Movie Synopsis: Gully Boy is a Indian Hindi-language musical film written and directed by Zoya Akhtar. It stars Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt and is based on the life of Divine and Naezy (Naved Shaikh), underground rappers from Mumbai.
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt
Producers: Excel Entertainment, Tiger Baby
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Music: Ankur Tewari
Release Date: February 14, 2019
Like 8 Mile, Eminem’s real life-inspired film in which he played himself, the trailer of Gully Boy opens with Ranveer Singh’s character finding himself in the middle of a rap battle with nothing to say. By the time we have reached the end of the trailer, and another rap battle, he has a story to tell.
Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt starrer Gully Boy directed by Zoya Akhtar has been chosen to be screened at the Berlinale special gala. Both the actors took to their social media to share their happiness! The movie is loosely inspired by the lives of Mumbai-based rappers Divine and Naezy. While this will be its world premiere, the film will release on February 14th in India.
Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is making waves. Three first look posters and a trailer announcement were released this week. They look terrific. The film, inspired by the lives of Mumbai rappers Naezy and Divine, stars Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt. Gully Boy also launches Tiger Baby, the production company of Zoya and writer-director Reema Kagti. When we asked Reema why Tiger Baby, she said: it’s feminine, it’s Indian, it’s hip. I agree.
Vivian Fernandes aka Divine first made waves in 2015 with his single ‘Mere Gully Mein’ featuring fellow rapper Naezy. Since then, he has become the most recognizable face of the ‘gully rap’ movement in Mumbai – his videos have amassed millions of views online, he composed the track for Puma’s Suede Gully campaign, Red Bull has announced that they will be releasing a documentary about him, and Zoya Akhtar’s upcoming film Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt is inspired by his life and Naezy’s. When I met him for an interview ahead of the release of his new album, I asked him why he thinks he is the frequent subject of criticism and diss and parody tracks. He said, “I am the biggest. I went from 15,000 rupees to 700,000 a show in two years. They want a piece of my cake. But it’s not so easy to get it.” Here’s his response:
A few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have heard of rapper Vivian Fernandez, better known by his stage name Divine. Today, his videos have amassed millions of views on YouTube and he is signed to Sony Music India, one of the biggest record labels in the country. Acclaimed director Zoya Akhtar‘s next film Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt is inspired by the success stories of underground rappers like him and his peer Naezy. We caught up with the rapper backstage at the TimeOut72 music festival in Goa to talk about performing music live, his Bollywood plans and what he thinks the future holds for Indian underground hip-hop:
Gully Fest was as much a celebration of desi hip-hop as it was of DIVINE’s journey from his hardscrabble life in the slums of JB Nagar to making it big enough to inspire a Bollywood film (Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh is based on him and fellow rapper Naezy).
Gully Boy: Zoya Akhtar. Need I really say more? As one of the most talented mainstream voices, Gully Boy sees Akhtar embark on her most ambitious venture to date with the story of Mumbai’s underground hip-hop scene loosely based on the inspiring rags to riches journeys of rappers Naezy and Divine. Add a Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt at the lead and throw in a World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and what you get is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Catch the beat drop on our screens February 14th.
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.
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January, 2019, will be remembered as the month Bollywood went out of its way to please the powers that be. Actors proudly claimed they have no ideology. A military war-cry, used in the promotions of a film, went viral. The films that released — a GI Joe-style action film about a surgical strike, a film about a meek, submissive former Prime Minister, a party-funded biopic of a venom-spewing demagogue, a historical war film — all endorse, in varying degrees, a narrative that the Government would like us to believe. The Hindi film industry has always been a bit insular, always content with maintaining status quo. But few months before the elections it was scary to be reminded how easily it can be co-opted. The arrival of the Gully Boy album in the middle of all this feels like an act of resistance.
“Zoya & I have worked together before and we have a fantastic working relationship… we are totally on the same wavelength, often thinking of and expressing the same ideas at exactly the same moment!” says Production Designer Suzanne Caplan Merwanji on her working relationship with filmmaker Zoya Akhtar. In an email interview, Suzanne spoke about their latest collaboration Gully Boy, how production design contributes to storytelling, why it was important to stand apart from how Mumbai slums are usually depicted and why shooting in Dharavi was essential.
“Apna Time Aayega”, the hard-hitting rap in which Ranveer Singh’s character aspires to a better life, is one of Gully Boy’s most popular songs, amassing 41 million views on YouTube. Director Zoya Akhtar spoke about how her father, poet Javed Akhtar, and rapper Divine each lent their unique skills to the song.
While waiting for the press screening of Gully Boy, I glanced at the press notes: “Bollywood meets hip-hop in Zoya Akhtar’s colourful but socially critical story about music and love.” The film runs 148 minutes, which is par for the course for us, of course. But at festivals, where people plan their days so that they can see as many films as possible, length can become a consideration. The other films being presented as part of the Berlinale Special programme are mostly less than two hours long. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch — the final part of the documentary trilogy by directors Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky, in which they document the consequences of humankind’s actions on our planet (this one’s set in Kenya, “where tusks are being measured and stacked”) — runs a mere 87 minutes.
Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy acknowledges its inspirations right on top: “This film is a shout-out to the original gully boys, Naezy and DIVINE.” Naezy’s life was briefly chronicled in Disha Noyonika Rindani’s documentary Bombay 70, where the rapper explains that his given name, Naved, means “messenger of happiness.” The name of Gully Boy’s protagonist (played by Ranveer Singh) is significant, too. He’s Murad: “desire”. And his desire is to break free of his circumstances. It’s not easy. When his father (Vijay Raaz) brings home a second wife, the sounds of the shehnai echo across their little pocket of Dharavi. Murad plugs in his earphones, and for a while, another music – his music – fills his world. But quickly, his father yanks the cord and the earphone slips out. It’s back to the shehnai. The neighbourhood engulfs him all over again.
Do your dreams have to match your reality? Gully Boy answers that question with a resounding no. In a terrific scene, Murad, a rapper from Dharavi, tells his father, a driver, that he will not downsize his destiny because of his circumstances. Instead he will alter his reality to match his dreams.
A fleeting moment early on in Gully Boy hints at why Mumbai – or in the spirit of rap and defiance and anti-establishment fury: Bombay – is the beating heart of the country’s burgeoning underground hip-hop scene. Murad (Ranveer Singh), an aspiring young poet from Dharavi’s slums, waits outside a posh nightclub. He is a chauffeur for a wealthy family; the daughter is drinking, partying, or whatever rich folks do in obscenely expensive places (or, effectively, other Zoya Akhtar films). As he reluctantly hangs out with other drivers, we hear one of them, an older chap, earnestly explain to a colleague how he has learned to chop vegetables in an efficient manner. The faded beats of a global hip-hop hit from inside the club inadvertently score his ramblings. His accent is indecipherable – a mix of native tongue, slang, attitude, urgency, almost as if he were trying to express himself in the quickest possible way to capture the attention of the young driver. There is an audible rhythm to the “composition” of these disparate sounds. The man is rapping, and he doesn’t even know it.