Gully Boy

wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

You are not once distracted from the run-down underdog story, the almost voyeuristic gaze at the poor, and even the touch-and-go attitude towards a range of serious issues like wealth and gender inequality, domestic violence, drug abuse and parental pressure. That’s the power of its dialogue, lyrics, production design, performances, and of course its music.

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Director: Zoya Akhtar
Running time: 155 minutes
Genres: Romance, Social
More Movie Info

Gully Boy - Preview

The Gully Boy trailer is full of striking contrasts. The milieu is raw, and in some sense, crude, and yet the first word that pops to your mind while watching it is “refreshing”. The lyrics and the dialogue are written with a lot of thought, but they still seem honest coming from whatever you can make of the character.

Ranveer Singh’s character itself accommodates both a shy, diffident public performer who is actually quite sure of himself and what he wants. Alia Bhat seems like she is the usual loud-mouthed stereotype of a liberated urban woman, but still the stereotypes are being broken.

And of course, I am looking forward to a Zoya Akhtar film that steps away from the themes of camaraderie within the upper/upper-middle-class socio-economic strata and takes on a story in a completely different social setup.

Some of the lyrics I heard too don’t say anything new, but still, carry energy that make you look forward to listening to them within the context of the film. While we gear ourselves not to be disappointed this Valentine’s Day, we have much appreciated 18 songs to keep us company.

Gully Boy releases on 14 February 2019.

Music Reviews:
Bollywood Hungama – "3.5/5"
Firstpost - "A rousing, eclectic soundtrack that sets the benchmark for a trailblazing genre"
Music Aloud - "4/5"
Times Now – "3.5/5"
pinkvilla - "80/100"

- meeta, a part of the audience

When you have a run-of-the-mill story to tell, you have to compensate for it using the other means at your disposal. And seems like the makers of Gully Boy were well aware of the ask. The tone, texture and technicalities of the film are used to such an advantage that the predictability is forgiven. Almost.

And yet, I want to watch the film again. Yes, even an underdog film with a training montage! Hey, it uses rap to preach, so that’s a change!

Regular readers would know how much I value a good story in my films or even how much a standard approach to a typical story irks me. At the movie’s interval, I was stumped when I realised that nothing much has happened in the story. And yet I had to keep up with so many things—the undercurrents, the performances, the background music, each character’s milieu, and of course the snappy lyrics and dialogue. There was so much going on constantly, even when the story was almost at a standstill.

And that might be the most disturbing bit. It’s not like in and itself, the story is not compelling. You can’t but think that the stories of the two real-life inspirations behind the film, rappers Naezy and DIVINE must have had a little more meat in their lives than regular filmy obstacles. Yes, the father, the girlfriend, the friends all seem like forced obstacles to accentuate our protagonist, Murad’s struggle. Were it not for these people, Murad would have smooth-sailed his way to his goals except for a bit of a confidence issue.

But then again, even for this bit, two things work in the film’s favour even. The details of how these complications play out are done very well. And the optimist in me loves the fact that sometimes things to fall in place for the unfortunate. You feel like brushing aside the naivete that “follow your passion”, “believe in yourself” are just formulae where you plug in the value for x and lo and behold, success!

The details in the writing make you want to believe in the inherent goodness that human beings can have. Even if the angsty lyrics don’t seem to have a relevant background in the character’s life, it is written so well and played out even better.

When the performances are as refined as they are in Gully Boy, a person watching them cannot (or maybe even should not) be looking for words to describe them. How can one describe the meaning interpreted by a slight shift in Ranveer Singh’s eye or how relatable Alia Bhatt’s frustrated cry for help is or the amusement deduced by Siddhant Chaturvedi’s smirk? While now we know that the first two performances have to be seen to be enjoyed, the new-comer Siddhant’s act is equally unmissable. He plays what we would usually call the lead’s side-kick, Sher. But not really. His act makes him more than that, more than an alter ego. He claims his right to the screen presence he ought to have.

It is also in part because of how the character is written. Similarly, Alia’s Safina is quite fleshed out. She didn’t have to describe how much she loved Murad beyond her jealousy, we just knew.

There was so much going on constantly, even when the story was almost at a standstill.

The funny thing is many bits are obviously forced like say Sher’s backstory or a music producer, Sky’s role. But once you accept them for what they are, there is so much to like. For instance, a peek into a shoe fetish or a streak of feminist angst. And I felt something beyond too. Little observations like a locked cupboard for shoes in a house that’s in a chawl (low-income housing) or a slum dwelling chauffeur being shooed away for bobbing his head to the music leaking through the front door of a pub keep you with the characters.

At the same time, you wonder whether it is because it is coming from makers who might not have seen this in real life. Usually, I try not to connect the real-life personas to the films. But, it is almost as if Zoya Akhtar cannot avoid it. She makes an excellent comment on how problems for people higher up on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are still problems. And that when the poor see them, they don’t necessarily resent the attitude. Whenever I think of this film, that one scene of Murad driving his boss’s daughter out of a pub will always come first to mind. And of course, Gully Boy has many, many such gems. Romantic rendezvous on bridges over rivers of plastic sewage, the subtlest of entries for the male lead, the bromance, music depicting the two worlds that one person lives in at the same time, some intriguing fusion music. And all sewn together reasonably well too.

So much so that Ranveer Singh’s clean-shaven chest, a brand new suitcase coming out of a house in a slum, Amruta Subhash looking too young to be Ranveer Singh’s mother because Ranveer Singh seems too young to be a college-going student, some self-referencing by Zoya Akhtar--all stick out. Of course, they can all be explained, but at first instance, they do stick out. Then there is the constant thin line that Gully Boy is treading—becoming a film about poverty tourism in the name of exposing wealth inequality. And yet, I want to watch the film again. Yes, even an underdog film with a training montage! Hey, it uses rap to preach, so that’s a change!

It is difficult to pick whether I want to watch the film again for the performances, or for the spark in the dialogue or for the fresh treatment to the romance and entertainment or to catch up on what I might have missed. But yes, being very aware of how much more could have been better, watch it again, I will.

- meeta, a part of the audience

39 reviewers(?) - 36 yays 3 so-so 0 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...The other place the rage feels real is in the lyrics. (The fabulous score is by Karsh Kale, The Salvage Audio Collective.) In Azadi, we hear: Vote milne par yeh khaas / Phir gayab poore saal. It reminded me of the anger in Gulzar’s anti-Establishment anthem from Aandhi: Salaam kijiye aali janaab aaye hai / Ye paanch saalo kaa dene hisaab aaye hai. In Sher aaya Sher, we hear: Ladkiyan na gaadi / Apni alag hi aabaadi. (A fuck-you to rappers who sing about women and cars?) It continues: Tu nakli wala marad / Mardaangi pe kalank / Jitni tujhme me garmi / Usse zyada garam mera kalam. If you’re looking for a good time, Gully Boy is everything you can ask for. It’s just that I wanted it to be more. I wanted it to be the film its lyrics deserved.... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...By the time this masterly study of self-discovery comes to a screeching halt, Gully Boy tells us it is never too late to find one’s bearings in life. The time to follow our dreams is now. Because as Zoya Akhtar has already warned us earlier, Zindagi na milegi dobara.... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...Jay Oza's cinematography is magnificent and gives the film a fine look. Even in the finale, the lensman's fine job adds to the effect. Arjun Bhasin and Poornamrita Singh's costume are stylish and realistic. Manohar Verma and Sunil Rodrigues’ action is also quite real. The latter has choreographed Alia Bhatt's action scene and it’s one of the film’s highpoints. Suzanne Caplan Merwanji's production design is authentic. Nitin Baid's editing is stylish but could have been crisper in the second half.... full review

Thumbs up, by Tushar P Joshi, Bollywood Life : ...Gully Boy is definitely a landmark film that will shine bright on Ranveer and Alia’s eclectic resumes. This is also Zoya’s best work till date and a film that will resonate with anyone who believes in dreams and their manifestation.... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepali Srivastawa, Catch News : ...अगर आप फिल्म 'गली बॉय' को बस एक रैपर और रैप के तौर पर देखने जा रहे है तो थोड़ा ठहरिए. क्योंकि फिर आप खुद को इस फिल्म से जोड़ नहीं पाएंगे. फिल्म में सिर्फ रैप के बारे में बताना काफी मुश्किल होता है और डायरेक्टर ने इस कठिनाई को बेहद आसानी से पार किया है. इसके साथ ही छोटे शहरों में पनपते सपनों को कैसे मुकाम मिलता है और किस तरह की मुश्किलें सामने आती है. ये सब आप इस फिल्म में पाएंगे. तो वहीं अगर आप में जुनून है कुछ कर जाने का तो भी आप इस फिल्म को देखने जाए क्योंकि ये ऐसे लोगों के लिए ही बनी है जो सपनें देखते भी है और उन्हें पूरा करने का दम भी रखते हैं.... full review

Thumbs up, by Deepa Gahlot, cinemaah : ...However, what is remarkable is the youthful energy, the fabulous production design, the hyperactive cinematography and Vijay Maurya’s (he also acts as Murad’s uncle) dialogue that is brilliantly authentic Mumbai street-speak. Vijay Verma as Murad’s spunky friend and newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi are outstanding in every scene they are in. Several Mumbai rappers make appearances too, lending the film’s soundtrack (composer Amit Trivedi) the flavour and variation it needed. The supporting actors are all perfectly cast and make the film look real.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Ranveer Singh he is restrained, and his Murad lives more within than outside. Mostly using just his eyes and body, he is able to do what very few actors can — make the film live in his head, and keep us in conversation with it throughout.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayur Sanap, Deccan Chronicle : ...At the end, Gully Boy is not perfect, but definitely it's own thing with some good moments. And when they're good, they're really good.... full review

Thumbs up, by Meena Iyer, DNA : ...Watch Gully Boy. It’s a winner. Ranveer ka time aa gaya!... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Gully Boy finds that promised land. It becomes the reality that most storytellers here can only dream of, and the dream that most artists yearn to realize.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Bollywood music holds sway over Indian listeners and this film ironically may help bring to mainstream the underground rap music flourishing currently. Watch the film for it's music, as well as some superlative acting by the entire cast.... full review

Thumbs up, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...In Gully Boy, the music and lyrics play a major character and lends layers to Zoya Akhtar's narratives. Ranveer was born to rap and this film is a proof.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...For a film that is about protest music, the music of anger and rebellion, Gully Boy is surprisingly quiet. Its understatedness is one of multiple reasons why it is is also one of the best films to emerge from the Hindi cinemascape in recent times.... full review

Thumbs up, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...The movie is mainly about human relations and inter-personal dynamics connected to individual hopes and aspirations. And Zoya Akhtar balances those elements with that of rapper’s development into a celebrated artist with a wide following. She makes you laugh, cry and applaud while stringing together wondrous moments of intimate acuity. ‘Gully Boy’ is as much her triumph as it is a brilliant representation of Bollywood’s hitherto untapped riches!... full review

Thumbs up, by T J Reddy, : ...And with that, Zoya Akhtar hammers home the importance and relevance of the creative arts in the modern day. She does not use subtle brush strokes and bold colouring that was meant to be reflected upon in a quiet room. No. This is an art form that originated in the streets. Expensive paints are replaced by graffiti, and the story being told and themes being explored shatter the silence of a cinema like a hammer making contact with glass. Gully Boy refuses to be silenced and demands to be heard. Yes, his film, and he in himself, have flaws and are reminiscent of legends past, but it is still oh-so-watchable because of the swagger and humanity with which he presents himself.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, : ...GULLY BOY is a rapturous cinematic triumph. Zoya Akhtar’s masterly crafted piece with layers is written with depth. The rap lyrics are also the heroes which play a huge part. GULLY BOY is not just a triumph of the underdog, it’s an entertainer that instigates, stimulates and holds you tight by its premise with electrifying music and Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt involved in one of Bollywood’s most crackling love story. Watch GULLY BOY.. there are strong chances that you will watch it dobara and in loop.... full review

Thumbs up, by Raja Sen, Hindustan Times : ...Armed with microphone or words, Singh is unstoppable. There is one scene that jars — when he dances too assertively during a music video — but that only stands out because the rest of his performance is so precisely calibrated. From accent to action, Singh nails it. As Murad becomes more confident, he even closes a curtain like he’s dropping a mic.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...More importantly, this is a film that knows and capitalises on the very reason we go to the movies in the first place - to keep hoping.... full review

Thumbs up, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...“Gully Boy” does not have a huge budget. Its appeal may be restricted more by the background (Dharavi and Mumbai’s colloquial dialect, which isn’t flashy enough to connect like the Punjabi overdrives of other films!) than the music. But with an underdog story, the “Simmba” and “Raazi” stars in charge for the opening and word-of-mouth, we hope that for once, a Zoya Akhtar film will be a clean hit. “Gully Boy” deserves that, at least.... full review

Thumbs up, indiaglitz : ...Overall, Gully Boy is a piece of must watch – the movie is inspiring as it tells the tale of an underdog who goes out all big. Watch it in theatres to get a glimpse of upcoming rap culture in the country.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...But, ultimately, this is a film to enjoy, both in the seeing, and in the hearing: the soundtrack and the ‘songs’ leap off the screen. In today’s India, to bring a Murad and Safeena, their Muslim-ness a matter-of-fact statement, into centre-stage, to give traction to those who live on the wrong side of the tracks, is an act of bravery. I’ll take them any day over an overused Raj-and-Raveena. ‘Inka time aa gaya’. Rap along.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anita Iyer, Khaleej Times : ...The winning combination of writers, Zoya Akhtar, and Reema Kagti, bring to us a well-crafted story from the streets of Bombay. It has enough clap-worthy dialogues that keep you engaged. With the perfect cast in the lead, it would be criminal to miss watching this film on the big screen.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Gully Boy is a once-in-a-blue-moon film! There rarely comes a film that perfects almost everything. This is an interpretation of emotions at its best. It’s not all about rap music, it’s about humanness and achieving your dreams. Don’t wait for the reviews, just go and experience it yourself.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Rap, or Rhythm and Poetry, you can tell, similarly opens lines of (a very visceral form of) communication - between heartfelt (often antsy) words, thumping beats, and the crowds that instantly relate to both.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pankhurie Mulasi, Movie Talkies : ...Music binds this film together and the lyrics are hard-hitting. The camera work is excellent and the cinematography is top-notch. Watch this film for Ranveer’s extraordinary performance and Zoya’s superlative direction.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Parallels with Eminem’s 8 Mile are inevitable because both appers battle difficult domestic lives to explode on stage with material that relays their ordeals. But this gully boy proves that you don’t need to be slim or shady as long as you can rhyme with reason.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, : ...I’m going with four out of five for Gully Boy. I loved this film from inside my bones.... full review

Thumbs up, by Manisha Lakhe, Now : ...A brilliant film after a long time, and you take Ranveer Singh back into your heart as you think, 'Apna time aayega... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Asli hip-hop and assured film-making, Hindustan could not have asked for more.... full review

Thumbs up, by Aseem Chhabra, Rediff : ...Good art takes us to places that we rarely get a chance to experience. In the nearly two-and-a-half hours long Gully Boy, Akhtar grabs our hand and walks us through a world that few of us know, even though it exists in Mumbai and other parts of India.... full review

Thumbs up, by SHILPA JAMKHANDIKAR, Reuters : ...“Gully Boy” is about Ranveer Singh and he hits it out of the park. This is an immersive performance - he gets the body language, the accent and the character just right. Here is an actor at his peak and Akhtar’s film is proof of that. His time (as a song in the movie goes) has come, and it is now.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...Dreams and reality fuse seamlessly in Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s most heartfelt and accomplished movie yet. Akhtar’s fourth feature is headlined by an outstanding Ranveer Singh, packed with well-picked actors and neatly-etched characters, and filmed with infectious passion.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...After the movie, I researched ‘clean rap for kids’ for the offspring and rap songs by both male and female artists and have got myself quite a playlist (including Naezy and Divine’s work). I am also inspired to watch Kya Bolta Bantai a documentary on the Mumbai hip-hop scene, which also features Zoya Akhtar for a bit.... full review

Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...The overt statement making of the “brown and beautiful” kinds, the earnest cause-mongering, the protracted length and easy resolutions might throw a spanner in the works but Zoya Akhtar’s story-telling skills hold unmistakable sway with the on-the-move camera conveying the essential urgency and energy.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurang Chauhan, Times Now : ...Overall, Gully Boy is one of the best movies to come out of Indian cinema in recent times. Watch it for Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt and Sidhant Chaturvedi's dazzling performances. And moreover, watch it for the master filmmaker Zoya Akhtar. Hats off to her. This one's a winner.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rachit Gupta, Times of India : ...The music of the film is killer, too. The movie is inspired by the lives of rappers Naezy and Divine, and these Indian artistes, along with a whole host of their contemporaries, have scored a super soundtrack for the film.... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...Zoya Akhtar surely has delivered a fairly enjoyable film for the Hindi films viewers in particular, who might not be well-versed with this specific genre of music or lyric-writing. But the film isn’t any masterpiece putting it in all honesty despite having many great performances.... full review

So-So, by Ananya Bhattacharyal, india today : ...The main star of the film is its music. The many artistes who are credited for the music of the film do a classy job with the soundtrack. If Ranveer Singh is the life of Gully Boy, the music is its soul. The lyrics, the beats all scream revolution. Azadi. Hindustan gets its asli hip hop in a Bollywood film.... full review

So-So, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...In an era of which Bollywood is increasingly passing off pulpy apologies for demagoguery for cinema, Gully Boy could have been a fitting riposte. It just doesn't go far enough to pose discomfiting questions in keeping with the art of the street rapper. But all said and done, Gully Boy can be whole-heartedly commended for its craft, fascinating characters and RANVEER SINGH. He absolutely kills the slow-burning rapper act. What's more, he does with a lot of energy to spare.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

3 readers - 1 yays 1 so-so 1 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Mandar

So-So, by raju

Nay! Thumbs Down, by Gaurav Singhal : This movie according to me deserves 1 or 2 stars.

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

An Indian slum-dweller wants to be a rapper.

What Worked

  • Alia Bhat’s Big B impression when she approaches the girl who texts Murad.
  • The catfight
  • The stolen kisses
  • All the rap scenes
  • The line that Murad says to describe his life without Safina
  • The subtle remark on patriarchy when a character’s mother has given her a punishment but she is still pleading to the father for relief from the punishment to convey that if he said yes, the mother’s punishment wouldn’t matter.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • The training montage
  • The video in the slum felt too voyeuristic
  • Safina’s acceptance didn’t go with her character

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A few scenes with people being beaten up, including domestic violence
  • Language: A few abusive words, especially in the lyrics.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A few liplocks. Bare-chested Ranveer Singh
  • Concept: An Indian slum-dweller wants to be a rapper.
  • General Look and Feel: A sepia tone that works well even in an otherwise entertaining film.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Gully Boy - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
155 minutes

Comments (4)

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Once again, an absolutely brilliant review. What I liked about this one and so many others is the mention of subtle scenes that are easy to miss.
The run-time of the movie is at least around 15-20 minutes too much, I felt, because you do feel like you have been in your seat for long. The performances really do lift this movie up though. Good movie very early in the year.

Thank you, @Mandar! Interestingly, despite being so predictable, I didn't find it slow even the second time I watched it. It was like one good scene after another. However, given that nothing really is happening story-wise I can completely get why some parts of the audience are finding it slow.

Gaurav Singhal

I am shocked Meetu!!
I never expected this!!
A movie that should be given 2 stars is given 5 star kind of rating.
Similar was situation in some other reviews.

This will create serious credibility issues, I guess :-)

Gaurav Singhal

This movie according to me deserves 1 or 2 stars.

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