Gully Boy: Mumbai as a Muse for Bollywood

Mumbai the mega metropolitan cluster has been a dream factory and the unique informal community of Dharavi next to the domestic airport has been a cinematic magnet of choice for generations of film makers. Who would not prefer a story in ones backyard?


Slumdog Millionaire took the euphoria to its zenith but Mumbai or Bombai or Bombay has been a terrific muse for the portrayal of the human condition. My personal favourite is The Lunch Box with the old catholic realm of Hill Street Bandra depicted with the everyday life of a Mumbaikar. The Photograph, by the same director takes Mumbai as the backdrop.

Pa. Ranjith with Kaala sets up Tamil speaking Dharavi as the context for urban social justice wars, with a Dalit Angle. In contrast the politics with a small ‘p’ of the Zoya Akhtar helmed Gully Boy is subtle and depicts socioeconomic realities of a Muslim Family in a slum and the associated surroundings really well with the intertwining of crime, aspiration, dejection, and most importantly rap music as a vehicle for social elevator in a competitive city.

The music is political with the rap as a context for larger conversations on urban inclusion. Ranveer Singh as Muraad excels in a role which is the antithesis of his off screen persona. Alia Bhatt as Safeena, has a role to remember as the fierce medical student trying to breakout.

Vijay Raaz as the abusive father who marries a younger woman again is a star act. The movie truly is owned by newcomer Siddhanth Chaturvedi as MC Sher. His swag fills up the screen with panache.

The movie is hilarious in its anecdotes and speaks to the third generation Mumbaikar in me who finds Mumbai as the crucible for the original hustle with the Apna Time Ayega, which is the anthem of every resident with a twinkle in his or her eye. Mumbai is deeply political to the extent that it is apolitical in the race for resources. Money is a great leveller. Money rules in Mumbai, political power is deemed for Delhi.

There are many Mumbai’s within Mumbai, and the film successfully conveys the message. This is the biggest take away from the movie.