Gully Boy Review: Khatri Music & Bahut Hard Performances in a Primer on Mumbai Slums

Bollywood

Gully Boy Review: Khatri Music & Bahut Hard Performances in a Primer on Mumbai Slums

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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here’s an intimate, wordless sequence in Gully Boy that reiterates the rewards of Zoya Akhtar’s tight direction: Safeena (Alia Bhatt), a young hijab-wearing Muslim girl gets on a packed bus with her mother. As her mother takes a seat, Safeena looks back at where Murad (Ranveer Singh) is sitting. At first, when the duo keep stealing glances at each other, making their interest evident, it seems like the stock girl-meets-boy-on-public transport set-up. That is until Akhtar exposes the ruse: The bus stops and as the seat next to Murad gets vacant, Safeena immediately walks back, sits next to him, plugs one end of his earphones to her ear so that they listen to music together and then holds his hand.

It’s a moment so neatly crafted that it is only after Safeena takes the seat does one realise that their encounter isn’t merely a meet-cute but a permanent dating ritual. This scene reveals how deftly Akhtar unspools the influence of space – or the lack of it – on a courtship typical to Mumbai. Murad and Safeena meet each other on a desolate bridge over a dumpyard, kiss on deserted trains, and have a nightly call ritual in which they talk while she looks at him sitting on the stairs outside her bathroom window.

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