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Gully Boy movie review: Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt raise the roof with a great musical. 4 stars

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Gully Boy
Director – Zoya Akhtar
Cast – Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz, Kalki Koechlin
Rating – 4/5

The first time we see Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy, he’s stealing a car. Three men head toward an SUV, Singh walking third, far behind the cocksure leader. He appears tentative and preoccupied, having sought out the least active role. His name is Murad, and that is his way. A college kid obsessed with hip-hop, he even writes songs hoping someone else will belt out his rhymes. The performer he approaches (with a notebook full of verses) disagrees. “If we get comfortable,” he asks Murad, “who the hell will rap?”

Watch the Gully Boy trailer here

Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, an underdog story shining a light on India’s incipient hip-hop subculture, is the first great Hindi film of 2019 and a rousing celebration of spunk. The writing is enthralling, the texture fantastic, and this world is a revelation. Here are characters without room to breathe who express themselves breathlessly, through a style of music that has always belonged to the marginalised. Dissent finds a way — and a beat.

How does a rapper-to-be find another, though? The answer lies in Murad’s graffiti scrawl, where he accurately lists ‘Internet’ alongside ‘Roti, Kapda, Makaan’ as an essential. Rap battles in India used to take place online before hip hop enthusiasts realised there were enough of them to assemble loudly. Murad sends a Facebook friend request to a performer, and finds a musician via comments under a YouTube video. He’s nervous asking to meet up, incredulous about suggesting it “directly.” This is the coyness movies reserve for crushes, the hesitant and gradual reaching out of the romantic.

There is absolutely nothing hesitant about Murad’s girlfriend, however. Played by an electric Alia Bhatt, Safeena is an incurable hothead — he nicknames her ‘Danger Aapa’ — who tells her man to go ahead and dream. She’s going to be a doctor and so they’re going to be just fine. She’s a dynamite character, and this is reassurance Murad sorely needs, living in a tiny Dharavi flat occasionally beset by tourists who want poverty porn on their Instagram feeds. Murad and Safeena are practicing Muslims, childhood sweethearts sundered by wealth and class.

The film opens with a dedication to pioneering Indian hip-hop stars Naezy and Divine, Akhtar and co-writer Reema Kagti borrowing background and specifics from their lives. Many local rappers show up, cameoing as themselves, which is a delight. Yet Gully Boys doesn’t try to explain the music itself, or what draws these hungry young men to the righteous aggression of Nas and Tupac and Jay-Z, or even what distinguishes this subculture from other rebellions.


Instead, the writers studiously follow the graph of a sports drama, taking as much from the Rocky template as from Eminem’s screen memoir, 8 Mile. It’s a smart move, keeping the beats basic and buoyant — if repetitive — and making sure the energy is full-tilt and familiar, instead of trying to convert audiences to rap. Besides, the rise-of-the-prizefighter template is appropriate. Who was the first rap battler in the world? Mohammad Ali.

The knockout punches come from MC Sher. With a name that means both tiger and poem, this champ is played by Siddhant Chaturvedi with a natural, easy ferocity. It’s the film’s top performance. When he battles, he seems to be shutting down rivals for real. Sher leans hard into the verses and the artfully effortless attitude, and warmly mentors Murad, dubbing him ‘Gully Boy’ and schooling him in the all-important ways of metre.

This is where the film’s dialogues need to be applauded. Written by Vijay Maurya — who also plays Murad’s uncle — the lines are authentic from the start, allowing us a ringside view. Language varies across classes, like when Murad teases an affluent girl saying “Hindi nahin aata?” and she says “Hindi aati hai, but…”, actually using gender correctly while he is Bombay-istically wrong. The genius lies in the dialogues evolving; late in the film, when Murad is raging against his father, you can sense metre in his words. He’s internalised the iambic.

In fact, true to the spirit of a film about angry young men, Gully Boy leaves much room for Vijays: Vijay Varma is superb as a neighbourhood crook who must have grown up on Jackie Shroff movies, while Vijay Raaz — one of the finest actors we have — is haunting as Murad’s sore, unambitious father.

Cinematographer Jay Oza presents the city in wide shots, while framing faces — especially Singh and Bhatt — mercilessly close, exposing the actors at their rawest. There are some genuinely poetic compositions, one of which features Bhatt sitting alone at a bus-stop, an immediate contrast to her earliest scene, where she squeezed into what can only be described as an Alia-shaped gap in the crowded backseat of a bus, with a hand-holding boyfriend on one side and a sleeping child on her other shoulder.

Bhatt is a marvel, all fury and focus and fearlessness. Safeena is a wondrous character, strikingly self-assured and frighteningly perceptive, and Bhatt endows her with innocence and impulsiveness. She also seems genuinely capable of walloping people.

Singh spends a large part of the film silent, as Murad drinks it all in — predicaments, wishes, suddenly emergent dreams. It begins to feel one-note, particularly in comparison to the louder characters, till he locks himself in a car and turns on a song — he explodes into a convulsive, amazing singalong. This mirrors another scene when Murad, encountering trashy rap on a car stereo, loses his head in the desperation to shut it. Murad isn’t Murad till music plays.

Armed with microphone or words, Singh is unstoppable. There is one scene that jars — when he dances much too confidently during a music video — but that 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.

At one point, Safeena, desperate to cheer for Murad, shouts her encouragement mid-song while the rest of the crowd, aware of the style, knows when to applaud. Akhtar has done something special. Gully Boy starts with a scratch sound and ends with a cut to silence, and in between holds voices that cannot be unheard. Like Safeena, applaud whenever you’re ready. It’s time.

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Angrezi Medium Review: Irrfan makes perfect comeback in light-hearted family comedy drama

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Film: Angrezi Medium

Director: Homi Adajania

Cast: Irrfan, Deepak Dobriyal, Radhika Madan, Kareena Kapoor Khan

Angrezi Medium is a slow-moving tale about a father-daughter relationship essayed by Irrfan and Radhika Madan in perfect capacities. The lack of the mother figure is substituted by a brother, Deepak Dobriyal, who despite a legal dispute with Irrfan loves him dearly. An ensemble supporting cast including Pankaj Tripathi, Dimple Kapadia, Ranvir Shorey and Kiku Sharda lend their own flavours to this widely cultural text. To see an A-lister like Kareena Kapoor Khan play a supporting role is also game-changing in its own way.

Homi Adajania’s directorial has a slack pace throughout which is especially felt in the first half of the film. Despite it being culturally deeply rooted in the Udaipur landscape, with a backdrop of a family feud on the name of ‘Ghasiteram’, the overall narrative of the film is basic and in fact depends quite a lot on the nuances that the actors’ bring with their characters to the screen.

Radhika Madan and Irrfan ace their role, and it is refreshing to see a shy and yet bold, not so outspoken and fiery daughter figure in Angrezi Medium. A change in the arch of liberal womanhood per se. And, despite the presence of a domineering supporting cast, the film focuses on the struggles of Irrfan as a coming-of-age father when his relationship with his freedom-seeking daughter evolves during the course of the film. Yet, Deepak Dobriyal’s performance deserves a special mention and he stands out in parts individually, sometimes even stealing the show with his performance.

There are interesting cultural motifs inserted here and there in the film, though Irrfan largely remains the same rich doting father from Hindi Medium who would go to all extremes to get his daughter’s dreams fulfilled.Apart from the strength of its actors’ performances, perhaps, the screenplay could have been more worked upon. The filmmaker can be found enjoying himself a little too much with the film. The design suited the text as did the dialogues. Other little discrepancies were largely overshadowed by the filmmaker’s attempt to put to use whatever he could to make his film a complete entertainer.

The music of Angrezi Medium borrows from its source film some of the tracks, while putting in iconic Bollywood numbers during the sad alcohol parties organized by Deepak, Irrfan and Kiku to share who is the unhappiest of all. The background score suits the genre of the film.

Angrezi Medium marks Irrfan’s return to the acting table after a year. A much-awaited film in that regard, Irrfan’s performance is likely to gather much applause as the film hits theatres this Friday.

The film is a light-hearted family comedy drama that has a message to give, like Hindi Medium, though not punched into the audience’s face and repeated dismally. A kind of a comedy that comes in once in a while with refreshing dialogues, new situational comedy elements and is just plain fun.

Rating: 2.5

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The Body movie review: Rishi Kapoor-Emraan Hashmi’s film lacks depth

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The Body
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Vedhika Kumar
Director: Jeetu Joseph

It takes a deft hand to make a murder mystery that keeps you engaged and offers a zinger as the climax. Alas, Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi-starrer The Body is not that film.

Despite having a readymade story, director Jeetu Joseph fails to deliver or keep you interested throughout the length of the film. Given the plot and characters, it could have been quite a thrilling watch but poor treatment and a dry narrative leaves no scope for the actors – Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala – to perform beyond a point. A remake of a 2012 Spanish film by the same name, The Body is slow, scattered and a half-baked attempt at making a murder mystery.

Watch the trailer for The Body here:

The film begins with the body of a millionaire businesswoman, Maya (Dhulipala), going missing from a morgue. SP Jairaj Rawal (Kapoor) who is investigating the case believes the dead woman’s husband, Ajay (Hashmi) killed his wife by inducing a heart attack and then stole her body from the morgue to escape an autopsy.

As the events unfold over a span of one night – 8 hours to be precise – Hashmi gets plenty of hints that Maya is alive. Or is it her ghost? Meanwhile, his girlfriend Ritu (Kumar) is there to offer constant support to him to deal with the crisis. Will the cops find the body? Or will Ajay’s fears turn into reality?

Hindustantimes

The Body has many questions and what-will-happen-next moments but without the thrill you would expect in a murder mystery. Joseph plays it safe, and doesn’t play around much with his characters. and doesn’t play around much with his characters.

Kapoor is in his elements as he returns to the screen after almost a year. He owns his part as the cranky police officer who has his own baggage – he lost his wife in a car crash, which he refuses to believe was an accident. He’s a tough nut to crack but holds your attention when he’s there.

Hindustantimes

Hashmi, on the other hand, is shown as a diffident college professor who hits the jackpot when he marries Maya. He’s charming in parts but given that throughout the film he’s confined to the four walls of a morgue, he seems to be struggling to put pieces together and be seen.

While Sobhita as the svelte, rich and gorgeous entrepreneur born with a silver spoon is convincing, Vedhika is a bit of a misfit and doesn’t have a strong screen presence. She is mostly reduced to sobbing while telling Ajay, ‘tum wahan se bhaag jao’.

Hindustantimes

As the series of events unfold, you’re shown flashbacks which are, each time, topped with a romantic song. Even though they’re shot at the most picturesque locales and look pretty, they totally take you away from the story.

By the time you reach climax, you have made your own deductions and the twist makes you go ‘wow’ and ‘blah’ at the same time. The Body is mediocre at best, watch it if you truly like thrillers but don’t expect it to make it to your top 5 list.

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Frozen 2 movie review: Elsa and Anna make a case for reparations in more beautiful but needless sequel

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Frozen 2
Director: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck
Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff

One of the easiest tests for assessing a sequel’s quality is comparing its cast and crew to the original. Are the leads back? Is someone else making it? Did the director have to be thrown out and another brought in their place to fill the hole? Frozen II passes this test with flying colours. Everyone from the original is back, including all the voice actors (Oscar-winners and otherwise) and also the directors. Which means, those who read the script were confident about it and so maybe, you should be, too. However, the test is often deemed unreliable for one factor–the sweet, clinking sound of coins dropping in their purses.

Frozen is still the most successful animated film ever made with a box office haul of $1.27 billion. And this isn’t even a fraction of the money it made for Disney with its Elsa tiffin boxes, Anna backpacks and Olaf toilet plungers. Of course, a sequel is too glossy an idea to not entertain. Another movie means four more Elsa costumes and four more Elsa dolls for your child’s collection. I’ll pray to my god that you find the four-in-one version, for the sake of your wallet and your sanity. That’s the least I can do after writing a review that tells you why you should bring your kids for Frozen II anyway.

Watch Frozen 2 trailer here:

In its second part, the story of ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) takes a more colourful albeit less enchanting turn. Set in the season of autumn, the screen aflush with stunning hues; the fiery red maple leaves, the soft auburns of hidden forests, the icy blues of Elsa’s snow outfits and the royal aubergines of Anna’s cloak. It’s an aesthetic fit for an Instagram trend. #VSCOgirls are shook.

But beautiful visuals were not all that was promised. Six years ago, Frozen gave Disney one of the most refreshing stories about princesses and magic. It wasn’t just a musical delight — although repeated listenings did …uh… made one particular song hard to ‘let go’ from your head. Frozen subverted long-held ideas about the meaning of true love and why one must always find it in a suitor. With a lot of pomp and pageantry, it sang about a woman’s need to break free from isolation and embrace her powers; and finally, learning to trust the ones closest to her. It was a story about how people can help others heal and grow stronger. Things change for Elsa as she breaks away from her sallow, lonely origins and embraces a happier side with her sister.

This image released by Disney shows Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, in a scene from "Frozen 2." (Disney via AP)

With Frozen II, there is no relationship to resolve or personality issues to address. Therefore, the story, the tension and the central conflict feels forced from the very beginning to the absolute end. This time when we meet the two sisters of Arendelle, an undisclosed amount of time has passed since the original. Everything seems happy and joyous in her kingdom but Elsa has been hearing eerie voices call out to her. In the spirit of every kids movie ever, she decides to chase after it and once again brings peril to her kingdom with her ever-growing icy powers that are beyond her control.

To bring things back in order, she goes searching for answers in an enchanted forest and Anna is bent on staying by her side. Last time’s events should have been enough to remind Elsa that Anna can hold her own and even save her in times of need. But the days of not trusting her sister and infantilizing her are still not behind her. The entire party, including the sisters, Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) get divided into different groups when Elsa ditches them to save Arendelle and to find her true self. Cue a song sequence in which Elsa sings at night in a kingdom of isolation with not a footstep to be seen. Welcome back to Frozen (2013).

Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, from left, Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Groff and Sven in a scene from Frozen 2.

In between a few death hoaxes and one stunning song (Into The Unknown) and one that will make 1991 Bryan Adams proud (Lost In The Woods), the film also makes a case for reparations…? The wronged people of the forest should be given their due for all that they suffered for decades and it falls on Elsa and Anna to make a tough decision for the good of their kingdom. What could have been a powerful opportunity to draw parallels with contemporary realities and teach a lesson or two in sacrifice and acceptance, was too quickly resolved with not much of a sacrifice. Of course, the real world doesn’t have ice queens to help them out.

The film, even without a strong, beating, motivated heart at its core is still not dull enough to be unwatchable. Josh Gad’s Olaf is once again one of the best things about the film. He still gets the most hilarious lines; his laugh is just as infectious as we remember it; his stupidity is the kind that make you burst into giggles rather than roll your eyes in frustration. In a standout scene, he gives a hilarious recap of the events of the original and it’s the most exciting and impressive piece of writing in the whole film. As a sad cherry on the cake, Olaf looks forward to adulthood and how he will be wiser when he grows up — a sly dig at all the grown-ups in theatre, realising how wrong he is about it all. It’ll stab at your heart when he realises none of it was true and frankly, he has one of the best character arcs in the film. Can’t believe I just said that about an anthropomorphic pile of snow.

Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, and Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad, in a scene from Frozen 2.

Frozen II, however, falls short on the musical front, something that made the original Disney so memorable. Each song was catchy, crisp and brilliant in the first film. However, with the sequel, dig my brain as hard as I might, I can’t remember a single line of lyrics from more than one song. Idina Menzel knocks it out of the park once again with the powerful Into The Unknown, and the haunting chorus is still ringing in my ear, hours later. And karaoke lovers beware, this one will be tougher than its predecessor to sing.

But one catchy song is too less, one great snowman too little a reward for those who have waited six years for this. Maybe now that we have realised it was not really worth it, can we finally let it go?

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