Gully Boy movie review: Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt raise the roof with a great musical. 4 stars
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.
Books & Authors
Book Review of Debutant Author, T. Shree, ‘What If….’
|Title:||You’ll Always Be My Favorite “What If”|
This was the book we had mentioned in our article of last month ‘What If…’ The book is a romance based on contemporary times. If we look at romances and novels we have a preconceived notion but this book drags down that notion and brings in space for so much more. Romance is the most versatile topic and it has been beautifully expressed by T. Shree in the book. It’s a fairytale-like pretty story bringing in the different emotions at different moments.
The book will blow one’s mind, it’s a book filled with a variety of characters, the building of the characters, the plots, and their twists put you to think more about this story. It’s a book on the details are kept to the story there is no loose end in the story making it a blissful read.
Amisha & Avyansh had met up in an arranged set up but the marriage never happened because of Avyansh’s abrupt refusal to the marriage proposal. The protagonist of the story faces tragic situations in her day-to-day life. She has herself a social network and then she has her true own self. Managing two different personalities, two different images becomes a task for her. She has a big void formed inside her, as the social image of her being this happy, bubbly, and cheerful girl has completely taken a toll over her personal life making her empty of all her emotions and feelings. The book is settled in a middle-class family, talks about the pressure and Amisha was married to Nikhil forcefully and Avyansh was married to Sunanya but there was something between them. Destiny got them again into the same settlement after 15 years; professionally in the same company. Avyansh was President Band 2 and Head of Business Development for APAC and UK. He was famous as “The Forbidden Fruit aka Tempting.” He had already proved to be the one of all the ladies in the company with his intense looks and attitude. Amisha also joined the company as a VP- branding and social media strategy in the same company and she had looks and style to turn a million heads around. It was all fine until they met each other; it was the silence before the sea Strom.
The book is based on a beautiful saying, what if it happens? And it says it all. There is such a deep connection with the characters in the story that you at one point will feel like being part of the book. It’s a great experience to read something this connective. It’s that one piece of contemporary romance that’s filled with thrill, bits of aww moments, and lots of hows and what’s.
Life is the result of our decisions taken at every point in life. Amisha, who was 18, and Avynash, who was 21 were in love with each other; it was love at first sight. They had planned to spend an entire lifetime of togetherness. But none can do their will against destinies play. Amisha’s family got her married to someone else, the marriage couldn’t stand for a very long time. Destiny had its plan of crossing their paths after 15 years.
The book is very engaging, The little notes at the beginning of each chapter are super adorable and the highlighted dialogues and quotes make it very interesting. This book basically tells u- “If it’s meant to be, it will be” The book is full of suspense and makes us so much familiar with the protagonist of the story. It’s like indulging in something so much interesting. The author deserves appreciation for the small details and the well-put story making it a beauty in itself.
This YA Yarn Would Be A Bit More Bewitching If Its Witch Made Better Choices
The Fourth of July has come and gone, so *checks calendar* it’s time for everyone to start decorating for Halloween, right? Yes, I am That Girl who uses spiders in all of her decorating. But really, who couldn’t use a little magic in their lives right about now? Time to break out the Hocus Pocus and pick up books like Laura Sibson’s Edie in Between.
Edie in Between was touted as “a modern Practical Magic.” An intriguing idea, as Alice Hoffman’s bewitching Practical Magic is not only a critically-acclaimed classic, but one of my favorite films of all time. Having read Edie, I think a more realistic comparison would be The Craft — still a lot of fun, but far less nuanced and ambitious.
Celtic/Wiccan magic runs in Edie Mitchell’s family. The Mitchell women dry herbs, note the solstice, and hide secret forests with rhyming spells. Edie herself can see dead people, among other things, but she’d rather just be a cross-country jock that has nothing to do with any of it. Which she got away with, until her mother’s death outside their home in Baltimore almost a year ago, at which point Edie moved onto her grandmother’s herb-covered houseboat in the Chesapeake Bay.
Despite being a socially awkward person who loathes this small town, Edie does make a couple of friends: Tess, who runs with her, and beautiful Rhia, who works at the local occult shop. It’s Tess who tells Edie about the “haunted” Mitchell property, so of course Edie has to investigate. Her presence bungles some sort of spell there, triggering a chain reaction of dangerous magic that goes from bad to worse. With the help of her new friends, GG (her grandmother), Edie’s mother’s journal, and a lot of magic, they manage to unlock these secrets of the past one by one.
Now, my upbringing was heavily influenced by Greek culture, so I am predisposed to have certain views on superstitions and the supernatural. I’m also a poet, so I have strong opinions on rhyming poetry. I acknowledged both of these things, and then set them aside so I could enjoy Edie’s story with an open mind. And for the most part I did, apart from Edie’s willful disregard for meter — I wish she’d thrown that out the window a lot sooner — and blatant ignorance.
For whatever reason, Edie’s mother allowed her to have a childhood without the “burden” of knowing how to properly harness magic that is powerful enough to kill a person. Even after she bumbled into that old house and screwed up a spell she didn’t know was there, Edie continued making one bad decision after another. By halfway through the book I was as mad as GG, as concerned as Tess and Rhia, and yelling at Edie like she was a character in a horror movie that should NOT go into the dark basement. Which did lead to considerable personal enjoyment, but I suspect it wasn’t what the author was going for.
I did appreciate that Edie’s story was about fear and the power of grief — appropriate themes for the current time. It highlighted the importance (and frustration) of communication within a family, no matter what the generation. When there are words you can’t say, it definitely puts the words you won’t say into perspective. But I really would like to have known more about the Mitchell family’s history and the origin of their magic, and I wish Rhia and Tess’s characters both had had a bit more substance.
So if you’re craving cooler weather, hot apple cider, and the classic Charmed TV series, Edie in Between is a magical adventure right up your dark alley. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve already got Practical Magic in the queue anyway.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman – review
This wise meditation on human transience strikes a perfect balance between self-help manual and philosophical odyssey
In the current average human lifespan we get 4,000 of each day of the week: 4,000 Saturday nights, 4,000 lazy Sundays, 4,000 Monday mornings. When we are young, that might feel like a dizzying number of tomorrows. As the years go by, not so much. Oliver Burkeman’s midlife inquiry into how we might most meaningfully approach those days is perfectly pitched somewhere between practical self-help book and philosophical quest. Having been the Guardian’s resident “pursuit of happiness” correspondent for a decade, offering the weekly promise that “This column will change your life”, this is something like his accumulated wisdom.
It starts with some necessary caveats. The day will never arrive when you have emptied your inbox. There will always be too many demands on your time, or nowhere near enough. Anything might happen in the next half an hour. Burkeman’s own journey as he describes it over the past years is perhaps a familiar one. He started out in his adult life believing there might be a trick to optimising personal productivity. He was a planner, a to-do lister, a buyer of highlighter pens. He was half-persuaded that there might be three or seven or 12 robust habits that allowed you finally to feel in control, on top of things.
Slowly, as plans never quite went to plan, and choices were made, and kids arrived, he came to understand that in any interesting life, time will almost never be your own to “spend” efficiently, and that most of the secret lay in embracing that fact. As he works his way towards these truths, Burkeman provides a brief history of human ideas of time. The definition that we are most familiar with, the stuff that might require urgent management, was really, he suggests, the product of two things: the sharp decline of faith in an afterlife, and the Industrial Revolution. Our acceptance of finite time – of this being all there is – roughly coincided with clocking on and clocking off. This made time more pressured and precious. Most of our anxieties, Burkeman argues, derive from the fact that “every moment of our existence is shot through with what Heidegger called finitude”, or a nagging sense that we might be wasting what little time we have.
As he explores more closely what this might mean, he also proposes some strategies, or thoughts, to counter that anxiety. The traditional airport-bookshop volumes about time-management tend to emphasise the importance of finding focus. These concerns have been exacerbated by the great global engine of digital distraction; social media companies make their billions from the time you aimlessly, addictively provide them, “making you care about things you don’t want to care about”, as Burkeman says.
It helps, he suggests, rather to understand certain basic human limitations. Procrastination is unavoidable, though we can get better at ignoring the right things. Fomo – fear of missing out – is only debilitating if you fail to realise “that missing out is basically guaranteed” in life, the inevitable consequence of one path chosen over another. The self-help gurus might tell us never “to settle” in a relationship or a job. Burkeman argues rather that “you should definitely settle, or to be more precise, you don’t have a choice”. It is inevitable that you come to realise any chosen partner or job is not all other potential partners or jobs. Happiness is a factor of what you do with that information.
Productivity is also revealed as a fairly dubious modern virtue. “The Latin word for business, negotium, translates as not-leisure, reflecting the view that work was a deviation from the higher calling [of ease],” he says. If we make leisure only another arena for self-improvement then it sacrifices the present in favour of an imagined future. One hero of this book is the hobbyist, who can steal an afternoon for no purpose; another is the person who “develops a taste for having problems”, in the knowledge that the state of having no problems only arrives postmortem. Burkeman ends his book, as his publisher perhaps insisted, with 10 tips to take away. The how-to is not necessary; as with all the best quests, its many pleasures don’t require a fast-forward button, but happen along the way.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman is published by Bodley Head (£16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply
Source: The Guardian
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