“Gully Boy” is a Hindi movie we watched twice in the last couple of months. It is available on Amazon Prime Video (with subtitles) and is a coming-of-age movie of a rapper from the slums of Mumbai. Hindi rap/hip hop is still a nascent music genre in India and the story is based on the true story of two Indian street rappers – Divine and Naezy.
There are many things I love about the movie – interesting characters, good music, and a nice story among them. Most of all, though, it speaks of the challenges of making your way up the privilege ladder when you are born in the slums.
Murad, the protagonist, needs several strokes of luck to make the leap – narrowly escaping going to prison for example – and also relies on the support of some incredible friends along his journey.
One of the most fascinating things about writing about privilege over the years is that nearly every one of the posts on the topic results in a response from someone arguing that I greatly under weight the importance of hard work. My thought experiment in response tends to be – how hard do you think folks in the slums of Mumbai work? I grew up witnessing abundant hard work in poor communities around me. What was absent was the platform that made all the hard work count.
Kids growing up in the slums worked hard to earn a few rupees to support their families every day while kids like me had the privilege to go to school and make something of our lives.
That is not to say a kid in the slums has no chance of breaking out. The odds of that happening are just infinitesimal compared to a kid with supportive parents going to an elite school.
Privilege is powerful. “Gully Boy” is a great reminder of that.