Gully Boy At Berlin: An Oral History, Film Companion

ZOYA: The films I’ve done so far, I know those worlds. When I was assisting Mira Nair during Kamasutra, I was in charge of directing the extras and the background action — so I knew these strugglers. But with Gully Boy, when I heard Naezy, this “conscious rap”, I was struck that it exists. Here was a scene that was in Mumbai, my city, and I didn’t know about it. After 4-5 hours with Naezy, I knew there was a story to be told.

RITESH: Zoya met me and said she wanted to explore this rap culture. She started her research, and when she finished and gave me a narration, I could see the entire world. It was very visual.

RANVEER: I don’t think people underestimate me because of my fashion sense. I am in touch with various dimensions of my personality. I am intense on screen. I am also loving and vulnerable. Sometimes, I like to have my entertainer hat on. The costumes are about that.

ALIA: I am aware that I have big crying scenes in many of my films. I do think about whether I should change the way I break down in front of the camera. But then, I would not actually be crying. It’s about feeling as opposed to doing. The scene needs to be authentic. I guess doing different kinds of characters can help to break away from the sameness. My Gully Boy character is very different.

RITESH: A committee from Berlin saw a three-hour cut of Gully Boy, and based on that, they invited us to the festival. This makes the film “legit”. A film festival gives you word-of-mouth publicity. And even if the early reviews are bad, I know there’s a certain interest in this film and its milieu.

ZOYA: I can’t imagine a disadvantage of being at a film festival. It’s a global platform. At the end of the day, I have made a film. I am nervous about how it will be received. But you can’t be scared. The early reviews don’t weigh on me. I just feel like I wanted to be here.

RANVEER: Lootera was tough for me. I was a newcomer. It taught me a lot, but I was out of my comfort zone. The turning point was a back injury. It was scary. I was in bed for some three months, staring at the ceiling. The doctor said I may not be able to dance or fight again. I could see my dream slipping away. After I recovered, I became a more authentic person. An up-and-coming hero is expected to be a certain way, and this whole projection thing was too taxing. I knew I was going to face criticism either way. The first time I followed my own style was during an interview for Gunday with Anupama Chopra. I’d hurt my foot, so I was wearing Kolhapuri chappals — but with a brown suit and a fedora and all kinds of blingy knick-knacks.

RITESH: A film festival creates the right kind of noise. It opens up markets. We can showcase our film to countries that have no Indian diaspora. We can get reviews in international publications that might otherwise not review the film. And based on these reviews, we can get our film to the mainstream audiences in those countries, because language is no longer an issue for them when it comes to choosing films.

RANVEER: When I am playing a character younger in age than me, the process is still the same. I work on the gait, the physicality. I do all of this before I go onto the set. And then it’s movie magic, that special thing that happens when you are in the moment.  You can’t anticipate it. You can’t plan and plot it.

ZOYA: I didn’t set out to do an Angry Young Man film, but yes, during the editing, I did see that aspect to it. There is this brooding, simmering, slow-burn character. And like in my film, the Angry Young Man of the 1970s was mainstream and involved in the socio-economic space of the time.

ALIA: The rapport with an actor doesn’t matter. You can hate a costar or love them. Of course, it helps if you have a proper bond. It makes the relationship seem seamless and trustworthy. I didn’t have that with Randeep Hooda (during Highway). With Ranveer, we’ve worked on ads. So it’s there. But ultimately, it’s about the process itself.

RANVEER: This way of dressing flamboyantly is almost a way to overcompensate for what I am inside. I am deep, very intense, angsty. These clothes help me be light-hearted.

ZOYA: I want to do films in all genres. I am very attracted to coming-of-age stories. But I am not really drawn to the love story. I can do the Luck By Chance kind of romance, but that’s not really a “love story”.

RANVEER: My wife appreciates that I express myself unfiltered. She admires my fearlessness. But she’s not aligned with my aesthetic choices. Her look is more classic.

ALIA: I never compete with Ranveer on the red carpet. He is unique and himself. I just try to look my best.



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