Vice Guide to Right Now

Is Gully Boy ‘Asli Hip-Hop’?

The film’s hype has already divided the VICE India office.
January 9, 2019, 2:39pm
gully boy ranveer singh trailer
Image: Excel Entertainment (Twitter)

The trailer for Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy dropped today, lighting up the Indian internet like it’s virtual Diwali. The film, self-admittedly, “a coming-of-age story based on the lives of street rappers in Mumbai,” has surprisingly divided the VICE India office, which has former music journalists and easily hyped film fanboys.

To settle the debate amidst random screams of ‘Apna time aayega’, and talk about the film’s potential impact on the gully rap scene, two staffers started a frantic email chain with the subject, “Gully Boy looks flames”.

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Below is the edited transcript.

Parthshri Arora: Naman bhaiya, I love the Gully Boy teaser!

Naman Saraiya: Man, I see what you mean—but the marketing is flames. The teaser is a pleaser, nothing more. The confidence is nice, but to say that 'Aao Hindustan ko milayein asli hip-hop se' is just stretching it a bit. Excel Entertainment also brought us the colossal clusterfuck called Rock On!! #neverforget

Arora: Sure, but don't you have to hype shit up to get people to watch? In terms of an intro to the gully rap scene, it works well. No?

Saraiya: Of course, hype or not, people are going to watch it because Ranveer + Alia + Bollywood = win-win.

If you're telling me this is an intro to the gully rap scene, I mean, have you even watched the docu we made? That's a real intro, not the intro—but mass audiences don't care for fact or fiction, and will assume what they see in Gully Boy is ‘ asli hip-hop’. But I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. Hundreds of crores aren't making themselves, and for what it's worth, I do think the filmmakers, and Ranveer especially, are invested in the subject, the scene and the craft.

Arora: How dare you?! I love our docu.

But I hate the IF-YOU’RE-MAKING-IT-MAKE-IT-REAL argument. The purist stand fails in India, as no one is going to drop 150 bucks for a docu. Hell, they don't drop that much for Shah Rukh films now (RIP Zero). The #aslihiphop part is marketing genius actually, as they're using the naivete of, say, my dad, who will, after watching the trailer, think he can understand what kids keep listening to after watching one movie. Kaafi cool.

Achha tell me this but, why do you think it'll make hundreds of crores? The trailer was that good? Saraiya: Ha! Thanks for your validation, Parth. It's not an argument, TBH, the if-you're-making-it-make-it-real one. And I understand that it's cinema, and fiction and suspension of time and belief and all of that, but then don't lead with ‘ asli hip-hop . But you know what? A thought just popped up in my head. The hashtag and the campaign that's leading with #ApnaTimeAayega is correct because like in our docu, Kya Bolta Bantai, people in the scene are excited about this film being made. More so because of their involvement in the movie's making, in the soundtrack, in cyphers, the research—everything.

Arora: Now that you’re opening up and this is a safe space, I want to confess something which will greatly take away from my own arguments :P

The trailer is oddly less interesting than the teaser. It's classic rags-to-riches, with rap as a vehicle to stardom/economic independence rather than interact with it as an art form. To quote our great colleague Sujay Kulkarni, the trailer is less Naezy or DIVINE, more Eminem from 8 Mile. Now I'm recalibrating my own hype about the film, or at least my interest in what the film is interested in engaging with.

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Saraiya: I'm not surprised you say that, because at the end of the day, this is a movie and it needs to make money. Whether the scene benefits from it might be a bit of a stretch but some rappers, performers and producers possibly will gain some recognition.

That said, overall, here are some thoughts I had on the trailer. It's a masala movie that will trace the success of an underdog. Amazing hook. Everyone loves that shit. Zoya is a good filmmaker, barring say perhaps ZNMD (which was a Spain tourism ad, and a showcase for Javed saab's poetry in Farhan's voice). Alia: not convincing, don't let Twitter fool you. Ranveer looks fairly solid, and you gotta tip your hat to the commitment he brings to every role, even if it's the terribad Simmba . The supporting cast looks good too, as does the cinematography (ht/t Jay Oza and gang). How much hip-hop finally trickles in remains to be seen, but gotta say, I agree with Sujay on this one: more 8 Mile, less Naezy and DIVINE.

Talking of DIVINE, his tune in the trailer is another run-of-the-mill Gully Gang staple, but did someone miss the hook? It says Azadi. LOL.

Arora: Hahaha.

I surprisingly agree with almost everything. It could be an average story with above-average cinematography and below-average #ImpactOnTheScene, but the film will be oddly exhilarating because the performances can be potentially transcendent.

You're right about Ranvir, dude looks absolutely electric. He feels like someone who captured the experience of Aafat in a test tube, distilled and crystallised it, then fucking smashed the crystals and injected that into his soul. Alia, to me, seems amazing again, because she's amazing in everything, which is because she is very amazing. I'm also all in for Zoya, who killed it with Lust Stories. (Bhumi Pednekar forever <3) Lastly, Vijay Raaz as the root of daddy issues? Sign me the fuck up.

Can we both also admit that we're absolutely going to watch this on the first weekend?

Saraiya: Firstly, it's *Ranveer, so calm your excitement. Wait, has he paid you for this shit?

I hope he's channeled whatever Naezy, Altaf, Emiway and the other bantais have had to offer him, because it does look it. And I'll come watch it with you, my friend. I'm happy this is happening, but can we go easy on the hype?

Follow Naman Saraiya and Parthshri Arora on Twitter.