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Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is all the rage for all the right reasons. It is a movie that has become a trendsetter by bringing underground rap music into the mainstream. The narrative is powered by brilliant sound design, crisp dialogue and some strong performances by the supporting cast. Bhakti Mehta talks to actor-dialogue writer Vijay Maurya about his work in the film

On Getting The Project

I got a call from Excel (Entertainment) that Zoya (Akhtar) wanted to talk to me and that she was making a film on rap stars in India. I was surprised! After talking to her, she asked me if I could meet her. The fact that someone like her was considering me to write the dialogue for her film was unbelievable. Her father is Javed (Akhtar) saab, her brother is Farhan Akhtar, she herself is a brilliant writer-director and her writing partner Reema (Kagti) is a terrific writer-director. Amidst all of them, I thought it would be like a novice auditioning.

I wrote four to five scenes, which were read by Javed saab and Zoya. Only I know how I spent those three to four days. But I was also confident that I would not go wrong with the dialogue because I am from Mumbai. I made sure it was rooted in Mumbai.

After reading them, Zoya called me and said, ‘Vijay Maurya, you are on. Now don’t stop. Finish the script.’ It was very challenging. The fact that superstars such as Ranveer (Singh) and Alia (Bhatt), Zoya, Reema and Javed saab were also involved in the film was a huge responsibility. I knew I would receive reactions on every line that I wrote. I had to work very hard. My experience over the years and my life in Mumbai helped me.

During this process, I got a call from Nandini (Shrikent), who asked me to audition for a role. If she had told me before, I would have written my role in a better way (Laughs). Zoya had a lot of clarity. It is not like she gave me just the screenplay and asked me to write the dialogue. She had written the dialogue in English as she thinks in English. She wanted to make the film more Mumbaiya. She wanted it to resonate with the four people living in a kholi in Dharavi. She wanted originality. She wanted to create a mood. She was very open when it came to inputs. She knew what she wanted. It was a collaborative effort. Zoya is the boss. She is an institution.

On The Process

The only brief from Zoya was that there should be no cuss words. There was a lot of scope to use expletives during the scene where Murad’s parents were squabbling at home, but I had to stop myself. It was very natural for Murad’s gang to be using cuss words when they were having fun. Moeen would have been all about gaalis. But she did not want to get into a tiff with the censor board and leave the audience feeling embarrassed.

Ranveer is a Bombay boy. There was a reading session with him. He rocked with the lines and the lingo. He is incredible! When we were shooting the namaaz scene, I saw him sitting in one place without moving. He used to practice his songs and his lines on his laptop. It made me feel like I did not know this Ranveer.

We made a list of slang words such as bantai, bhidu, patel log, raapchik, kamti ho jaa, bohot hard. I heard Divine and Naezy’s songs and picked up words from there. Phrases such as bhidu, kya shaane and bahot shaanpatti kar raha hai are no longer in vogue. I came across these new words and incorporated them into the dialogue. I also changed the construction of sentences. Then we read scenes with Alia and practiced the lingo.

Once these things were clear, there were readings with Zoya. There are four maharathis in our groups who are rappers – Rahul, Kunal aka Kaam Bhaari, Altaf and Emiway. They were brought on board to scan through Murad’s sections. Some old-school words in the conversations between Murad and his gang were changed.

On The Response

My phone has not stopped ringing since the last four to five days. Everyone has been able to connect with the film. Gully Boy is like a healer. It is a feel-good film.

Future Projects

I am writing the dialogue for Kabir Khan’s next film, ’83. I am also working on the dialogue of Rahul Dholakia’s next film for Excel. Sooni Taraporevala, who had written Salaam Bombay! is working on a film for Roy Kapur Films. I have written the dialogue for it and have acted in it too.

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