A Madhur Bhandarkar film is always special. There is always an unconventional theme to his stories that make the audience have questions about the society we live in. This is one filmmaker that is gutsy and should be commended for touching taboo topics others might shirk from. This movie may not be one of his finest works, but makes you look forward to his next venture.
Traffic Signal is no different and takes a harsh look at the reality that is Mumbai. Silsila, a local goon, runs a particular traffic signal (where the light is delayed on purpose) where all the beggars and poor people can herd the rich cars to get money. Of course, Silsila runs the racket and gets a weekly percentage from everyone. There is a bigger boss on top, Bhaijaan (Sudhir Mishra) that runs all the traffic signal industry in Mumbai, which is a whopping 180 crore profit. And who can forget the seedy politicians, working to also fill their own pockets.
This movie is a grim look at perhaps just one traffic signal where people are desperate to put their hands on whatever they can receive to survive. By daytime, we have traffic jams and by night we have the story the prostitution area where females and 1 male are not picky, demand the money, and do whatever services requested.
There are several interesting characters in this film: Kunal Khemu as Silsila looks and exudes his part with confidence. Neena Chandra as Rani (newcomer to the signal) is likeable and natural. Konkana Sen Sharma as a local prostitute named Noorie is as tacky and sad as Kareena Kapoor’s Chameli; she is amazing. Ranvir Shorey truly excels as a drug addict who pretends to lose his wallet every day to scam people out of money. The characters seem straight out of life, even though, I can’t imagine anyone knowing these people in reality.
There are scenes where one can get goose bumps thinking: ‘I might have met someone like this at a traffic signal’, whether in India or anywhere else in the world, ‘are they faking being crazy just to get a quick dollar?’
The story is not complicated and remains simple, we explore the life of others at the signal; the real drama unfolds when Silsila is implicated in the destruction of his dirty city, which makes him realize that the little guy is not protected. The climax is abrupt and the movie ends with no action, but that is the whole point . . . someone can just take a stand by working with the law and that is more than enough.
Overall, the setting is realistic, makeup is terrific on all the characters to make them look ethnic and nasty, and music as a background to scenes is adequate. Traffic Signal is someone’s home, its a hard dose of reality, dark, revealing and worth one watch.