The Malayalam film Traffic (2011), written by Bobby Sanjay and directed by Rajesh Pillai, has a cult following. The film is cited as a must-watch to any film-goer seeking to watch a well-made film, made possible by excellent narration, befitting actors and a sound technical team.
Traffic was remade in Tamil as Chennayil Oru Naal (2013 – directed by Shaheed Kader), keeping the ethos intact. Die-hard fans of the original argued that the Tamil remake was a shade paler but still made for an engaging watch. The same, we feel, holds good for this Telugu dubbed version. Rarely does a film make you overlook inconsistencies of lipsync (something unavoidable in dubbed films) and Traffic is one of those.
The annoying portions of this version of Traffic come early in the film, in the form of a couple of songs completely avoidable for a film of this genre. But once the director is done with these commercial constraints, he takes the audience on a spell-binding ride. Traffic follows a format Hollywood has a soft corner for — race against time. The pivotal characters involved in this ride are predominantly strangers thrown together in time of a crisis.
Police commissioner Sundara Pandian (R. Sarathkumar) is faced with one of the toughest requests in his career, to use his powers and control the traffic from Hyderabad to Kodad and facilitate an uninterrupted ride for a good reason. Taking charge of this mission is traffic constable Satyamurthy (Cheran) who wants to clear the blotch on his reputation with this good deed, a youngster (Mitun as Ajmal) mourning the loss of his friend and doctor Robin Joseph (Prasanna), caught in a personal turmoil.
At the other end of the mission are film star Gautam Krishna (Prakash Raj) and his wife Radhika, counting every passing second and hoping for a miracle. The race against time is intercepted with twists and turns, leading to a nail-biting finish.
Within this framework, the director effectively narrates stories of relationships — the fallacy of love between a young married couple, a girl who looks beyond personal grief, an elderly couple for whom their son means the world and a film star realising his moment of failure.
While the director shows you the shallowness of stardom through one star, he contrasts that with what a superstar (Suriya in a guest appearance) can do by mobilising his frenzied fans.
Traffic is an example of good filmmaking. Taut narration is complemented by sincere actors (including Parvathi Menon in a brief role) and a terrific technical team.
If you haven’t watched the original Malayalam film or the Tamil remake, watch this dubbed version. Films like this are rare.
Cast: Sarathkumar, Prakash Raj, Prasanna, Radhika
Direction: Shaheed Kader
Music: Mejo Joseph
Bottomline: Take this ride and you won’t regret.