Many years ago, Zoya’s father kickstarted his career depicting the angst of young men who rebelled against the system designed to keep them down. Many avatars of Vijay Verma, predominantly played by Amitabh Bachchan, took to ways that were not perfectly legal but provided a rich life. Of course, in an era that looked at things as black or white, most of the time our rebellious youth paid for his deeds with his life. Cut to the second decade of 21st century. Things have changed vastly. Or have they? There is still a section of people who are invisible to the society. Sure, we see them in trains or in the slums as we zip by in cars, but they do not exist as humans. They are the great “unwashed”, singularly described as slum wallahs. We can draw parallels between the angry young man of the seventies to this section today.
Murad (Ranveer Singh) is oppressed by his surroundings. He is a product of Dharavi where, in his own words, people are angry and restless and nights are poisonous. People around him want him to keep his head down and kill his wants; some because they are scared that he will be quashed if he dared to lift his head up, others because it suits them to have people who are little more than slaves. He is lorded at home by his cruel father (Vijay Raaz), who despite his measly means, decides to get a second wife, perhaps not much older to his son. Outwardly a conformist, Murad hides a steely resolve to rise from his miserable condition. His girlfriend Safeena (Alia Bhatt) is the stark opposite. She is headstrong and reacts to the moment. She is especially ferocious if her love life is threatened, getting into fisticuffs or even breaking a bottle over the head.
The first half focuses on Murad’s personal life and how as a society we have chosen to un-see the ugly. His employers use him as a bar of being a loser in life right in front of him. He is asked to turn away from concert because he belongs to a certain section. Murad is enraged but he doesn’t need to pick up the gun. He can turn to the democratization that technology has brought to every section of our society. Where a person in Dharavi has as much an access to opportunities as somebody in the skyscrapers of Mumbai. And that’s precisely what he does. Recording on a surreptitiously gifted iPad he starts his journey. He finds people who understand him and help him along the way till he shines like a star.
A role like Murad’s needed an excellent actor to portray the multidimensional character and Ranveer doesn’t disappoint. Though almost a decade and half older that the character he is playing, his performance hides the gap. Alia Bhatt too is in top form, though does not have much to add to Murad’s journey in the second half. Vijay Raaz, as usual, is in terrific form, switching effortlessly from a mean father to a man pleading with his son to follow the safe path.
There are certain downsides to the film. For one, it is a at least 15 minutes longer than needed. The film tends to ruminate in between, making the viewer restless. Secondly, the rapping also tends to go too long. As a person not really into rap music, I found myself losing interest. However, it is still a film that is made with a lot of heart. It is hard to guess the business prospects of this film. It may appeal to a narrow section of viewers- young, urban people. That said, this is a large group and also a key movie-going population, so the film can still be a money spinner. A line in the film says, “If you follow the passion, money will come”. Maybe this film will test it for real.