Right in the middle of the movie, Nangia, played by Neeraj Kabi, delivers a lecture in a seminar on how development and environment does not go hand in hand. Hence, we should strive for a balance, where both can coexist, exclaims Nangia.
Gulabo Sitabo on the surface may look like the usual banter comedy between a landlord and his tenant, a relationship often thrown in movies as a side note to generate some easy laughs. But here, it is not all laugh and fun. Because deep beneath the surface, the film reveals itself as a introspective look at the futility of all the greed, and what one really stands to gain at the end of it all. Kya Leke Aayo Jagme , Kya Leke Jaayega croons Vinod Dubey in one of the songs in the movie.
In one scene, the main character asks an expert on what is the value of the prize that they are after. “Priceless” comes the reply. As in life, the characters here too only learn the true value when the thing they are after is truly gone. As the film winds down, we find one of the character finds himself losing his past, everything that he held on to all his life, while the other helplessly watches his potential future disappear into thin air as his girlfriend moves on.
In Shoojit Sircar’s world of Gulabo Sitabo, the prize referred earlier here is that of Fatima Mahal. As glorious and majestic it the name may sound, the real condition of this age-old mansion is deplorable. And yet, everyone seems to be after a piece of this almost-in-ruins rundown ‘haveli’. The caretaker of the mansion is the grouchy Mirza (Amitabh) who is handling the things for the real owner of the property, his wife, the Begum (Farrukh Jaffar), who is seventeen years older to him. Ayushmann Khurrana plays Baankey Rastogi, one of the tenants,who has been living with his family for years, and one who is hardly able to cough up the paltry rents of Rs 30-70 that is being asked. So, Mirza is determined to get rid of Baankey and hence the two is constantly at loggerheads with each other.
However, with the archaeology department swooping in in the form of Gyanesh (Vijay Raaz) and on the other end, a property specialist lawyer Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) coming into the picture, the race for the claims to the dilapidated mansion literally gets out of hands.
Unfortunately, this game of one-upmanship between the parties involved takes too long to set up. And once in, we keep going in circles for long lengths making its mere 120 mins seem much longer than it actually is. The plot, like the ‘haveli’ in question, is certainly not going anywhere but writer Juhi Chaturvedi uses the space and time to give broader strokes to her characters. It isn’t until the fag end of things when things finally get a move on. But by then, one feel it maybe a little too late.
The real problem is the distance audience have with the characters. Juhi is content letting the characters be as they want to be, not confined to black and whites with no one judging anyone. There is no coloring to make the characters likeable or appealing. So, we are not connected or emotionally invested in that sense to neither Mirza’s or Baankey’s struggles. Certainly, by design. And yet, when the whole purpose of their rather purposeless tiffs disappears, one is left with a melancholic wave.
Set in the old-world charm of Lucknow, director Sircar draws out a love letter of sorts to the city, with the non-intrusive cinematography of Avik Mukopadhyay, letting us slip into the locales. And writer Juhi takes advantage by bringing in the flavor of the locality and language alive. So many people unfamiliar with the lingo may lose out some of the fun. And the official subtitles certainly do no justice here.
Besides the dialogues, the real strength is in the cast and how seamlessly they get into the skin of the characters. Amitabh spearheads that department with one of his most remarkable of characters in Mirza. Under a prosthetic nose and those thick glasses, hunched, he is hardly the tall, deep baritone voiced superstar that we are used to. He literally becomes the character and is undoubtedly the life of the movie. And surprisingly one with no bones of goodness to him.
Ayushmann puts in a good effort but he never really gets much from the script to chew on. So much so that he has to add something like a lisp to keep things interesting which keeps coming and going. Unfortunately, just did not feel the chemistry required between the lead duo. As always, Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are pitch perfect in their respective roles making them a delightful addition to the proceedings.
Special mention to the women in the film and the way they are written even though not in major roles. They are not sitting around and waiting for incompetent men to make decisions for them and are more in charge of their own destinies. Farrukh Jaffar as Fatima Begum is a riot with her wit and humour while Srishti Shrivastava puts in a scene stealing act as Baankey’s sister Guddo, one that breaks the stereotypical idea of a ‘hero’s sister’ role in Bollywood.
Gulabo Sitabo works better as a social satire when it is dealing with the citizens vs the govt battle, with the haveli being a stand-in for the nation. We have tenants who are paying rents for 70 years, but still complain of the raw deal they are getting and being denied of basic rights. The ‘caretaker’ meanwhile is happy selling off assets from the property or even ripping off the tenants for a quick buck. So much so the tenants are taking about revolting against the ruthless demands and conditions put by the caretaker. And in one of the most hilarious bits, when Mirza is asked why he is hated this much, he states he is oblivious of any ill-feelings whatsoever.
Unfortunately, all of these positives that the movie holds are buried in a rather meandering screenplay. The small fleeting moments have some charm to it (and some even work better the second time around), but it never really comes together as a whole. And that is a pity.
With neither the charm of PIKU, the emotions of OCTOBER, nor the fun of VICKY DONOR, this turns out to be easily the weakest from the Sircar-Juhi partnership.
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava and Farrukh Jaffar
Directed by Shoojit Sircar
Music Shantanu Moitra, Abhishek Arora, Anuj Garg
Now streaming on AMAZON PRIME
Directed by: Zoya Akhtar; Starring: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Amruta Subhash
It is always heartening when we get live examples of how the times and tastes are changing for mainstream Bollywood. Exemplifying the same is Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s (member of this brave new world) best work till date. Bollywood has often been blamed for not representing many sections of society. In this regard, Kudos to Zoya Akhtar for spotting the budding real-life talent of 2 hip-hop artists who rose from very humble backgrounds and giving them a voice into the mainstream. It is not surprising that India with such rich diversity and people would be brimming with stories, and it is the onus of the filmmakers to present such stories in the mainstream rather than just shoving them under the drawer or limiting them to arthouse cinema.Continue reading “Gully Boy A Critical Appreciation: Bollywood Ka Time Aayega”
Gully Boy’s aim at authenticity is commendable. The locations, the texture, the music all build up an authentic world of the origin of Gully rap. But the protagonist, the Gully Boy himself is fake and hollow. Not false in the way many of the gully rappers are, wearing their hoodies and flat-rimmed caps just imitating the hip-hop pioneers, but in a way how clean-cut he is without any spunk, neither has a single negative nor a rebellious streak in him. Zoya Akhtar and co. have created a character out of their imagination of how an ideal rapper is, or rather ‘ought’ to be as per their standards.
In Zoya Akhtar’s latest directorial venture GULLY BOY, we have a scene which involves foreign tourists being brought into the congested slums of Dharavi by a local guide on probably their ‘slumdog millionaire’ sightseeing trip. “Wow,” one of the tourists exclaim when they are shown a house, “Look…every inch has been used!”
It seems the case with director Zoya herself, who makes sure that every inch of the script of her desi hip-hop musical Gully Boy is effectively used to put across a wide range of topics – of class issues, religious bias, female empowerment, freedom of choice, etc. Indeed, not even an inch is spared. But the brilliance is in how it is all done subtly without shoving them down the viewer’s throats.
Which is good …because therefore the movie has sufficient fuel to take the one-line underdog story go the distance.
The plot is straightforward and is the tale of a young man from Dharavi who has to rise above the challenges and social prejudices to pursue his dreams, even if means having to break the shackles of reality.
That young man is Murad (played brilliantly by Ranveer Singh). He starts off as this helpless young soul who watches silently as his father (Vijay Raaz) marries a second wife and bring the new bride to their house. He observes how his mother burns in humiliation and pain in the given situation. He gets miffed of being told what his social stature is by strangers he meets in walks of life. Even with his own friends, he is silenced and asked to look the other way when he questions their ethics and morality.
It is all feelings, bottled up and confined to his diaries and notebook scribbles. The only relief in his life comes in the form of Safeena (Alia Bhatt), the feisty girl that he has been dating for the past nine years.
Safeena too is also a barrel of frustration. The young Muslim woman is an ambitious medical student but must sacrifice the pleasures of the youth for the sake of her parents and religion. But unlike Murad, there is no repressing up of any emotions as she gets to explode now and then. But she is a character that has her priorities right.
Unfortunately, Murad never gets it that easy. At least not until he runs into a rapper MC Sher during one of the college fests and discovers the thrills of the local rap scene. He soon realizes that this could be an outlet for all his thoughts. So he jots down some lines and takes to Sher and asks him to use it. But Sher tells him that his story is not for others but for Murad himself to express and encourages him to take center stage. He soon realizes the magic of it all, and from thereon, with the help of his new found mentor, he takes on his dreams and uses his talent to create a splash as ‘Gully Boy’!
Inspired from the real rap sensations Neazy the Baa(Naved Sheikh) and Divine (Vivian Fernandes), the story introduces Bollywood to the underground rap scene in Mumbai that has a strong ‘fan base of its own’.
Zoya Akhtar and partner in crime Reema Kagti join hands in bringing their stories and their music to a more broader audience who has been subjected to the Bollywood brand of music that has been just looping around the tunes of ‘Yo-Yo Honey Singh’ and ‘Baadshah.’ “Do you call this rap?” asks Murad in the opening scene as he is irate over popular rap songs that go on about the latest cars, hot girls and booze. We are exposed to a more hard-core rap scene where poetry meets the beat of the streets, where tongues lash hard with the most brutal of words, belting the truths of the worlds and lives they inhabit. And Ranveer inhabits the world splendidly. He morphs into the character of Murad and leaves all his flamboyant trademarks for the offscreen. Onscreen, he nails everything that Murad demands and betters on the restrained performances of his in movies like Lootera, or Zoya’s own Dil Dhadekno Do. Even with a camera tightly fixed just on his face, Ranveer draws in the audience to the emotional core of his character. And the fact that he sings all those tracks makes it even more special.
Alia Bhatt provides the perfect foil as the spunky Safeena. She shows that as one of the best in the field, there is little that she can do wrong at this point. She is adorably tender as she pleads to her father, while equally fierce as she goes all ‘thod-phod’ with another woman over her boyfriend. She brings such volatility to her character of Safeena that you know even the fast rapping Murad stand no chance against Safeena’s motor-mouth. Their relationship is very well-established right in the cute opening sequence when Safeena slides into the back seat of the bus with Murad, sharing the headphones, with no words spoken.
And things could have sailed just fine with just these two lead performances. But the real substance and depth are created in the way Zoya writes all the other characters and the space she creates for them to shine. So be it Vijay Raaz as the abusive father, or Vijay Verma as buddy Moeen, or National award winner Amruta Subhash, the whole cast breathes life to their characters. It is surprisingly Kalki Koechlin, as the US-based music student Sky, who ends up though with the underwritten role in the movie. The real trump card though is newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher who holds his ground with utmost confidence as the mentor and never does the novice get overshadowed by the lead man.
The technical team brings the right amount of energy to this hip-hop musical tale. Jay Oza’s vibrant work behind the camera is aptly supported by the editing of Nitin Baid. It is not merely the crowd-pleasing ciphers or the rap battles, but equally shining through are the quieter moments. Some of, the best moments, strangely, are ones in closed spaces, like that of a car. One such scene is the one where ‘Doori poem’ plays out, as we have the driver Murad wanting to reach out to the pain of his rich mistress. Or when you have Murad in the lets out his frustration verbally exploding in the closed confines of his car. Or the one where the rich father berates his daughter and compares her to the standards of a driver. Zoya uses these closed spaces to show the tight pressure spots these characters have to force themselves out of.
And then you have the ‘Both Hard’ soundtrack of the movie which is essentially the backbone. All of it would have been pointless had it not been for this beast of a soundtrack. This enormous work of 18 tracks and 54 artists, including the now-popular rap anthem ‘Apna Time aayega’ is put together by Ankur Tiwari, and the results are fabulous. The writing here is so powerful that one at times do feel that the subtle nature of the movie does not entirely match the intensity and rawness that the lyrical word provides. Also commendable is the work on the dialogues by Vijay Maurya ( who plays Murad’s uncle here) as it manages to capture the lingo and the attitude of this sub-culture perfectly.
The movie does come with a few negatives too, but none that strong to ruin your overall experience. As far as the look and treatment goes, one can say things are a little ‘too’ polished and not essentially as raw as it should be. The video of ‘Meri Gully Mein’ is a fine example to show the difference between the real vs. the Bollywood-ized version. There is also the predictability factor of the tale where structure wise no major risk is taken, but the writing and sensitive approach stands out as strengths that overcome these limitations. Yes, the quest to complete all the character’s arc does stretch the run-time in the process, but I guess ‘when you have something so good, one should just lap it up with no further questions!’ However, one must admit, the whole ‘Sky’ track does stick out like a sore thumb.
But it is also the character of Sky who comes with one of the most important messages of the film when she tells Murad that she likes him because he is an artist and where he comes from does not matter. Gully Boy is that ode to the artists out there who desire to be. Be it a rap artist, or a B-Boy dancer from the hoods, or a taxi driver penning down lyrics in his free time…it a call out to them to un(w)rap their dreams and take it out to the world. For an artist can cross over to a level playing field, one that looks straight at their talents and beyond their caste, color or creed.
As the pioneers and voices of this rap scene make their cameos and presence felt, we can only salute to their will that dared them to dream. And kudos to the team of making this effort in taking the ‘asli hip hop’ and giving it a mainstream recognition that these talents genuinely deserve.
Rating : 3.5/ 5
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, Vijay Sharma, , Vijay Maurya, Amruta Subash, Sheeba Chadda
Directed by Zoya Akhtar
Written by Reema Kagti -Zoya Akhtar
Music supervised by Ankur Tewari
Produced by Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby Productions
Cast: Dilijit Dosanjh, Tapsee Pannu, Angad Bedi, Vijay Raaz, Kulbushan Kharbanda and Satish Kaushik
Directed by Shaad Ali
Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lyrics by Gulzar
Cinematography Chirantan DasContinue reading “Soorma Movie Review: The Goal Rush!”
There is a certain energy to a megapolis like Bombay. A city, teeming with stories, millions of them, just waiting to be told. And at night, when the streetlights burn brightest, the darkest tales come to life. Akshat Verma, who burst on to the scene with Delhi Belly back in 2011, travels southwards for his debut directorial about 3 stories set on a single rainy night. But the question is, does Kaalakaandi possess the same fizz that made Delhi Belly a massive hit back then?Continue reading “Kaalakaandi Movie Review: Nightcrawlers”
NFDC India is coming up with its Cinema Outreach Initiative, Film Aaj Kal, a radio show as well as the Ground-Activation event – Film Aaj Kal Screenings and Conversations to build film communities and empower the viewer.
As part of the 360-degree initiative, NFDC collaborates with 92.7 Big FM for a weekly radio show named, ‘Film Aaj Kal’ on Cinema Education and Awareness program which has the filmmakers discussing about the classics, bringing these films back to the fore.Continue reading “‘NFDC Film Aaj Kal’ – A Marathon of NFDC Classics In Mumbai To Begin From July 15”
Fahadh Faasil hasn’t had a great outing this year,with Mariyam Mukku, Haram and Ayal Njan Alla not living up to their potential. He now returns with Monsoon Mangoes which is the debut feature film of Abi Varghese. Abi shot to form with his U.S based Malayalam sitcom “Akkarakazhchakal” and Monsoon Mangoes is also a tale based in USA. Produced by Thampy Antony Thekkek and Prema Thekkek,Monsoon Mangoes is written by Abi Varghese, Matt Grubb and Naveen Bhaskar. Apart from Fahadh Faasil the star cast includes Vinay Forrt, Tovino Thomas, Vijay Raaz, Iswarya Menon, Jacob Gregory, Thampy Antony etc. The music is by Jakes Bejoy while Lukasz Pruchnik is the DOP and Don Max is the editor.Continue reading “Monsoon Mangoes: Trailer”