and even explain so much about the situation a character is in (Rasukutty suddenly gets lost and Shilpa frantically searches about the street. At this instant, we see ‘Real World, Magic Event’ scribbled on a wall). Even the depiction of life in different forms enthrals you. No matter how much trouble you are in, there is a life beyond your purview which keeps moving (Vaembu and Mugilan are caught in a complicated situation. A dead man is kept inside their refrigerator. Some guests are sitting in their living room. Amidst all this, the camera closely focuses on the ants busily crawling up the wall).

With the representation of lust, infidelity, extraterrestrial life, superstition, sexual abuse, sex education, dejection, merriment, harsh reality and everything in between, Super Deluxe has a much bigger thing to convey. And in what style! The teenage boys go to a cinema hall to watch a porn movie called ‘Super Deluxe’ and it’s through this adult film, we get to look at a much bigger picture of life as a guy narrates in a preachy and quirky tone. This is a film where Thiagarajan questions what is considered a ‘normal’ life and what should be done (or not to be done) so as to be accepted by society. We get to realise that we all are one. This is one world. Super Deluxe is the greatest Tamil-language Indian film I have ever witnessed. I can even go on to say that it is one of the best films of all time.

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Mere Pyare Prime Minister Movie Review: An open letter magnifying the problems of lack of public toilets in India and the rape cases

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Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.

It’s the festival of Holi and, as is customary, Sargam (Anjali Patil) has drunk bhang which is a drink made out of cannabis. Sargam is joined by the entire group of people who live in this basti (Settlement). With everyone having fallen in the mood of celebration, the camera zigzags around to show them enjoying in this festive time, particularly the focus being given on Sargam and her love-interest Pappu (Niteesh Wadhwa). It, then, cuts to wee hours of the morning on the next day. It is still dark as the women in the basti go out together to defecate in the open. While they are heading back to their home, they meet Sargam who has overslept and couldn’t join them. Sargam assures them that she will be fine alone. A woman going out alone at night or in the wee hours, especially in India, is considered so dangerous with the reason being the cruel act that ensues at that spot involving Sargam. She becomes the victim of rape with a police constable acting as the guardian for such heinous crime. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Mere Pyare Prime Minister is a story where Kanhu (Om Kanojiya), an eight-year-old son of Sargam, writes a letter to the Prime Minister, after what happened to his mother, requesting him to build a toilet.

The movie is an open letter to the administration raising concerns over the dearth of public toilets in India. And the best part is that there are no preachy instances to make us understand the gravity of the issue. Kanhu builds a toilet, all by himself, using just a few wooden pieces and a cloth. He, then, takes his friends to a public works department office and has to confront arrogant and unhelpful officials. He, even, travels all the way to the Prime Minister’s office with just a couple of kids to give him company for handing over a handwritten letter that innocently describes the issues faced by him and his mother (All it takes is an effort to make this world better and Rakeysh chooses to educate us through a kid). There is no uncertainty with regards to whether the letter to PM will bring about the desired change. It is just a matter of time when we finally get to see that the PM has stepped in to construct the toilets. It is more about the trauma that women like Sargam go through and how significant the issue is.

Devoid of basic amenities and living amongst the dirt, Sargam and Kanhu can live so happily. This is like an in-your-face answer to the people who crib about small things when there are bigger problems in the world. I loved the scene where Kanhu and Sargam sing “Aati Kya Khandala” before Sargam puts him to sleep. The mother-son relationship is further exemplified when Kanhu returns home after handing over the letter to PM’s office and says, “Maa ke liye kuch bhi kar sakta hoon” (I can do anything for Mother) and all he wants her to do in return is to cook the food spicier. In another scene, Kanhu and his friends are having fun and betting each other on some silly games while defecating in open. There is fun in filth. So, there is definitely a hope for goodness even in troubled times.

It was fantastic to see the way the importance of sexually transmitted disease (STD) is exhibited. It happens through a mature love angle between Sargam and Pappu. He says, in a scene, to a distraught Sargam that he thought about it a lot and he thinks it is better if she undergoes a medical-checkup for STD. He, also, had to say to the nurse in the clinic that the test is for him and asks Sargam to get herself tested as well since she is here. It was brilliantly portrayed to showcase a society where a sexual problem with a man is not as big a deal as it is when the same concerns a woman.

There is not much of a romance going on between Sargam and Pappu as that’s not the main focus of the movie too. But on a few occasions, when ladies in the neighbourhood vouch for him or jokingly say if she slept with him on the night of Holi, there is always a feeling that they will get together. And we want them to be getting along eventually. There have been many marriage proposals, even unique ones. But the mutual agreement between both of them, putting forth their consent for marrying each other without neither of them actually proposing with a straightforward question, is one of those scenes you remember for a long time.

Although I revelled in the scenes where Kanhu and his friends end up selling condoms or asking for donations using fake causes, the narrative was such that there was no conclusive thought given to all of that. They get caught by the police but when Sargam asks Kanhu to apologise to God for doing such illegal things, all he says is that he won’t say sorry to someone who didn’t save you while you became the victim of rape. Kids in the slums shouldn’t beg or steal money no matter what. Nothing of that sort could be inferred in this film. That’s the only weakling I felt in an otherwise spectacularly told story, with credible performances from Anjali Patil and Om Kanojiya in particular, that magnifies the problems of lack of public toilets in India and the rape cases.

Photograph Movie Review: Serenity at its peak

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The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

A long shot shows Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as always) walking on a footover bridge as the traffic on the roads below is crawling along. There is a placidity and quietude about him even as he is deluged with loud honks of the vehicles. This is the very first scene of the movie. Even though it is ephemeral, it is also a moment to be captured on camera. A photograph of this scene will bring back the memories of solitude and quietness amidst the noise of everyday hustle and bustle. Such is the beauty of a photograph that Rafi, who earns a living by taking instant photos of tourists outside the Gateway of India, uses to great effect. The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

Rafi and Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) are like two different ends of a thread. Circumstances are such that the two ends meet each other in the form of a knot. But the knot is not tight enough and is in the position of getting disentangled anytime.

Rafi’s stubborn grandmother (It must be said that Farrukh Jaffer’s authentic performance lent great weight to this grandmother character) is trying to get him married. Around the same time, he meets Miloni with his usual selling point when he says that “saalon baad jab aap ye photo dekhengi madam, toh aapko aapke chehre pe yahi dhoop dikhai degi…” (You will be able to see this sunshine on your face when you will take a look at this photo after several years). The story begins when Miloni agrees to act as his girlfriend in front of Rafi’s grandmother and a feeling of love and affection starts growing between them.

It is the bond between Rafi and Miloni that remained the standout feature of this film for me. Rafi, while writing a letter to his grandmother, writes that Miloni is like the first rain in the fields. It is, also, lovely to see Miloni’s slight hints to her fondness for him during her interactions with Rafi’s grandmother. The charming interaction between them when they sit opposite to each other in a tea shop exchanging their childhood secret is so wonderful (While Rafi reveals why he always goes for a kulfi at the end of a month, Miloni narrates her love for a beverage named ‘Campa Cola’ that is not in business anymore). When Rafi reaches just in a knick of a time to take Miloni away from her teacher (Jim Sarbh), who was trying to force her to come with him for a cup of coffee, she, later, innocently expresses her relief of being in Rafi’s company again as she utters, “Tum theek ho?… Main bhi theek hoon” (Are you fine?… I’m also fine).

The life of Rafi and Miloni, however different they are, seems to have one thing in common – wedding. Rafi dodges a question like “What sort of girl do you want?” from a shopkeeper. Even the news of his grandmother’s decision to not to take her medicines until he agrees to marry reaches the likes of taxi drivers and the kulfi (a type of dessert) sellers who know him. Miloni, on the other hand, is a bright student, belongs to an affluent family and her parents are looking for a perfect match. She is living life by the rules laid down by her parents. All she has to do is study well and get married to a guy who they think to be her best match. She has no say in the choice of her own dress (In a shop, she nods in agreement to whatever dress her family chooses for her). She silently eats her food and responds with a feeble voice that all is well when enquired by her father. The best portrayal of suppression of her feelings comes to light when the camera focuses on her feet, which is hesitantly moving, and we hear the voices of her parents discussing her future.

I was moved by Miloni’s character and a lot of credit goes to Sanya Malhotra for lending innocence and gentleness to this character with aplomb. Miloni’s revelation that her photo, taken by Rafi, showed a much happier version of her and a more beautiful one too, is telling evidence of how, in reality, she has to be content within the constraints of her life. In another instance, when Miloni expresses that she wants to live in a village and work in the fields, we understand how eagerly she wants to be liberated of her confinements.

As the movie neared its end, Rafi tells Miloni, while sitting outside a movie theatre, that all films have a similar tale where a man and a lady love each other but get separated due to man’s poor financial condition and the pressure exerted on the lady from her family. Somehow, the ending of such tales seems to be the most likely outcome of this movie as well. Ritesh Batra, probably, understands how attached one can get to these lovely characters and there is no definitive end given to this story. The beautiful bond between them is ephemeral just like the scenes inside a photograph.

Hamid Movie Review: Amidst the innocence, there is a harsh reality!

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Aijaz Khan’s Hamid is a film that brings the climate of fear to the forefront that is prevailing in the Kashmir and highlights the air of uncertainty in the lives of Kashmiris by portraying their loss and separation.

The film begins with a close-up shot of a wooden piece being sliced and smoothened. This is a scene inside a carpentry workshop that builds boats. Rehmat (Sumit Kaul), who works here, calls it a day and heads for home on his bicycle. On his way back home, he fearfully stops his bicycle at a distance when he looks at the security forces. On being called by them, he takes gentle steps towards them. He is asked to show his identity card and explain what’s inside his toolbox. Their eyes also fall on his diary and they ask him to read whatever’s written inside it. Rehmat reveals that he is good at “shayari” (poetry) and writes his own verses. The few verses that Rehmat goes on to read from his diary include words like “bawaal” (chaos) and “bechaini” (restlessness). Unable to deduce what he just recited, they suspect him to be a terrorist. Rehmat clarifies that this poetry is talking about how restless and chaotic his heart feels in the times of sufferings. Aijaz Khan’s Hamid is a film that brings the climate of fear to the forefront that is prevailing in the Kashmir and highlights the air of uncertainty in the lives of Kashmiris by portraying their loss and separation.

Hamid, which is an adaptation of the play Phone No 786, delves into the problematic situation in Kashmir by closely following Rehmat’s sudden disappearance and the effect that it has on his family. Rehmat is the father of Hamid (Talha Arshad Reshi is so lovely in this character). The movie explores how Hamid and his mother Ishrat (Rasika Dugal) go about searching for Rehmat in their own ways (if at all there is small hope of him coming back into their lives).

Innocence, humour and reality-check come to the fore through Hamid’s quest for knowing whereabouts of his father. He gets to know the importance of the number ‘786’ in Islam. Somehow, his innocuous trials of calling Allah using ‘786’, in the hope of seeking His help in finding his father, lead him into calling Abhay (Vikas Kumar) who happens to be a part of armed forces stationed in Kashmir. Their interactions on phone were not only funny but also showed how children like Hamid are oblivious of the gravity of the situation in Kashmir.

Rasika Dugal’s magnificent performance, albeit for a brief period, brought out the feeling of despondency in the character of Ishrat. She goes to the police station in vain. She is not able to talk to her son with compassion and does not even know Hamid is waving her goodbye while sitting inside his school bus. She unravels the sweater that she so lovingly knitted for her husband before his disappearance. She couldn’t stop crying while taking part in a sit-in. Such was the trauma and agony attached to her character that I wished she had more screen presence.

The film also depicts the ground reality in Kashmir through the people, the armed forces and the child. It is not trying to uncover what’s right and what’s wrong. Instead, it tries to show what’s really happening in Kashmir and does not shy away from doing so. There’s a guy spraying on road writing ‘anti-Indian’ message. A young guy pelts stone at an armed officer before getting caught and peeing his pants out of fear. A throng of people is holding placards and chanting “azaadi” (freedom) while an officer gets into a fight with one of them. The people are frightened by merely the sight of an armed officer (Abhay goes near a woman to know if she is Ishrat and help her in any way but the woman fearfully keeps her head down). Abhay, in a scene, reveals that he did not know the presence of a child when he went about killing terrorists in an operation and feels tired of being stuck here. Even during the phone conversation, when Abhay reveals who he really is, the first utterance that comes out of Hamid, a young eight-year-old boy, is “dushman” (enemy).

The limited nature of happier times that were shown in the movie can make one wish that more of such joyous times prevails in this beautiful part of the world. The brief display of father-son relationship, when Rehmat takes Hamid on his bicycle to school with both singing a Kashmiri song, is so beautiful that you want them to be like this forever. And as the movie comes to a close, Hamid takes his mother out on a boat. Seeing their smiling faces, one can think that they have moved on. But the pain of loss will linger in their hearts forever.

Sonchiriya Movie Review: Intense and rooted

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Sonchiriya is an intense dacoit-based story that throws light on sexual abuse and caste-related violence backed by a superbly written screenplay

Indumati Tomar (Bhumi Pednekar) croons ‘Sonchiriya’ (sung by Rekha Bhardwaj in the composition of Vishal Bhardwaj) that has a haunting and calming effect. She is sitting with an ailing young girl as they are being rescued by dacoit Lakhna (Sushant Singh Rajput) on a boat. This moment comes immediately after the intermission as it leaves us in a state of serenity. This is also the moment when we get to know that Sonchiriya is, actually, the name of that young girl. This scene has a special place in my heart as it sprung like the sweet smell of soil that the air carries after the rainfall during peak summer. The film has such intense story that we yearn for the tranquillity, that this song produces, to remain with Indumati and the young girl as they have gone through a lot of sufferings due to the so-called caste and the sexual abuses.

Rooted in casteism and child sexual abuse, Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya portrays the life of dacoits, their internal conflicts, their continued battle against security forces and, most importantly, how they wind up saving the lives of Indumati and the young girl accompanied by her. The back-and-forth style of screenplay in Sonchiriya infused the film with ‘surprise’, ‘unknown’ and ‘guess’ elements. A small girl, for instance, flashes in the eyes of the dacoit Maan Singh (Manoj Bajpayee) early on in the film which frightens him. The relevance of that small girl comes much later and at the appropriate juncture in the story as Lakhna recounts a misadventure that led to the killings of young children. Even the complete picture of what really transpired during the conversation between Maan Singh and an informer, that takes place before they go about looting a big fat Indian wedding, is disclosed much later.

Manoj Bajpayee’s brief appearance for the Maan Singh character overshadowed the presence of every other actor whenever he came on to the screen. His terrific acting brought out the benevolent expression while giving away money to an informer. He looks dangerous when he calmly asks for the cash to a trembling guy in a wedding. It was only when his part was over that the other characters finally seemed to exist. Lakhna, played by Sushant Singh Rajput, bloomed soon after Manoj’s brief stint and was well supported by dacoit Vakil Singh played by Ranvir Shorey. Lakhna, as Indumati states in a scene, is an understanding and kind-hearted dacoit. Vakil is very particular about one’s caste (He shows his aggression when the young girl, accompanied by Indumati, is found to be of a different caste who are termed by them as ‘untouchables’). Vakil, also, has no regard for women and considers them inferior (He scolds a guy, in a scene, saying, “Tu mard ni, aurat hai” (You aren’t a man but a woman)). Bhumi Pednekar’s extraordinary act exemplified the sentiments attached to the character of Indumati (One could feel the harrowing experience she must have gone through as she pleads Lakhna not to reveal that she was, too, subjected to the sexual abuse during her childhood). Even Ashutosh Rana looked threatening as he plays the role of a security officer (When he is hiding on a terrace, he slowly gets up and keeps a stern face, gestures with a finger on his lips to a boy standing on the opposite terrace in a bid to tell him not to shout, and shoots at the dacoits).

I felt that the movie lost the grip in the second-half. But the intensity remained intact because of its brilliant writing and the marvellous way with which it brings out the core issues revolving caste and girl child rape incidents. Not to forget the fantastic background score that further intensified the impact of the movie.

With the security forces chasing away the dacoits and some members of security forces planning to take down their own leading officer, the movie rightfully ends on a note referring to the natural occurrence of life in which snakes eat rats and vultures eat snakes. Sonchiriya is an intense dacoit-based story that throws light on sexual abuse and caste-related violence backed by a superbly written screenplay.

The Favourite Movie Review: Side-splitting and insightful

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Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

If Anne (Olivia Colman), the queen, gets what she wants (sex), she would, in return, offer the luxury. Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) know this characteristic nature of Anne and bestow this with utmost profuseness. Sarah and Abigail take turns to woo Anne and try to become the ‘favourite’ of the queen (hence, the title).  In all its weirdness and the hilarity that it, thus, produces, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.

The Favourite is one of the finest examples of how black comedy films should be written. There is every bit of seriousness in it and yet we find it strange and extremely funny. In one of the early scenes, Anne joyously tells Sarah that the war against France is over. Sarah, in response, tells with condescension that the war is not over and it must continue as Anne replies, “oh!”. This was the first strange and hilarious instance when I laughed out loud. Abigail, in a scene, explains that, while she was travelling in a carriage, a “man was pulling his (penis)” and the actual image flashes in her eyes as we burst into laughter. As she gets down from the carriage, unable to resist, that man grabs her butt and she falls in the mud (If I had seen a complete stranger behaving in such indecent manner, I would have felt an immense amount of indignation growing inside me). Then, in response to Abigail’s request for a job, Sarah rudely replies that she can be a “monster for the children to play with” and Abigail excitedly roars mimicking a lion. In another humorous instance, Abigail, while working as a maid, is asked by an inimical lady to “scrub the floor until Mrs. Meg (Jennifer White) can see her toothless, fat face in it”. Abigail narrates a sad turn of events to Sarah but explains in a way that throws us into uproarious laughter (Abigail says that when she was 15, her father lost her in a card game to which Sarah replies, “you are not serious”. Abigail continues saying that “the debt was to a balloon-shaped German man with a thin cock”). Sarah, in a scene, teaches how to shoot the birds to Abigail. And when Abigail misses her aim, Sarah mocks her by saying that she is really doing damage to the sky. When Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn) enters the room of Abigail, she casually asks him if he has come to seduce her or rape her. It was both droll and whimsical when Harley (Nicholas Hoult) is sitting on a sofa and is annoyed by the presence of duck beside him as he asks, “Must the duck be here?”.

I was impressed by the performances of Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in particular as they portrayed the characters of Sarah and Abigail with such perfection. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the narrative eschews strangeness and humour towards the end and shifts the focus towards who-becomes-the-favourite-of-queen. Abigail, with all her prudence, manages to give a fierce competition which causes consternation to Sarah. Anne, even, denudes Sarah of her privileges. The moment of realisation strikes when Abigail, who thinks to have succeeded Sarah as the favourite, has to kneel down and rub the legs of Anne. In spite of it being a historical period drama, the movie seems so relevant in the present world where the greed for ‘more’ has always resulted in a disastrous way as we fail to realise that ‘less is more’.

Gully Boy Movie Review: An intense drama with a musical feast that gives a sense of belief

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Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.

MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) says to Murad (Ranveer Singh), “Sab comfortable hote to rap kaun banata” (If everyone lived comfortably, rap would not have taken its birth). This thought reflects in the entire film. I watched the movie with such intensity that I started reminiscing instances from my own life and felt an astounding belief building up inside me as to “Yes, you can follow your passion and be great”. That’s the power of this film. No matter what field you are in and what destination you are heading to, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy has such incredulous effect on us that we start believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As this film claims, it surely is a perfect “Shout-out” to the “real gully boys DIVINE and Naezy”. It is an intense story of a rap artist who fights his way out of his father’s supposed notion of them being a “naukar” (servant) and triumphs against all odds by following what he earnestly wanted in his life.

The very first thing you notice is the music, contributed by several musicians, which is ingrained in this film with such significance. The music plays a crucial role to exemplify the feelings of high-spiritedness, agony and despondency. For me, the best portrayal of music-exemplified emotions is a scene where Murad, while working as a driver, drives a woman home, who is in tears, and the Doori poem plays out in the background – Kehne ko hum paas hain par kitni doori hai, ye bhi kaisi majboori hai…Main ye behte aansu ponchu utni meri aukaat nahi (We are so close to each other yet so far…My status is not high enough to wipe off your tears).

Gully, in hindi, refers to the alley. Here, Gully Boy refers to Murad who lives in the ‘gullies’ of a slum in Mumbai. Early in the movie, some tourists from London visit this slum and are, apparently, excited as they exclaim “wow!” and click pictures. The tourist guide takes them, incidentally, to Murad’s house to show them the kind of toilet that they have in these houses (Funnily, Murad’s grandmother charges 500 for this). One of the tourist guys is wearing a t-shirt with a printed image of a hip-hop artist. Murad praises his t-shirt and to the utter surprise of that guy, Murad starts singing an English rap song sung by that artist. This scene assured that the film is in no way going the familiar poor-guy-becoming-rich way. Gully Boy is not at all clichéd. In fact, this scene is the first of many instances that show Murad’s inclination towards the hip-hop genre. Influenced by MC Sher (What a rip-roaring rendition by Siddhant Chaturvedi for this role), Murad joins him and starts writing verses and presents them to MC Sher. There is no heroic display of him suddenly doing so well. He, even, loses in the most embarrassing manner imaginable in a rap battle (It is so moving to see Murad when his opponent uses Murad’s poverty as the baseline for his defence as Murad keeps his head down and is mortified by what he just heard). It is this unhurried nature of Gully Boy that is so impressive. We are happy for it to be taking its time. As MC Sher insists Murad to bring out the “jwala” (lava or fire) inside him and face the world with intrepidity, we get energised as the film slowly depicts the rise of Murad or the Gully Boy (his stage name).

I am sure the film is going to strike the right chord when it comes to representing the lives of billions of people who are unable to pursue a career that they want. Murad, under the circumstances of his life, winds up working as a car driver and the growing pain inside him comes out in the form of a rap verse “Apna time aayega” (My time will come). Succumbing to the pressure of his parents, he starts working in an organisation through the influence of his uncle. He, even, indulged himself in stealing cars with his friend Moeen (Vijay Varma). While commuting in a train, he looks at the gloomy faces of fellow passengers going back to home after a drudging day of work. In another scene, Murad’s uncle praises him for choosing the right career and the next moment Murad looks at the clock and leaves for a rap battle audition. Zoya Akhtar has meticulously orchestrated the turn of events that illuminates how Murad gets on the right path eventually after a series of struggles.

Murad boards a bus and so does Safeena (Alia Bhatt has done an amazing job. Oh! What a performer!). They stare at each other every now and then. As soon as the person sitting next to Murad stands up and deboards the bus, Safeena occupies that seat. Just when we are about to think if this is an age-old trick of a boy-meeting-girl in a bus, Safeena and Murad hold each other’s hands. They are already in love for 9 years. So, the focus of the film remains intact as the narrative wastes no time in illustrating Murad’s love-life. Even though Alia Bhatt’s presence is transient, it is so lovely to see the portions that involved them courting. When their relationship comes to a standstill for a period of time due to Murad’s brief stint with Sky (Kalki Koechlin), he says, in a scene, that life without Safeena is like having spent a life without a childhood. This brief spell of romance portion has been moulded in such a beautiful way that their separation makes you feel sad.

It is not just the external forces that come in the way of Murad. He has to confront difficulties at home too. His conservative father (Vijay Raaz is stupendous in this character) remains mad at him. He has also married another lady and has brought her home which leads Murad’s mother (Amruta Subhash) into an enormous amount of desolation. It broke my heart to see Murad’s mother crying madly as he hugs her. Even Safeena explains to her parents that she lies to them because they won’t allow her to put on lipstick, go out with boys and have fun. Safeena’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha) shows some photographs of men and tells to Safeena, in a scene, that she is at least getting to choose a man to get married unlike her. These are the sort of hindrances that, not only Murad and Safeena, but a lot of us have to deal with to be able to attain something.

I had to endure a lot of those mandatory commercials that were played before the start of the movie. But as the movie ended and I left the cinema hall, I completely forgot about those tiring advertisements. Thanks to this stunning film! Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.