Rajesh Pillai's Traffic is a brutally brilliant film in which he lends color to coincidence and unveils before us a cogitation on the dynamics of chance. A strikingly crafted film that is raw and genuine, it crawls right under your skin and stays there.
It all takes place on the 16th of September, when a few men and women, going on with their distinct lives in diverse worlds, find their paths crossing each other at a traffic island. Rehan (Vineeth Sreenivasan) is all excited about joining Indiavision as a journalist and sets out with his best friend Rajeev (Asif Ali). Aditi (Sandhya), getting over a divorce, sees him off and looks forward to something more. Dr. Abel (Kunchacko Boban) has plans to surprise his wife Shwetha (Remya Nambeesan) with a brand new car on their wedding anniversary.
Sudevan (Sreenivasan) is back at work as a police constable, after a brief stint of suspension for having accepted bribes. Superstar Siddharth (Rahman) has a new release on the day, while his wife (Lena) is worried about their young daughter's failing health. Miriam (Roma), Manager at an FM Radio station gets an alarming text message on her mobile. And all this in a matter of twelve hours on the same day.
Bobby and Sanjay's script is one in which there has been a close scrutiny of all possible leak cracks, and in which almost all of them have been filled shut. Hence the several events that take place in the film simultaneously hold together amazingly well, and there is hardly a moment in the film where your focus drops. This is quite a feat, since it involves an adept juggling between emotions aplenty, some outstanding twists, a few mind boggling thrills and some well-kept suspense. The bottom-line is that Traffic could easily boast to have one of the best scripts written in Malayalam in recent times.
The least claustrophobic of men would lean out of the car window for a gulp of fresh air at the traffic junction when the traffic grinds to a halt, where a seemingly endless line of automobiles have streamed in from all around. The horns honking behind, over and around, and an air of impatience that hangs like a smog above whipping up a whirlpool of edginess that disperses as the lights change color, and the drive back to a hazy life where sometimes it gets as cluttered as beneath a traffic signal - Rajesh Pillai's film digs deeps down into those coarse and at times savage feelings that bond together humans in complex webs of love, passion, grief and deceit.
A couple of aerial shots of the hectic traffic on a sweltering day make it assume serpentine proportions, as it slithers around forebodingly threatening to gulp down the tiny vehicles that make it up. The visual panache that is maintained throughout is courtesy some terrific cinematography by Shyju Khalid and some real tight editing by Mahesh Narayanan.
It's a mammoth star cast in Traffic, and rarely does a film offer almost all its actors what they are truly capable of. The 'moments' are there for everyone, and they impress us for a while, and gracefully make way for another to occupy center stage. No star charisma at work here; just plain acting at its very natural best. Among the men, I was enamored by Kunchacko Boban's performance and Asif Ali is quite impressive as well. Lena proves beyond doubt what an amazing actor she is, while Sandhya accentuates our belief in her.
All those apprehensions as to whether Traffic has been inspired by the Paul Haggis directed Oscar Winner 'Crash' or the renowned Mexican neo-noir film Amores Perros can now be brushed aside. The only semblance between Traffic and the other two films is that it involves an accident. Nothing more, nothing less.
After a false start a few years back, the signal has turned a smashing green for the director of Traffic. Zoom ahead, Rajesh! We're already eager to see what you have in store for us next.