Gully Boy’s Street-Flavoured Music is the Underdog’s War Cry
The music of ‘Gully Boy’ is more than street rap. It has a story to tell.
Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is winning hearts since its release on 14 February 2019. Be it the performances, the direction, or the music, the movie has impressed critics as well as the general public.
In a movie that explores Mumbai’s underground rap scene, the music had to stand out — and it does and how!
While most movies are taking the remixing route, rehashing old songs in one way or another, Gully Boy boasts of an 18-song strong album.
The songs are diverse, gutsy, and leave a lasting impact. The placement of the songs is also commendable and even though there is an abundance of tracks, none of them look forced.
Anyone who follows the underground or street hip-hop scene would know that these rappers often challenge majoritarianism, the state, and established order through music, but sadly they never make it to the mainstream.
Gully Boy’s music retains the original essence of the street-rap genre, with songs like ‘Azaadi’, ‘Jingostan Zindabad’, ‘Doori’, and more, questioning the current socio-political scene of the country.
Mixed effectively with the music are poems, folk beats, diss raps, spoken verse, and something that’s quintessential to rap — performance.
‘Apna Time Ayega!’: The Underdog’s War Cry
Gully Boy’s tracks tell the story of the good-for-nothing underdog whose dreams are on the brink of being crushed, but music helps him persevere. Even without fancy equipment and over-the-top musical arrangement, the lyrics are hard-hitting.
In the first half of the movie, when Murad (Ranveer Singh) tries to rap — doing a bad job of it, at first — you can feel the emotion in the lyrics. You cannot help but say ‘apna time ayega!’ with him.
This rap is also significant because you get to see Murad’s transformation from a unsure Dharavi boy who likes to write, to a full on stage performer who raps like it’s nobody’s business.
Another impressive aspect of the first half of the movie is Sidhhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher. He is the friend, philosopher, and guide to Ranveer Singh’s Murad.
It is when MC Sher raps ‘Bhaag Bhaag, Sher Aaya’ that Murad first realises that rap can be about so much more than drugs, cars, money, and sex — topics that are prevalent in Western rap culture.
‘Azadi’ and ‘Jingostan Zindabad’ are openly political, with lyrics like “2018 hai, desh ko khatra hai” questioning the current state of the nation.
Interestingly, the version of ‘Azadi’ that is included in the jukebox includes the original audio of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student-leader Kanhaiya Kumar raising the slogan ‘Leke rahenge azadi’ (We will be free) from the infamous 9 February 2016 protest, following which Kumar was charged with sedition. The song was composed by Dub Sharma.
‘Doori’ highlights the difference in the living standards of people from various classes. You root for the underdog, appreciate their struggle, and enjoy the music that tells their story.
Introducing Audience to Rap-Battle Culture
A phenomenon that many may not have been aware of before Gully Boy was that of rap battle or diss battle.
Rap battles are an intrinsic part of hip-hop culture. The movie introduces the audience to it, though serves a sanitised version of the battles keeping in mind audience sensibilities.
A rap battle is when two rappers rap one-on-one, often taking personal digs at each other. The raps are constructed on the spot and the insults often get brutal.
Murad fails at his first rap battle but inches closer to success. The rap battles in Gully Boy add another musical quotient to the film and highlight that music can be made with words alone.
A Musical Treasure for All Ages
All in all, the Gully Boy jukebox is a musical treasure for all ages. Everyone, from the oldest in a family to the youngest, will enjoy it — a commendable achievement in itself, considering the medley of musicians and independent artists involved.
The ‘Train Song’, in particular, brings out the variety in the jukebox with its folk and fusion vibe, brought in by Karsh Kale and Midival Punditz. The beats keep you hooked and wanting for more!
Gully Boy’s anthem ‘Apna Time Aayega’ — composed by Sharma and Divine — seems to be inspired by grunge rock, which has mostly been seen in the UK. The version of it towards the end of the movie provides a passionate auditory closure.
‘Har Gham Mein Khushi Hai’ by ACE and ishQ Bector — one of the first generation rappers from the scene — is a story of survival. The spoken-word style in which it is performed makes it even more poignant.
Most of the songs have a boy-from-the-hood vibe, but manage to avoid indulging in stereotypes.
One can only hope that with all the other trends that Gully Boy is setting, honest music from independent artists makes its way into the mainstream.
Listen to Gully Boy’s full jukebox here:
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