Thursday, 20 September 2007

Commentary: Traffic Signal.

I recently watched the Hindi movie Traffic Signal some days back. Though the ending was a bit rushed up, it was a nice film to watch-- moreso because I am an admirer of Madhur Bhandarkar's school of filmmaking. Bhandarkar's films are always based on the harsh truths of life, and quite often about the double-standards of the rich and famous of the world. They are fresh in content each time-- though with similar themes-- and are made in a very straightforward, and often stomach-churning, manner. I really loved the performances of Konkona Sen Sharma (who's one of my most favourite actresses), Sudhir Mishra (he was a knockout in the form of the don Baba Sheikh!), Ranvir Shorey (portraying with precision the heart-broken drug-addicted conman who sees his lover, a prostitute, forced to sleep with other men every night) and most of the supporting cast. The film made me wonder again-- who's to blame for the beggars who are forced to con people at the traffic signals (and elsewhere) to earn money enough to feed themselves? Aren't we the real criminals? Haven't we as a nation unnecessarily increased its population to the point where per capita income is so meagre that even the poorest American gets a good laugh after having a look at the figures? Haven't we reduced this country to a producer of the largest contingent of beggars, handicapped people, BPO and IT employees ourselves? Haven't we taken the shortest road too often, thus making our country the victim of our own laziness, corruption and lack of determination?

One of the most understated subplots, which I rate as exceptionally brilliant, involved a poor beggar boy who wants to make his dark skin fair. The innocent boy believes that some fancy skin-fairness cream may help him do so-- and therefore he spent some hard-earned money to buy a tube of that. Only to realise after much and repeated use that he won't become fair! The poor boy vents his anger on a large advertisement, of the cream's brand, by the roadside. While on the surface, this may seem to be a somewhat amusing portrayal of an innocent boy's foolishness, a deeper read suggests issues more serious: poor people blindly chasing dreams they can't achieve. That's human nature-- something Tagore immortalised in his superb short story The Postmaster. We dream, often fail in achieving our dreams, only to chase new dreams in vain again. It's the unending cycle of human wants and desires-- which Buddha rightly notes as being the source of maximum unrest in the world. Read over again-- it's the poor boy's dream to become fair that causes him a heartbreak.(On a lighter note: some of the girls may kindly learn that no "fairness-cream" can turn a black complexion into something fairer. That's medically impossible! It's insane on the part of the companies to project some fancy fairness-cream as a source of inspiration to young minds-- who become singing or dancing superstars in 30 days after using the cream! That's really lame. :P)

If I had to pick my favourite actor from the lot in the movie, I'd choose Ranvir Shorey (followed by Konkona Sen Sharma). Shorey excels in the role of a conman-- addicted to drugs, dejected and rejected my normal society, and in love with a prostitute who sleeps with numerous other men but can't afford to comfort Ranvir. It's painful to see Ranvir die of excessive drug overdose, and a totally broken heart. I wonder why such a superb actor gets to play only small roles in films! The next budding director should go and catch Ranvir, who, by the way, makes a superb comedy pair with Vinay Pathak. Shorey and Pathak can make you laugh really well-- and it isn't the kind of crude comedy which makes Johnny Lever irritating after a while. I love both of 'em. Konkona does really well as Ranvir's lover, the prostitute, who herself is very sad to see Ranvir die. Konkona, along with Rani Mukherjee, gets my nod as the two best actresses (wonder why even actresses are called 'actors' nowadays!) in Bollywood at the moment-- of course notwithstanding such classic veterans as Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi. And oh, I was forgetting Mr. Attitude, Sudhir Mishra. He plays the cold-blooded Godfather-style mafia with aplomb.

P.S.: I deliberately chose a film like Traffic Signal instead of some classic, because it's relatively easy to write about classics. So many renowned critics write about them anyway! I chose this relatively "non-classic" film, which is more than watchable by any standards, only because it allowed me to write something original without copying stuff from other reviews. :P

1 comment:

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Good for you, Sudipto. As Abhirup will be able to tell you, you can write far better film criticism than 98% of those who attend the film-studies classes with him in college! Just goes to prove my constant assertion that character and interest are everything. ... also reflect on how desperately this country needs directors like Bhandarkar if she is to have any future at all, and how much folks like Bhandarkar need appreciation and encouragement from viewers like you to keep up the good work!

You might post (a perhaps slightly compressed version of) this review at 'The Good Life!', on the thread called 'Movies, anyone?'