Gully Boy – Music Review (Bollywood Soundtrack)

Songs and musician credits at the end.

This review first appeared in the Mumbai edition of The Hindu.

The axiom that one brings nothing to this world, and takes back nothing on dying, has found its way into songs on multiple occasions in various forms, but none probably pack quite the same punch as “tu nanga hi toh aaya hai, kya ghanta lekar jaaega”! It is this kind of lyrical intensity that is the hallmark of Gully Boy’s 18-song soundtrack. This particular line is part of the portentous Apna Time Aayega, co-written and co-composed by Vivian Fernandes aka Divine, one of the rappers whose life inspired the movie itself, and delivered by the man playing the lead role – Ranveer Singh, who proves to be quite a competent rapper in the movie, falling short only in cases where a comparison arises with the pros. Like in Mere Gully Mein – adaptation of DIVINE and Naezy’s iconic tribute to the world they grew up in, from 2015 – the energy and skill are there, but it is not quite the same. There appears to be a conscious effort to make Ranveer his own musical voice throughout the movie (I assume that the other songs in the album are not mouthed by him onscreen), given that he features in seven of the tracks. And one of the best tracks among that lot is the short but brilliant Asli Hip Hop written and composed by Spitfire, a song that could be labelled the movie’s theme song, considering it does endeavour, like the song says, to introduce Hindustan to the “real” hip hop. The soundtrack’s music supervisor Ankur Tewari, along with Karsh Kale, presents Kab Se Kab Tak whose appeal lies largely in the contrast – a soulful melody forming the backbone of the piece, Vibha Saraf’s husky voice leading that department, even as Ranveer’s rap (written by Kaam Bhaari) cuts through the somber soundscape. While director Zoya Akhtar has stepped into a new musical territory with this movie, she still retains one connection with her past movie soundtracks, her father Javed Akhtar. Akhtar pens two songs for the movie, both poems understandably on the softer side, and both composed by Rishi Rich. Doori appears to be a song for the lovelorn in its “poem” version, but undergoes a brilliant transformation in its longer, pacier version where DIVINE builds on the original lines to turn it into a tirade against the economic inequalities in the society. Ek Hee Raasta is just over a minute long, an oft-heard spiel about taking the path less trodden. Nothing that you might be inclined to go back to, especially in comparison to the bounty in offer elsewhere.

DIVINE finds a place in two more of the soundtrack’s songs (oddly enough, Naezy, the other man the movie is supposedly inspired from, hardly features in the album). Major C’s Sher Aaya Sher has the rapper leading the vocals as well, (backed by Rachel Varghese) and the delivery is as attitude-laden as they come, burnished with the occasional sher-like roars. In the second song DIVINE shares singing, composing and writing credits with Dub Sharma. Sharma’s heady 2016 track Azadi (built on the contentious Kanhaiya Kumar speech that year, from which it derives its title as well) gets an even more powerful makeover with the rapper’s lines that rant against the political system. Dub Sharma sings/writes/composes one other song titled Jingostan. As guessable from the title, this one is a scathing piece hitting out against present day hyper-nationalism. While the song is quite effective even in the beatbox-backed version, its grim tone is accentuated by the imaginative electronic backing it gets in the alternate variant. One of the musicians I was happiest to see in the album’s line-up was the tremendously underrated Viveick Rajagopalan. And his India 91 is very much in line with his trademark style (sample this, if you are new to his music) – an electric combination of Carnatic percussion, konnakol (Carnatic percussion syllables) and multi-lingual rapping, truly living up to the “India” bit in the title. Kaam Bhaari’s Kaam Bhaari seems biographical in nature, and the rapper does an impressive job on his part. Equally impressive is the backdrop set by Ankur Tewari and Dub Sharma, the guitars, electronic beats et al (love the way the folk beats kick in when he refers to Ganpati).

Goriye by Prem and Hardeep stands in stark contrast from the rest of the rap songs, with its polished and stereotypical Punjabi pop sound and English rapping – pretty sure the contrast is intentional. The album’s last rap track Har Gham Mein Khushi Hai comes from ACE, apparently one of the pioneers of the Indian rap scene. The soundtrack contains three more songs, all providing a lighter respite from the intense song line-up. Train Song by Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale and Raghu Dixit is a piece that has been performed in live venues in the past by the Karsh Kale Collective. Not a great song, but an engaging one nevertheless. Jasleen Royal’s Jahaan Tu Chala is very, well, Jasleen Royal. The pick of the three comes from Ankur Tewari and a man who has been missing from Bollywood for a while – Mikey McCleary. Jeene Mein Aaye Maza sounds almost European, with its waltz-y rhythm and the accordion (melodica?) and ukulele combo that dominates its arrangement. And like a lot of Tewari’s songs, it takes your mind to that happy, nostalgic place where everything feels nice and warm.

Zoya Akhtar’s movies have always featured good music (albeit with a progressive repetitiveness aspect creeping in each time), but Gully Boy’s soundtrack is on a different league altogether! And I believe she has music supervisor Ankur Tewari to largely thank for this. And my theory regarding multi-composer soundtracks turning out best when involving indie musicians, continues to hold true.

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5

Top Recos: Too many to name!

Musician Credits

Song: Asli Hip Hop
Singer: Ranveer Singh
Composer & Lyrics: Spitfire
Produced by Ankur Tewari
Additional Programming
Backing Vocals: D’EVIL, Nexus, Rahul Raahi, Emiway Bantai & Big Sid
Studio: Purple Haze
Mixing Engineer: Dub Sharma
Additional Musicians: D-Cypher & BeatRAW (Beatbox)

Song: Mere Gully Mein
Singers: Ranveer Singh, Divine & Naezy
Composer: Divine, Naezy and Sez on the beat
Lyrics: Divine & Naezy
Mixing Engineer: Nakul Kamte & Vrikpal Singh Khambay
Mastered by Nakul Kamte

Song: Doori Poem
Singer: Ranveer Singh
Composer: Rishi Rich
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Produced by & Programming: Rishi Rich
Studio: Spaceship Studios
Mixing Engineer: Nakul Kamte

Song: Doori
Singer: Ranveer Singh
Music: Rishi Rich
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar & Divine
Produced by & Programming: Rishi Rich
Backing Vocals: Divine
Studio: Spaceship Studios
Mixing Engineer: Nakul Kamte
Additional Musicians: Ankur Tewari

Song: Train Song
Singers: Raghu Dixit & Karsh Kale
Music: Midival Punditz & Karsh Kale Ft. Raghu Dixit
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar, Karsh Kale & Gaurav Raina, Tapan Raj
Produced by Midival Punditz & Karsh Kale
Studio: Village Studios, Delhi
Mixing Engineer: Gaurav Raina

Song: Jingostan Beatbox
Singer: Dub Sharma
Music: Dub Sharma
Lyrics: Dub Sharma
Mixing Engineers: Dub Sharma
Additional Musicians: D-cypher & BeatRAW (beatbox)

Song: Sher Aaya Sher
Singer: Divine
Music: Chandrashekar Kunder aka Major C
Lyrics: Divine
Produced by & Programming: Chandrashekar Kunder aka Major C
Backing Vocals: Rachel Varghese
Studio: Tonic The Sound Factory
Mixing Engineer: Abhishek Ghatak

Song: Jahaan Tu Chala
Singer & Music: Jasleen Royal
Lyrics: Aditya Sharma
Mixing Engineer: Eric Pillai
Additional Musicians: Nigel Rajaratnam
Additional Credits: Michael Edwin Pillai (Assistant Engineer)

Song: Azadi
Singers ,Music & Lyrics : Divine & Dub Sharma
Produced by & Programming: Dub Sharma
Backing Vocals: Ankur Tewari
Mixing Engineers: Dub Sharma

Song: Kab Se Kab Tak
Singers: Ranveer Singh & Vibha Saraf
Music: Ankur Tewari & Karsh Kale
Lyrics: Kaam Bhaari & Ankur Tewari
Produced by Karsh Kale
Programming: Rohan Rajadhyaksha
Additional Programming: Karsh Kale
Studio: Mighty Junn Studio
Mixing Engineer: Rohan Ramanna
Additional Musicians: Bhrigu Sahni (Guitars) Ankur Tewari (Guitars) Karsh Kale (Guitars) Rohan Rajadhyaksha (Keys)

Song: Kaam Bhaari
Singer & Lyrics : Kaam Bhaari
Music: Ankur Tewari & Kaam Bhaari
Produced by, Programming & Mixing Engineer: Dub Sharma
Additional Musicians: Sidd Coutto (Guitars) Johan Pais (Bass)

Song: Ek Hee Raasta
Singers: Ranveer Singh
Music: Rishi Rich
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Produced by Rishi Rich
Programming: Rishi Rich
Studio: Spaceship Studios
Mixing Engineer: Nakul Kamte

Song: Apna Time Aayega
Singer: Ranveer Singh
Music: Dub Sharma & Divine
Lyrics: Divine & Ankur Tewari
Produced by & Programming: Dub Sharma
Backing Vocals: Divine
Studio: Purple Haze
Mixing Engineer: Dub Sharma

Song: Jeene Mein Aaye Maza
Singer: Ankur Tewari
Music: Ankur Tewari & Mikey McCleary
Lyrics: Ankur Tewari
Produced by & Programming: Mikey McCleary
Backing Vocals: Ankur Tewari
Studio: Ribbit Studios (Bay Music House)
Mixing Engineer: Mikey McCleary
Additional Musicians: Ankur Tewari (Ukulele)

Song: Har Gham Mein Khushi Hai
Singer: Ace
Music: Ace ft. ishQ Bector
Lyrics: Ace
Produced by & Programming: ishQ Bector
Backing Vocals & Studio: ishQ Bector
Mixing Engineer: Shetty Saa (Shetty Productions)

Song: Jingostan
Singer, Music & Lyrics: Dub Sharma
Produced by ,Programming & Mixing Engineer: Dub Sharma

Song: Goriye
Singer: Kaka Bhaniawala, Arjun, Blitz & Desi Ma
Music: Prem & Hardeep
Lyrics: Bhinder Khanpuri, Arjun, Blitz & Desi Ma
Produced by & Programming: Prem & Hardeep
Studio: Prem & Hardeep Studios, UK

Song: India 91
Singer: MC Altaf, MC TodFod, 100 RBH, Maharya & Noxious D
Music: Viveick Rajagopalan
Lyrics: MC Altaf, MC TodFod, 100 RBH, Maharya, Noxious D & MC Mawali
Produced by Viveick Rajagopalan
Backing Vocals: Ramya Sundaresan Kapadia, Sofia Thenmozhi Ashraf, MC Mawali, MC Altaf, MC Todfod, Viveick Rajagopalan
Studio: Half Step Audio & Purple Haze Studio
Mixing Engineer: Joshua Fernandes
Additional Credits: Nitin Jagdev (Studio Assistant)

Music Supervisor: Ankur Tewari
Mastered by Graeme Durham at The Exchange UK

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