Rap on the knuckles

A glaring omission in all the gushing reviews of Kaala. While Pa Ranjith proved yet again to be the salt of the earth in his land mafia film, Zoya Akhtar took a haphazard route to make something that was hardly rooted in Asia’s biggest slum.

I don’t expect Akhtar to be a political animal like Ranjith but she shouldn’t have plucked the lowest hanging fruit either. In the ravishingly shot majboori, aansoo, he belongs to the aspirational class that wants to be on the information superhighwayy and is content with racking up lakhs of views on YouTube. Murad is no Ambedkarite for sure.

In Kaala where rap is a community celebration (‘Semma Weightu’). The difference in the politics of rap-as-escape vs rap-as-communal-ritual is illuminating.”

All the lyrics, barring ‘Apna Time Aayega’, put more emphasis on rhyming than on innovation
Akhtar’s upper-class sensibilities kick in when Koechlin, a filthy rich person and a student at Berklee College of Music, turns into a Marie Antoinette in her high-end Mercedes when she tells Murad that he shouldn’t be chasing money and must actually follow his passion and that money will automatically follow. She should have said this in front of Murad’s father, Vijay Raaz, a car driver whose rule of thumb for survival is to be obsequious to the rich. Murad detests his father for not aiming high and snaps ties with him, an Americanism that seems grossly misplaced in lower middle-class Indian families.

There’s a beautiful scene in the second half of Gully Boy when the privileged people spray “Brown and Beautiful” on a fairness cream hoarding. This, in a country where the ads purport to rid the not-so-fair-skinned of their melanin content with such creams that fly off the shelves.

More than Siddhant Chaturvedi as M C Sher it was Vijay Verma as Moeen who struck me as the most authentic character in this otherwise largely flawed movie. As a small-time criminal who sells marijuana and steals cars, he knows that no amount of YouTube love for a slick music video will alleviate the lives in Dharavi. Unlike him, even though Murad claims in his lyrics that he is not aspiring to be a slumdog millionaire, there’s a mile-high grin on his face when he gets to own high-end sneakers. Even his rap lyrics sound like someone who has been devouring reams of Anand Bakshi and Sameer than something straight out of Compton. All the lyrics, barring “Apna Time Aayega”, sound like there’s more emphasis on rhyming than on innovation.

Let’s commend Akhtar though for casting Singh who infuses his role with a boyish charm that was last seen in Patti Cake$.

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