Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in ‘Gully Boy' Image Credit: Supplied

There’s so much to love about director Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, a rousing rap-to-riches underdog tale, led by Ranveer Singh.

The outlandish actor known for his look-at-me persona seems to have found his groove as the angst-ridden Murad who tries not to be weighed down by the grim reality around him.

Singh is in his element as a subdued rapper dying to break free from his painfully ordinary existence. His presence is electrifying as he channels his fury and frustration in the verses he jots down.

When he breaks down, you break down with him and that’s one of the biggest victories of Gully Boy. It isn’t pretentious and makes you feel for its primary characters.

A scene that stands out particularly is Murad’s fiesty grandmother haggling with a tour guide who brings along a bunch of foreigners to explore Murad’s impoverished home as a part of their slum tourism experience. It was a brave gamble to take a swipe at the poor by highlighting white privilege, but the scene works wonderfully.

Another stand out feature of Gully Boy is the subtle nature in which the story of Murad following his dream of being a rapper plays out. He has been dealt with a terrible hand in life, but his quiet determination is wonderfully relayed.

Every character leaves an indelible impression in Gully Boy. Alia Bhatt as Murad’s whacky, possessive and temperamental girlfriend is a knock out. While she needs anger management lessons more than her medical degree, Bhatt manages to inject a certain adorability. The scene where she tearfully implores her parents to let her continue her studies breaks your heart.

Actor Siddant Chaturvedi as Murad’s mentor and guide exhibits a solid degree of confidence as he gives an assured performance. Vijay Verma as a shady hustler with a warped sense of conscience also tugs at your heart strings.

The camaraderie between Murad and his friends from his ghetto seem natural and organic. Even Murad’s troubled relationship with his violent father (Vijay Raazz) seem grittily real.

Be warned, the story is predictable. You know who’s going to have the last word and emerge a winner, but that shouldn’t deter you from giving this film — loosely inspired from the real life of desi rappers Naezy and Divine — a sure shot.

The hip-hop music is also a revelation.The sparring between rappers who excel at taking cheap shots at each other through their verses and words is intriguing.

This film is also big on subtlety and is never reductive. Through the life of Murad, you experience the class and the religious divide in India. It’s never hammered in, but the division between the have and the have-nots ring loud and clear in the most nuanced manner.

In all, Gully Boy is a rhythmic blast with Singh soaring to superlative highs as an actor.

Director: Zoya Akhtar

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Siddant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz, Kalki Koechlin

Stars: 3.5 out of 5