Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, director Zoya Akhtar and producer Ritesh Sidhwani were at the Berlin Film Festival for the world premiere of their upcoming release Gully Boy. The cast sat down for a press conference before the film premiere where they spoke in depth about the film, which is based on the underground rap culture in India.
When the moderator asked Ranveer about the difference between Indian rap and the western rap, the actor explained how “Hindustani” hip-hop is a fresh genre in India.
“As a genre of music, Hindustani hip-hop is a fairly fresh and unique genre. It has not been sampled by too many people up until this film, actually. This film takes a genre of music that has essentially been underground in India so far and brings it to the mainstream. There is one of our songs “Apna Time Aayega” that has topped the charts. Now, that is a legitimate hip-hop song in Hindi. So, that is significant. It means that this genre of music has the potential to reach out to a lot more people as proven by the song.”
The actor added, “The key difference is that in America, it (the hip-hop culture) has been there for a while. It started out in 80-89 and now it has become the most streamed music in the world, wildly subscribed to youth culture in the world. In India, it is interesting as we are at a threshold of what I believe to be an explosion, it is an exponential youth culture. I think it has the potential to bring a musical revolution. Also because it is an authentic expression and is embedded in social commentary, it will make a social impact as well I think. It is a very interesting time for music in India.”
Later, Ranveer spoke about how he was a copy-writer before he became an actor. While addressing a question about his journey, Ranveer spoke about how he was into hip-hop music or rap since his childhood.
“I grew up listening to hip-hop music. I got hooked onto it at a very early age. We used to listen to mainstream rappers and then graduated to gangster rap. My cousin from America would get cassettes tapes. Although I did not understand all the themes he would rap, I was sensitive enough to understand the real angst in it. So, I got hooked. So, I have had this music alive in me since I was a child. I became a copy-writer before becoming an actor. I realised any jingle or tagline I would write would come in a rhyme scheme. So, I had this pre-disposition towards rhyming too. Now, you combine the two, you have the potential to be a rapper and I am glad that Zoya tapped into my potential,” narrated Ranveer as he went on to name artists he listened to previously.
The film shows Alia as an extremely bold, fearless character named Safeena. The actor, during the press conference, spoke about how she wishes Safeena to become a role model for women of her age.
“I wouldn’t propagate her actions sometimes but she is a role model in my eyes because of her clarity and ambition. It is not just the clarity of what to do in life but also herself. Even if she is in an act that we may not admire, whether it is her loose hand or not being truthful, she is aware and being self-aware is according to me is the most important thing if you want to have to progress in life. So, that is one thing I take away from her, her clarity,” the actor said.
Later during the event, filmmaker Zoya was asked if Gully Boy has a message, to which the director answered, “I have used the work of the rappers, mainly the themes they sing, talk and write about. There is a definite disparity and they are part of the urban youth, they share the space with us and they are not represented in the mainstream. They have decided to put their own thoughts and ideas, life experiences and struggles, recording themselves on iPhones, iPads. There is no other way to make that story and represent them without actually speaking about their engagement to society and society’s engagement to them. So, it was very clear that we will discuss the themes that affect them the most. That is the point of it (the film) anyway, to be able to show that mirror through them because it is their story. ”
Gully Boy, which also stars Vijay Raaz and Kalki Koechlin in pivotal roles, will release in India on February 14.