You go with high expectations to watch Traffic Signal and walk out a tad dejected. Although the subject tackled is difficult, Madhur could have done better. This is not to say that the film is bad; it's just that when it's a Madhur Bhandarkar flick, you expect him to be better than the last time. It's like the Sachin Tendulkar wave that had swept the country over a decade ago; every time Sachin walked to the crease, you expected a ton from his bat.
Traffic Signal brings out the life of those who have made the Signal their 'office' in focus; how they earn their living, how they mark their boundaries and how they pay hafta to the manager who in turn does the same with the higher-ups is all portrayed here. It also throws light on the constant digging, particularly at signals, which allows beggars to 'attend office' for a longer time as there is a serpentine queue of vehicles. Is there a political nexus here as well??? Surely, digging near signals is going to be viewed with renewed interest from now on. Even drivers of top bosses who 'tie up' with managers of signals for their pound of flesh. Very innovative this one! Does it really happen??? Scenes in the film alternate from the Signal to a bus stop where the lives of prostitutes are also chronicled. The end, however, is abrupt. You expect more but walk out of the theatre shaking your head. Is the movie really over, you ask yourself.
Traffic Signal is a story of one signal, which is representative of all other signals around the city. Silsila ( Kunal Khemu ) a young orphan, who took his first tiny step at the signal is now its manager. For him the Signal is his workplace and a home where he lives. He loves all those working at the signal, which in a way is his family but spares no one when it comes to business. He has a mentor, named Jaffar, who is also the collector of his region. Both he and Jaffar work for the local Mafioso, Haji (Sudhir Mishra). Within the social structure, lies a nexus between the local Mafia and Politicians, though at that level Silsila is almost non-existent. Yet, by a force of circumstance Silsila gets drawn into the bigger game and finds himself to be responsible for the annihilation of his own world, something to which he has dedicated his life.
Kunal Khemu gives a commendable, believable performance, so does Upendra Limaye. This is one actor who merges with the character he plays. His cop act in Page 3 was mind-blowing. Neetu Chandra has screen presence but she goes about the movie with just one expression plastered on her face. Konkona Sen Sharma as Noorie the prostitute fits the role like a glove to a hand. Her dressing, make-up and mannerisms are amazing. This is one actress who has done her homework well. And when she says about a politician client, "Ye saala neta log din mein duniya ko topi pehnate hain aur hum unko raat mein topi pehnate" (pun intended), it's very believable!
If you stop getting calls on your cell phone from tele-marketers after this film, thank Madhur. He has very neatly expressed what we all feel when we get random calls on our cell phones from people trying to sell different finance schemes. If only we could put these guys on the 'slab'. See the film and you'll know what I mean!
For a dose of reality, at least one stop at this Signal is a must.