rector: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Neetu Chandra, Kunal Khemu, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ranvir Shorey, Sudhir Mishra, Upyendra Limaye, D Santosh
It’s supposed to be the completion of a trilogy. It also happens to be the weakest link in the cog of wheels comprising realistic cinema (Page 3, Corporate) that dares to entertain by letting you delve into the harsh stream of ever moving consciousness. Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Traffic Signal’ stands out for some fine slices-of-life-performances. But as a film it fails to leave lasting imprints. And that’s a disappointment for both ‘Page 3’ and ‘Corporate’ were far better films in its entirety as they never took a simplistic turnaround. Especially the ending!
Begging is big business. There’s a well oiled network that works in tandem at traffic signals. Unkempt thin toddlers are in demand. For they fetch pity-n-mercy. Little kids sell newspapers and flowers, eunuchs get the due in their own style, young Rani (Neetu Chandra) sells clothes to the in demand fashion designers on their way to the ramp show and an educated man sheds his clothes to look suitably mad to earn his bearings. All they have to do is shell out modest hafta to the good natured Vasooli in charge Silsila (Kunal Khemu) to safeguard from the police and municipal onslaught.
further, perky sex worker Noorie (Konkona Sen Sharma) is facing competition from gigolos who are eating into her business. She can’t stand anyone showing sympathy. Not even friendly drug addict Dominic (Ranveer Sheorey) who is a beggar of a different class. For, he is an English speaking ‘Software Engineer’ who has lost his wallet. And his felicity with the language usually makes him pocket a neat Rs 100. Noorie has to give hafta of a different nature. For the area inspector gets to ‘spend’ time with her at his convenience. Free of charge.
Sunsilk shiny haired Shaikh Baba (Sudhir Mishra) runs the begging nexus and also deals with the locals MLA who wants more Bangladeshis in the trade as it ensures more voters during crunch elections. He also gives an insight into what can possibly be done with the frequent callers from banks and loan agencies pestering you beyond patience. Now, that’s a point well taken. Hah!
‘Traffic Signal’ moves forward on the steam of the ‘Nukkad’ like episodes of these nondescript characters. How the builder lobby affects the plight of these dwellers forms the rest of the film. At the end of it all, you are left with little rag picker Chinnaswami who keeps calling the Tsunami relief camp in Chennai hoping to get some news about his family swept away in the disastrous calamity. He spends everything he earns on such phone calls, determined to hear a ‘good news’. Maybe some day. Another kid spends a fortune of his earnings on buying creams that promise to make you fair and lovely. Alas he ends up throwing mud at the false promises of the cream manufactures.
The gravity to which Ranveer Sheorey gets sucked into his drug addiction character is scary. He dangerously looks the part. He is the one who stands tallest amongst all the actors. Kunal Khemu has worked very hard on getting that dark tanned look. His body language, the beedi spewing carelessness, amchi Mumbai lingo, the local brown in the hair and a steely look in the eyes ensures that he is rightly being adjudged as a star actor to watch out for. But his character has been treated shoddily at the end. His heroism is childish and too simplistic. Unlike ‘Page 3’ and ‘Corporate’ that were very objective and ‘detached’ in the assessment.
Konkona Sen Sharma has a small part. Expectedly she pulls it off in style. A few of her double meaning jokes are funny and she elicits them with the measured uncouthness that one can associate with a prostitute who has buried sanity with her own hands. Long back. Neetu Chandra doesn’t have much of a role yet she delivers her part honestly. Sudhir Mishra as the underworld don makes a promising debut. He should consider more offers. For, he makes for an interesting personality on screen. Upendra Limaye as Langda Manya is a let down. The same actor had overwhelmed as the steadfast police inspector in ‘Page 3’ but here he is a mere sidekick to much younger Khemu. Not convincing.
Shamir Tandon’s music is notable for the thoughtful ‘Yeh Zindagi Hai to Kya Zindagi Hai’ beautifully sung by Hariharan and Bhupendra’s ‘Na Jis Din Teri Meri Baat Hoti Hai’. Lavni song ‘’ disappoints. Madhur Bhandarkar’s direction looks too impressed with his own style of film making. It was apparent a lot of research had gone into ‘Page 3’ and ‘Corporate’ while ‘Traffic Signal’ loses the touch in the filmy camaraderie between the Signal family. A story that promised to be hard hitting turns out to be sugar coated for most part.
The main culprit is the weak script and screenplay. After a point of time the slow proceedings start boring. Everything becomes predictable. The do-gooder ‘Khaadi’ reminds you of Atul Kulkarni’s journalist in ‘Page 3’. But here he looks superficial as he picks up the national flag on the Independence Day. Too stereotypical. I wouldn’t want to give away the ending, but it’s too sudden and unconvincing.
‘Traffic Signal’ makes an impression due to a few good performances and some neat sequences. But as a whole, it’s not a film that makes you go wow! And it is definitely a step backwards for an extremely talented director like Madhur Bhandarkar. Time to do some soul searching Mr Bhandarkar. Don’t let the creative story teller get lost in all these ‘corporate’ deals that you’ve been signing off late.