The trouble is back

The inspiration behind 'Gully Boy', Naezy, is back with 'Aafat Wapas’.

The year was 2005 and a DJ spinning Sean Paul’s ‘Temperature’ in a Kurla chawl had no idea how the rap number was about to transform a freshly minted teenager’s mind. Within a decade, a new voice had risen from Kurla’s alleyways. And this voice was not to stay in the gully; it was demanding to be heard.

Among the pioneering backstreet rappers in the country, Naved Shaikh aka Naezy had recorded his first rap single — ‘Aafat!’

Literally meaning trouble, this man had announced he was here to stay. And now, after a hiatus of a year, when his popularity is at its zenith thanks to Ranveer Singh portraying him on the silver screen in the film Gully Boy, he is back with a new single, quite dramatically titled ‘Aafat Wapas’ (translated as the trouble is back).

Where was he?

"Well, sometimes, due to various reasons, one gets off track. I did, too. But the love of all my fans and my own inner voice convinced me that this is the place where I need to be. Nowhere else," says the rather soft-spoken Naezy, when I ask him about his disappearance.

When I ask him why he wasn’t involved with the music of the film, he says, “Only because I wasn’t present in India during the film’s shoot and post-production.”

Asked if the movie had changed things around him at all, he lets out a soft laugh. His answer is that it was Disha Rindani’s documentary that changed things for him.

Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker Disha’s film Bombay 70, which showcased the life of the 23-year-old Naved Shaikh aka Naezy, had gone on to win the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) Best Short Film 2014 award.

“That movie was about me. Of course, even then I was worried about letting out my personal life, but that one really put me in the limelight. People came to know who I was. Zoya ma’am (Zoya Akhtar, director, Gully Boy) also got to know about me then,” says Naved.

But putting out his personal life in the public domain has always been tough on the guy. “I don’t think people understand, but it’s easy to give labels. People tend to make judgements about where a person is from, his family background, his life before fame,” says Naezy.

“I had spoken about this to Zoya ma’am, and she had said that they will ensure it is clarified that Ranveer Singh’s story is not exactly my story. But it hasn’t worked out,” he recalls.

There are several things in the film that are fictionalised, among the biggest being that the sound producer played by Kalki Koechlin, Sly, is in reality a guy.

In the film, undoubtedly to glamourise the plot, Sly and Naezy’s characters have a brief romantic liaison. “It’s definitely uncomfortable, and not just that part. Even my parents’ life. Not everyone understands that it is fiction,” he adds.

But Gully Boy has opened up other avenues like collaborations with mass-market fashiom brands. “Earlier we used to collaborate only with sports brands as they have a better brand connect with the rap scene. With Gully Boy, there is obviously a larger fan following for rap and hip-hop,” he says, matter-of-factly.

All for collaboration

But what really perks up his voice is collaborating with New York-based rapper Nas. There is an unmistakable perk in his energy. “It was great collaborating with Nas. It was a dream. I also hope that this should open up new avenues in Bollywood as well as performances on a larger scale. We cannot sideline or overlook the independent music scene anymore. While it always had an alternative fan following, the masses have realised it now to a greater extent,” says Naezy.

Asked about his professional relationship with Divine, which has so elaborately been shown in Gully Boy, he says, “I am looking forward to collaborate soon with Divine once more. We join hands once every year or so, and it’s a good time now. Work is the way forward, and work is calling me. Nothing can pull me back anymore because the trouble is back, and that’s how it will stay.”

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