Traffic (2016)

It is sad, that in Bollywood, the under-budgeted films are often more worthy of watching than the high-bugeted commercial films. Such a film is Traffic. I heard absolutely no chatter in my circles when the film was releasing. Only recently after the DVD was released, did I became aware of the film, and got to watch it. Mark Twain rightly said, “Fact is stranger than fiction”. Traffic, based on a real-life incident, presents a very unique premise for a film.

Traffic is inspired by a real-life incident from 2008 in Tamil Nadu that was reported in the news media. The film begins with the introductions to the characters of the film. There is no narration, but plain and simple names & designations displayed on the screen. This gives a general idea of who’s who, and is easier to remember. I feel this kind of a textual introduction is best in case of such films with a heavy narrative.

After the introductions, Traffic toils some more with the lives of the characters, and then, it very quickly boils down to a single incident, a road accident of the newbie journalist Rehaan Ali (Vishal Singh) travelling (without helmet on a bike) towards taking the interview (first of his career) of the pompous superstar Dev Kapoor (Prosenjit Chatterjee). He suffers a severe head injury and is almost on the brink of being declared brain dead. Soon he’s put on a ventilator in a Mumbai hospital. Doctors virtually give up all hope for him.

Meanwhile, in Pune, 12-year-old Riya, longtime patient of Cardiomyopathy, and daughter of Dev Kapoor and Maya Kapoor (Divya Dutta), is struggling for her life. After trying to convince them several times, Rehaan’s parents (played by Kitu Gidwani and Sachin Khedekar) agree to donate their son’s heart to save Riya. With time running out for her and all flights grounded due to poor visibility, the organ must be transported 160km by road in 150 minutes.

Anyone who knows the madness of Mumbai will understand what a near-impossible task that is. This is where, the (ashamed-of-taking-bribe) constable Ramdas Godbole (Manoj Bajpayee) steps up to make the impossible possible with the support of his boss, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Gurbir Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill). As you might have figured from the trailer, Godbole and his companions are making good time when their vehicle disappears. The rest of the film is spent figuring out what happened to them and whether they ultimately reach Pune before it is too late for Riya.

The characters and key-plot situations are seamlessly interwoven in Traffic. There are some predictable playing-to-the-gallery religious sentiments introduced to get the desired results. But this can be overlooked because at it’s core, this is a well-intentioned film with fine performances from its ensemble cast. Special mentions are reserved for Manoj Bajpayee and Jimmy Sheirgill, who are A-grade. Though, they’re just in extended cameos; these two effortlessly rise above the length of their roles.

I’m going with 3 out of 5 stars form Rajesh Pillai’s Traffic. Well, I will accept that, the film slows down at many points, for which, the film could have been cut at several points. But, apart from that, the end result is a throughly enjoyable thriller. You shouldn’t make a detour to avoid this traffic.