The sounds of the gully!

The sounds of the gully!

The tagline is Apna time ayega and it sure looks like the time is now ripe and has finally come In fact, fresh from the super success of Simbaa, the super energetic Ranveer Singh too believes that his time has come

The tagline is ‘Apna time ayega’… and it sure looks like the time is now ripe and has finally come. In fact, fresh from the super success of ‘Simbaa’, the super energetic Ranveer Singh too believes that his time has come.

That’s right… Ranveer’s beat thumping ‘Gully Boy’ directed by the incredible Zoya Akhtar has taken the nation by storm - imagine this kind of thunderous response (more than 40 million hits, and still counting) after just the trailer launch. This, by the way, has also catapulted desi Mumbai hip hop right into the spotlight and has made it one of the most fast-growing independent genres at many big music labels and digital music forums like Saavn in India.

Of course, there are a few naysayers - a veteran Bollywood producer sniffed disdainfully after he watched the trailer launch, “I know people are raving about the ‘Gully Boy’ trailer. But I really don’t think it will work. There’s never been a film on hip hop and the public will never take to it.”

Strong words indeed but then again, Bollywood has never seen such an evolution – after all, the Hindi film industry has almost forever been weaned on the typical ‘rona-dhona’ done to death formulas.

But it’s time to rev up and rework history. And it is a fact that the pulsating hip hop underground movement in Mumbai has evolved over the years from nonsensical rhymes about ‘daru’, girls and cars to musical clever chart metrics epitomising protest, anger and raw pain rhythmically presented in desi hip hop – and this has touched a chord with the youth in a big way. No wonder, Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Gully Boy’ has fuelled a hurricane like a revolution from the dusty lanes of Dharavi slums to the posh penthouses at Malabar Hills in Mumbai.

So how did the underground Mumbai hip hop originate? …Right from the clogged drains and narrow dusty lanes of the slums of Mumbai. That’s right! It is a fact that the terrible dirt-ridden slums of Mumbai, infamous for its cooped up overcrowded one-room tenements, slime and dirt, didn’t seem to have too bright a future for its children. With hardly any schools, poor sanitation and deprivation, the slum kids, weaned on poverty, were high potential candidates for all kinds of criminal activities.

Opportunities were rare and the angst and anger within these ‘have-not’ kids many-a-time boiled over to unbearable levels. However, out of the slime and grime, a new trend emerged. Two gully boys shunned the world of crime and wrongdoings and have poured in their passion and angst in desi hip hop. Of course, at the onset of their careers, they were ridiculed, abused and demotivated many-a-time but they didn’t let that deter them or their passions.

These two boys - Divine and Naezy, born in the dark gullies of Mumbai’s biggest slums, have shown the way to all the other street kids by rapping their way to ‘fame'dom. Divine aka Vivian Fernandes, who despite his success still stays in his slum and Naezy (Navid Shaikh) refused to let the angst and pain of their rough lives get to them, instead, they channelised their simmering anger into hip hop. Their lives are the true inspiration behind Zoya’s ‘Gully Boy’.

Divine says, “I started my career as an underground rapper way back in 2011. Everybody at first dissuaded me. They said, get some good work. But I focussed and my single ‘Yeh Mera Bombay’ became popular. This encouraged me further to pour my pathos into my rap and I achieved success with ‘Mere Gully Mein’, which featured Naezy.”

He further adds, “Zoya attended one of my shows and she did her research and made ‘Gully Boy’. The film is inspired by the Mumbai hip hop community and it's amazing how far we have come in the last few years. I really want the movie to take hip hop to each and every corner, street and village in this country. I want to see more of our youth take up the mic or learn to play an instrument or produce beats and do something different in their careers.”

Naezy too claims that there are many genuine and extremely talented hip hop artistes amongst the kids in the slums today. Rap and hip hop have channelised good energy into them. And so many kids are proving to be great hip hop artistes. “Today we have shown the way for ‘asli’ hip hop in Hindustan.” Of course, both Divine and Naezy insists that their struggle was immense, but the journey was definitely worth it, and of course, their defining moment came when they posed together with the celluloid hip hop actor Ranveer Singh.

Says Ranveer Singh, “Gully Boy’ is my film and I think only I could have done it. It is the coming together of so many things like rap, hip hop music, which I have loved since I was a kid. It was the most fulfilling experience. To be with this raw talent. I am very excited!”

True… desi hip hop that was born from the dark lanes of the slums has grown from being mere underground music to being a much sorted out music genre. There is a huge boom and ‘Gully Boy’ has revolutionised its coming of age a little more. More and more avid music lovers are jumping onto the bandwagon of desi hip hop – and in fact, even many documentaries and films are being made on desi hip hop’s rap to riches story.

Where can it go from here? Higher and higher… the bar is raised and in fact, more and more names are joining the hall of hip hop fame – from Emiway Bantai, Bombay Lokal, Swadesi, MC Prabh Deep, Brodha V, Mumbai’s Finest, MC Mawali, Dopeadelicz, 7Bantai’Z to MC Tod Fod, desi hip hop artistes are getting nimbler and wittier by the day, no wonder some of the biggest music labels are lapping them up almost immediately. Indeed, desi hip hop born from the slums of Mumbai has rewritten its way from rags to rap to riches!

- Lita Chakraborty

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