'Gully Boy' defies Muslim stereotypes in Bollywood movies

Written By: Kartikeya Sharma
Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Published: Mar 04, 2019, 04.29 PM(IST)

A still from the movie 'Gully Boy'. Photograph:( Others )

Story highlights

Gully Boy represents a new age cinema where music, subversion, social struggle and lust to survive the harsh reality of modern urban life -  all comes together.

By any standards, 'Gully Boy' is a brilliant film. It is well written, taut and acting by Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt and rest of the cast was effortless. 'Gully Boy' represents a new age cinema where music, subversion, social struggle and lust to survive the harsh reality of modern urban life -  all comes together.

Almost 90 per cent of the important characters of the film are Muslims. This only provides a context for the film and does not become a driving force for the characters in the drama. The struggle of Safeena Firdausi, a character played by Alia Bhatt, remains universal. Her struggle to enjoy late night parties and indulge in make-up could that be of any Lakshmi from a Hindu household or Harpreet Kaur from a Sikh family. Her love, possessiveness for Murad and temper tantrum is not shown as a result of her past or upbringing but presented as a fact of her personality. Safeena kisses but it is not eroticised. She does not come out as an exotic Muslim female out of a closet.

Even in the case of Murad, his quest to survive, love and struggle flow from confidence in himself and his talent. Bollywood films on Muslims, most of the times, end up creating dark-eyed stereotypes of Muslims who are either motivated by religious indoctrination or sense of victimhood and marginalisation from the political mainstream. 

It leads to the creation of a Muslim as a familiar exotic in the current political narrative. A homogenous mass with a singular entity. The film shatters this narrative. Murad does not drink but it doesn’t mean he is a conservative. Booze is not used to demonstrate his creative depth. He smokes which is permissible in his religious context but does not typify him as a Muslim.

In this film, the victimhood is portrayed as a matter of fact and does not flow from religion. When Murad’s father Aftab Shakir, played by Vijay Raaz, tells Murad that it is very difficult to get a job as a Muslim, it comes as a statement of fact. 

The film does not have good Muslims or bad Muslims. The Muslims are similar to Hindus and Sikhs married to their vices and desire. Murad’s father is insensitive, and Sher’s (Siddhant Chaturvedi) father is a raging alcoholic and, in both, the common thread is poverty and life on margins. This interplay between poverty and plenty makes this film different, which is summed up brilliantly in the song, 'paas hokar bhee door hain.'

Even the second marriage of Murad’s father is less to do with the number of marriages prescribed in Islam but more to do with lust, infidelity, patriarchy and man-woman relationship. It is not what without significance that in a scene, Murad’s mother Razia openly shouts back at Aftab he should not crib to her about her frigidness as he never knew how to touch her. 

The scene, which could have been shot by a posh couple, shatters the myth of man-woman issues based on class.

'Gully Boy' neither glamourise poverty nor celebrates it. It is presented as a matter of fact. The movie is inspired by real-life characters but is completely a work of fiction.

Kalki Koechlin's character could have been more fleshed out. The film presents the crushing reality of living in Mumbai but also shows the spirit of an individual which can be uncrushable. The soundtrack rocks and so does the film.

 (Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Kartikeya Sharma

Kartikeya Sharma is Political Editor at WION. When he is not working, you will find him travelling, reading or cooking.
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