The instant success of ‘Mere Gully Mein’, Mumbai-based rappers DIVINE and Naezy’s ode to the street they grew up in, brought to public attention the burgeoning underground hip-hop movement in India. Since then, there have been documentaries about the ‘scene’ (VICE’s Kya Bolta Bantai), ad campaigns by big brands, panel discussions.

Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, inspired by the lives of DIVINE and Naezy, could be the movement’s breakthrough moment in the mainstream.

Ranveer Singh is playing an aspiring rapper who must overcome hurdles and battle other rappers to achieve his dreams. Many of India’s young hip-hoppers star in the film, have helped with dialogue supervision and contributed to a large part of the soundtrack. We spoke to some of them about their experience, about working with Ranveer Singh, and the impact the film can have on the genre.

D-Cypher, beatboxer

Name: Gaurav Gambhir
Age: 26
Crew: Bombay Lokal
Role: Provided beats for ‘Asli Hip Hop’, appears in cypher and battle scenes

“There have been movies on dance like ABCD but nothing on rap or beatboxing till now. For the makers of Gully Boy to use beatboxing in the teaser is great for the Indian beatboxing community and I hope that beatboxers will get more work after of this. Beatboxers generally do sounds that you won’t find in a digital audio workstation. And every beatboxer has their own style so it’s more authentic and organic too. People will slowly recognize that there are really good artists they can work with.”

ShahRule, rapper-producer

Name: Rahul Shahani
Age: 25
Previously film work: Produced one song for Veere Di Wedding
Role: Rival rapper (Singh’s character is seen battling him at the end of the trailer)

“For a lot of people in the world, this will be the introduction to Indian hip-hop because it’s Bollywood. And who better than Ranveer Singh and Zoya Akhtar helming it? The only thing I tell rappers is Zoya met DIVINE for the movie post ‘Mere Gully Mein’. Look how far he’s come since then – he’s a much bigger musician. Work hard. Also be smart because the music industry is cut-throat and a lot of these rappers are young and not good with the business side of things.”

Spitfire, rapper

Name: Nitin Mishra
Age: 20
Role: Lyricist for ‘Asli Hip Hop’, wrote all the non-song raps for Ranveer’s character, appears in cypher and battle scenes

“I’ve always said that hip-hop is not only a genre. We live it. It’s part of our everyday lives, it influences how we see the world, how we dress, how we speak, write and look – it’s our life. When I was nothing – a normal student who was failing his classes, my parents would get angry thinking, ‘What’s he going to do with his life?’ When life was bad, all I had was hip-hop. It has given me so much. When I saw the short film Bombay 70 and how Naezy was doing everything himself and on his own might, it inspired me.”

“Writing for Ranveer’s character, I found that we shared about a lot of similarities – I’ve lived this and borne this. My own rage came out. When this happened to me, I wanted to say that. So I felt when he’s going through this, this is what he should say.”

MC Altaf, rapper

Name: Altaf Shaikh
Age: 19
Crew: Enimiez
Role: Dialogue supervisor, coached Singh, provided music for the film

“The non hip-hop listeners are going to watch the film and fall in love. Then they will search on YouTube. The impression of rappers the public has right now is that we’re all charsis, nashedis and taporis. But this movie will show the struggles we go through and the toll it takes to become a rapper.”

“On set, we used to have a great climate where songs from the rappers from the scene were played. Ranveer used to listen to those and enjoyed everybody’s style. He asked me, ‘Where are your songs? Make me hear something, even if it is unreleased.’ He liked the track. One day I just felt like it and asked him whether he would feature in the video.”

Slow Cheeta, rapper- actor

Name: Chaitnya Sharma
Age: 28
Previous film work: Acted in and composed a song for High Jack, acted in Boygiri
Role: Rival rapper (seen in the trailer telling Singh ‘Go back to your gully!’)

“Hip-hop is very much like Bollywood – it has swag. I have a lot of respect for other genres but I feel like this has the most swagger. It’s the one that allows you to be cool, honest, gritty and witty and I feel like that is something Bollywood is waiting for. It’s a bomb that’s waiting to explode.”

“A lot of hip-hop artists that weren’t a part of Gully Boy are very possessive. They’re saying hip-hop was a revolution and how can making a movie about the revolution save the scene? But this film will break the roof.”

“Like any other genre, hip-hop has now fallen into the lap of the music industry and they know that it’s hot. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. We need to do what we do, which is making music and we will see where this takes us. This movie will be the catalyst to the slow process we’ve had for seven to ten years” – Dee MC

Dee MC, rapper

Name: Deepa Unnikrishnan
Age: 24
Previous film work: Rapped on ‘Jagga Jiteya’ from Uri
Role: Appears in the cypher and battle scenes

“This entire Gully Boy experience has definitely brought the whole Mumbai hiphop community much closer. People have started collaborating more. Everybody was brought under one project where we met and chilled with each other in such a large group. That has never happened before. Like any other genre, hip-hop has now fallen into the lap of the music industry and they know that it’s hot. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. We need to do what we do, which is making music and we will see where this takes us. This movie will be the catalyst to the slow process we’ve had for seven to ten years.”

Rahul Raahi, rapper-beatboxer

Name: Rahul Piske
Age: 21
Crew: Dogz Music
Previous film work: Played Ishaan Khatter’s friend in Beyond The Clouds
Role: Plays Singh’s beatboxer-friend

“I will make my parents, friends and the people around me feel proud. My parents, who 4 years back thought what I was doing – rapping and hip-hop – was rubbish and something that you can’t make money out of, are now trusting me. Uncles in their 40s and 50s know what rap is. Rap is going to become a big genre now. This will create a different hip-hop industry. And we won’t need Bollywood now – a solo song will make it.”

Kaam Bhaari, rapper

Name: Kunal Pandagle
Age: 20
Role: Music and lyrics

“Ranveer Bhai has taken good care of me. He always showed me love and respected me like a younger brother. Once I hadn’t slept and I was feeling very ill – he sent his bodyguards to get me medicine. He gives all artists that much loveZoya ma’am also took care of everyone on set. She’s been in love with Bombay since before and she wanted to make a film that captures the Bombay tadka. And this is her best shot at that.”


Name: Dhaval Parab
Age: 31
Previous film work: Wrote rap lyrics for ‘Badla’ from Blackmail, rapped on ‘Baba Theme’ from Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster 3
Role: Wrote battle lyrics in Gully Boy, appears in cypher and battle scenes

“To see it from somewhere around 2005, when we actually started grinding, to now, it’s come a long way. I don’t know what will happen when the movie releases. It’s very overwhelming. Everyone is saying that they’re proud of you. My mom is getting messages from her friends saying, ‘I saw your son in the trailer’.”


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