Last weekend, a bunch of my friends and I made the fortunate decision of watching Zoya Akhtar’s “Gully Boy”. Sadly, due to the manner in which a majority of Bollywood movies have been made in the recent past, I am a great sceptic of movies being churned out by our industry – I wish this was not the case though. So, there I was sitting and watching Emcee Sher and Gully Boy, and my doubts about Bollywood, Indian rap and for that matter, Ranveer Singh’s sanity were all turned into shreds. Simply put, Gully Boy is a masterpiece.
Zoya Akhtar has shown that long gone are the days of reality and reel belonging to different paradigms – India has the appetite to see true reflections of itself, and the box office success of this film goes to prove this.
Yet, what stood out the most for me was the brilliant music of the movie. Whilst such hip-hop, which avoids the easy road of meaningless lyrics and gaudy productions was always present, “Gully Boy” has done a great job in publicising such music. Songs from the movie by Dub Sharma, Divine and Naezy to name a few, have captivated its audiences. Something to note is that most songs were made before the movie, and have been around for a while. Kudos to these great artists for having created an impressive work of creative collaboration.
All this of course made the visit to cinema worthwhile, but the aspect that really resonated with me the most were the lyrics of the songs. These songs prove to all that Indian rap is not only based on hollow themes such as wealth, ‘cool’ quotients and women, a theme which reeks of wonton misogyny, but is now slowly becoming what it is truly supposed to be – a medium to express the voices of a few people.
Songs such as Azadi, Jingostan and Apana time ayega act as a potent representation of the maladies that our society is plagued with. Whether it be the spread of communal hatred, casteism, rampant corruption or pollution, the lyrics of these songs leave no stone unturned at bringing the attention of the listener to these wrongs with cold piercing lyrics. For example, here is just one stanza from the song Azadi:
“Haan both bete chupchaap
Kya ghante ka insaaf
Desh kaise hoga saaf
Inki niyat main hai dag
Sirf pakadte rahenge baat
Alag shakal wahi jaat
Vote na milne par ye khass
Phir gayab pure saal.”
With the use of just eight lines and a catchy beat, one verse of this song got me thinking about how dysfunctional our democracy might just have become. Not that other incidents or news pieces have not made me think so, but the manner in which a single song is able to bring an individual’s rapt attention towards a particular societal predicament, in this case our electorally obsessed politicians with inept skills in policy making, is something we should respect.
Another song from the movie, Jingostan, portrays the acidic hyper-national rhetoric accurately – and even takes pot shots at it whilst doing so. Having heard these songs, I am sure that in the coming days that this art form, along with many others, will sharpen and become effective mediums of protest.
These songs, and the number of people who have now started listening to them, go to show that we Indians are not ones to remain quiet. Whether, it be casteism, communalism, corruption or pollution, we will not stay quiet about it, nor will we not sit around as we see our polity being plagued by it – we will break free from them.
Bikhu Parekh, a political theorist and a member of the House of Lords, had written recently that a major pillar of Indian democracy – protest – had been discredited by the incoming of protests with no real Constitution. I think Divine, Dub Sharma and the countless other rappers would beg to disagree. The medium might have changed, but the flame of protest continues to stir. After all, azadi toh hum leke rahenge (we will definitely reclaim our freedom).