Space as a Character in Gully Boy

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Looking at how spaces are used as a character in writing Gully Boy.

Character. When we hear this word, we mostly imagine a human figure but rarely do we realize that non-human elements can be used as characters too. For example, the spaces where the human characters are placed can themselves act as a character, if smartly written. In the movie Gully Boy, there are many instances when a certain mood and emotion are created by being in a certain space. Particularly these spaces are used to serve mainly two purposes –

1. To emphasis the class divide.

2. To reflect on the state of mind of the characters.

Emphasis on the class divide –

Just like the people stuffed up in the slums of Dharavi, Murad’s dreams and aspirations have no space to grow in this congestion. They aim high just like the skyscrapers that we see so starkly around the slums. They show the contrast between classes and the spaces available to them. From the ground where Murad and his friends hangout, the layers of slums surrounded by the high skyscrapers can always be seen.

The bridge is between the slums of Dharavi where Murad lives and slightly better locality of Safeena. This meeting point again reflects a zone where Murad and Safeena come together, free from their class barriers.

When Murad goes to Safeena’s locality, he is placed below while Safeena talks to him from the window above, again showing their longing and how they still have a class gap. But towards the end, when Murad gets into the finals of the rap battle and knows that he has talent, he becomes free of his shackles, climbing the same window and kissing Safeena.

When Murad goes to Sky’s house and inquires about her parents, he gets to know that they stay upstairs. He responds with “Aur ek bhi hai upar?”( There's another floor above?). He is amused by the amount of free space they get to live in. In the following scene he also measures the length of Sky’s bathroom. Again, showing his aspirations to be out of his congested space and be free.

Reflection on the state of mind of the characters –

Spaces in the film have governed the way the characters behave in them. For not just the protagonist but many characters in the film, contrasting behaviors are seen depending on where they are placed.

The house where Murad stays in the beginning has always been a hindrance to him and his creativity. That space is always dominated by the presence of his father and we see that he is always silent at his home. He even writes his poem sitting on the roof trying to escape that space, making some room for his creativity.

A contrasting behavior of Murad is seen when he is out with his friends at the ground where they usually hangout, which is like an oasis in the compact slums of Dharavi. Murad shows confidence and speaks freely around these spaces.

The whole family of Murad had developed a certain behavior in their old house. When they move to a new place which is comparatively spacious, for the first time we see Murad, her mother and his younger brother smile happily. Its the first time we see them as a family. In the whole film Murad’s younger brother never speaks but the only time he does is in this new space. Also, later in the scene when Murad’s father comes to visit them, he breaks down while arguing with Murad. He could do so only because of this new space, which is out of the congested place where he grew and got restrained by the principles he was trying to force on Murad.

Not just for Murad but also for Safeena and MC Sher their houses act as a prison. Safeena throughout the film shows her rebellious attitude but when she is inside her house, she feels trapped. She is constantly subject to scrutiny and abuse by her mother or is under various social pressures when inside her house.

Throughout the film, MC Sher maintains his cool and confident attitude but when we see him at his house with his father, its the only time we see his vulnerable side.

The film is about one trying to come out of his closet and find a way towards their aspirations. Hence, here the location acts as inhibitions and play an important role by adding to the depth of the characters.

(Watch the full video with all the scenes mentioned in this blog.)

Did you find space being used as a character in any other film? Do write to us in the comment section.

Source links:

  1. Making of Gully Boy

  2. Let’s talk movies - Film Companion

  3. Building Gully Boy - Suzanne Caplan

  4. Zoya Akhtar on Gully Boy

  5. Art by Shehzad Kapadia

  6. Cover Art and picture by Basundhara Jana

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