Movie Review ‘Gully Boy’

I haven’t watched a Hindi movie years. Actually I found them depressing as a child. Romantic singing and running around trees accompanied by squeaky violins and high-pitched female vocals just wasn’t my thing. I personally prefer lower pitched or more full-bodied vocal technique – I find this more relaxing to listen to and it often means I am quite unable to appreciate the artistic and musical achievement of high-pitched voices on an emotional level, even though I do on a mental level. Plus the typical saas-bahu politics and family intrigue just seemed very negative to me then. As it still seems to me now.

Movie plots have changed, and Bollywood music now includes a much wider range of vocals that I find more interesting. I’ve been reading about a lot of movies that are stepping out of standard story lines and decided that it’s time I started watching them. It’s a challenge quite frankly, because watching any kind of movie has been a once a year thing for the past decade.

So, I’m applying my piano practise techniques to fitting this into my life. And have finally got through my first Hindi movie in years – Bit By Bit – like I fit in practising a piano piece when I have too much of other stuff or other practise to do and am still really keen to get done.

I chose ‘Gully Boy’ because I’ve heard about it and because it’s just conveniently there on my netflix screen every time I log on. I watched it in 3 sittings and this post is my first impression of the movie and the characters. So forgive me please, if I am vague on specifics – they’re available at wikipedia. This post is intended to convey my general impression of the movie.

Why Gully Boy made an impression

This movie is a surprisingly accurate fictional depiction of real life in the slums in India and the daily struggles that come with it. It’s pretty stark at first, but the plot pulls one in as it unfolds.

Safina

She’s a demure young girl when she isn’t being rude, getting into hand-to-hand fights and throwing objects in temper. She wants a career and is able to get her dad – a very quiet, hesitant-to-stand-up-to-his-hot-tempered-wife man – to support her. Murad is crazy about her, despite a brief encounter with Sky.

Safina is hot-tempered when she has reason, and but has serious anger management issues that I mentioned earlier. She’s the daughter of a woman who thinks it’s okay to hit her daughter when rules and restrictions fail.

She’s genuinely upset Murad doesn’t study enough and lets go when a fan compliments Murad during a BEST bus ride and asks about his career. Unlike Jess Bhamra’s parents berating her on a public TV channel in Bend It Like Beckham, this didn’t have me screaming with laughter. I just thought it was plain rude.

That said, Safina is crazy about Murad and her temperament well suited to him. I think they’d do very well in life together if she’d get some counseling for anger management and learn to manage conflict effectively.

Murad

He is the lead role in the movie, the under-priveledged boy and the son of a father who has been badly brought up and who remarries and then treats his first wife (Murad’s mother) like a servant, while Murad’s grandmother watches silently, without protest.

Murad, unlike Safina, has the ability to control his anger and let it out when it’s necessary and useful. Family issues and the need to support his mother make financial independence a priority for him and his studies take a back seat, as he realises that his dreams could bring a quick win.

Sky

She is the girl who has a ‘thing’ for Murad. A really nice and different portrayal of the ‘other woman’ or ‘other girl’ in this case – she appears unaware at first, that Murad has a significant other. Sky has a resilience that Safina doesn’t have, and is willing accept rejection and to let go graciously.

It’s evident that she still has feelings for Murad, but keeps her distance while maintaining a cordial professional relationship with him, after she realises Murad cares for Safina. I think Safina could learn some maturity from Sky. And I think Sky has a niceness that would make her help Safina despite all that’s happened in the movie.

My last impression

Gully Boy is a subtle portrayal of a myriad of social issues that India faces today, and yet, despite the social messages, quite enjoyable to watch.

  • It makes an important point, that a badly brought up boy grows up to be a badly behaved man.
  • That education, and holding on to dreams, can be a way out of the anger and frustration of working at a poorly paid job, for a man who doesn’t value the dignity of labour.
  • It fails somehow with the brown is beautiful message for me, because my overall first impression was that Safina and Sky both had lighter complexions than other women in the movie, except one – D J Sher’s foreign girlfriend. A subtle reinforcement of the idea that is a part of many Indian mindsets, that fair is lovelier than brown.
  • The plot comments on how strict social rules result in friendships and relationships being conducted without the knowledge of parents. This is a very real social problem than puts a lot of girls at risk of assault – if they’ve unwittingly chosen the wrong friends, or have made the mistake of meeting their friends in isolated places where they can be attacked.

‘Gully Boy’ is so very different from the Bollywood movies I’ve had brief glimpses of over the years. A must-watch for any movie-goer and food for thought for an India that is working towards equality and progress. An India that wishes to break the cycle of deep-rooted anger that often targets women and vulnerable sections of society. An India that still doesn’t quite see the signs even though they’re shouting out loud.

Really looking forward to my next Bollywood movie!

Published by Anitaelise

Anitaelise teaches piano lessons at Anitaelise Piano Studio and writes poetry and essays at The Relaxed Housekeeper.

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