Traffic Signal poster

Traffic Signal

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)

quick review:

It is another slice-of-life with a touch of humor. Traffic Signal highlights the fact that even basti-dwellers have their aspirations, not necessarily acceptable as the "right" priorities. I liked the direction and the screenplay. The climax takes the cake, creating an impact without fuss.

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Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Running time: 135 minutes
Genres: Crime, Romance, Social
More Movie Info

Yes, it is yet another movie about the victimized protagonist succumbing under the pressure of the “system”. But this one is dealt with a touch of humor, dark at times, but funny nevertheless. The flow in the screenplay is gripping. The power flow from the street beggar to the business world - via the traffic signal leader, the mafia, and the politicians – has been shown with great expertise.

Madhur Bhandarkar needs to be applauded for the choice of subject for various reasons. We all see street beggars everyday. Either we choose to ignore them or we choose to feel good about ourselves by throwing a coin or two at them. Either which way, most of us certainly choose to forget them after the 100 odd seconds we spend cursing the red light. Then would we want to spend the 100 odd minutes watching a movie about the life at that traffic light? Huge risk!

The movie reflects what most of us believe to be true. The people at these lights are victims, but they are liars too. They are actors performing live. All of them are part of a huge scam - Right from the child in the arms of a young mother to the almost nude, crazy old man. The director has taken up the challenge of making you empathize with all of them – right from the gay sex worker to the loser drug addict.

By interval time, you are settling down to the idea of having a story-less movie, saying to yourself “oh, I see, this is one of those slice-of-life things”. Then slowly you see the story emerging and very smoothly translating into a compact climax. The ending had a punch with just the right amount of drama and not much ado.

The acting of the main characters is mostly a pleasant surprise. Kunal Khemu says his lines in a monotonously annoying manner. You want to yell out “talk properly, for heaven’s sake”. And suddenly you realize that is exactly what you would say to a person with an “I-own-this-place” attitude, which happens to be the character he plays. And then you warm up towards the character.

Similary, though Neetu Chandra, Konkona Sen Sharma, and Ranvir Shorey (especially his introductory scene) have very small roles to play, not for one line will you feel that they are not the character they are playing. The one thing that did not work though is the make-up of Kunal Khemu and Neeta Chandra, they looked artificially dark.

Due to the number of lives a traffic signal nexus touches (at least 50), there is a long list in the supporting cast. Overall, the supporting cast is average. While some got under the skin of the character (Upendra Limaye) the others delivered their plain dialogues rather unconvincingly (Sudesh Mishra). The dialogues are very clearly not meant to be either profound or dramatic. However, the funny lines do achieve their purpose of getting a good laugh out of you.

Traffic Signal will be added to the list of movies that deal with social issues in a crude yet sensitive manner. It gives you the reality but does not slap it across your face. And it shows you, in a lighter vein, how differently the poorest rank their priorities from the conventional “right”.

- meeta, a part of the audience

8 reviewers(?) - 2 yays 4 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Amit, Amit's Blogosphere : ...Madhur’s confidence in his script and his direction is applause worthy... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM : ...Madhur doesn't peep into every character's lives. All he does is introduce the characters that breathe the same air, but live on the mean streets.... full review

So-So, by Aparajita Ghosh, Apun Ka Choice : ...And the conclusion to the story is very unconventional by Bollywood standards.... full review

So-So, by Prema K., : ...The film has an ensemble cast that makes it slightly entertaining in parts.... full review

So-So, by Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India : ... The problem with Traffic Signal lies in its overriding disconnect with viewer sentiment... full review

Thumbs down, by Deep, Deep's Home : ...Apart from showing shocking and interesting facts the movie lagged a lot in many parts.... full review

Thumbs down, by Soniya Arun, Rediff : ...the audience has grown up and the same things don't shock or surprise anymore.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 0 nays

So-So, by Joy

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

In the life of a traffic signal in Mumbai, there are the street beggars - they beg, they sell papers and flowers, they walk around naked. The street beggars have a traffic signal leader, Silsila (Kunal Khemu) who is paid a "protection fees". The traffic signal leader reports to an area leader, the area leader to the underworld don. The Don to someone in Dubai! The someone in Dubai has connections in Indian Politics who are financed by businessmen in Mumbai. This is a straight line. Then one day, a bureaucrat comes along who refuses to join this straight line and all hell breaks lose…

What Worked

The climax - In the sequence just before the climax, you wonder whether you are really expected to feel bad for the people who have been cheating other people in the last two hours. But, the climax is wonderful - no drama, no lectures. It is very clear that Silsila is doing the "right" thing only because it affected him directly, and not because he has turned good overnight. The best part is that they do not go overboard by showing the details of what the protagonist does or what happens to him.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • It isn't shown clearly whether the sex workers and the free-lance drug addict (Ranvir Shorey) also pay the "protection fees". If they do not, then what is the relevance to the story.
  • The treatment given to the tele-sales people was rather crude. Especially considering that the movie is asking for sympathy for one section of the society. Aren't these salespeople living hard lives too?

Comments (1)

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Hi Himanshu,

Thanks for your comment! I had no complaints with the flow of the movie at all. I always find it very difficult to comment on editing. Until I see the parts that were chopped off, how can I say what they kept in the final cut of the movie was good or bad.

I actually liked this movie better than Page 3 and Corporate. The characters in Page 3 and Corporate had only two shades either bad or good. And the good eventually had to succumb to the bad. But, here there were many grey characters, right from Silsila to the Don and that's how real life is.

And yes, it is always a very difficult decision. Will the donation we make to the ones who need it, be used properly, go into the right hands? While your 5 Rupees went towards a cigarette, they had an equal chance of being used for the next meal to be shared by a whole family and the dilemma will always exist.

I will certainly check your blog.


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