Let’s begin where the film ends, “Revolution is not a dinner party”. The famous quote of Mao Zedong appears on the screen before the end credit rolls. Revolution is certainly not a dinner party and a film like Buddha In A Traffic Jam, even after creating a lot of stir in college campuses (including Jadavpur University) in the run-up to its release, can’t instil thoughts of rebellion because it lacks outrage. It can’t evoke any emotion that will lead you to think about any issues plaguing the society and become a rebellion.
It was in the 70s when naxalism amid Emergency had redefined India. College students had embarked on a new journey and aspired to create a new worlds through their revolutionary ideas. But the present film, apparently an autobiographical tale inspired by director Vivek Agnihotri’s life, is far from that dream of creating a new world. The film opens in 2000 with a scene set in the naxal-hit area of Bastar with an adivasi chopping a log of wood. It quickly cuts to 2014 and even then the lungi-clad adivasi is cutting a log. Briefly showing the dilemma of the adivasis, who are caught between the Maoists and the government on a day-to-day basis, the film shifts to a business school in Hyderabad.
Vikram Pandit (Arunoday Singh), a 27-year-old who has completed his B.Tech from IIT and has worked for four years in the US, is back to school to study business. Apparently, he is also back to being impressionable. It seems so many years of studies and work didn’t teach him much. Vikram who is seen criticising the social networking platform, Facebook in one scene, is soon starting a campaign—the Red Bra campaign (probably a reference to the pink chaddi campaign)—on the same platform in the next, after being outraged by a police crackdown in the bar he was drinking with his friends.
The next scene is in a classroom where Professor Ranjan Batki (Anupam Kher) starts a conversation around corruption and realises that Vikram Pandit is the student who he could pick to fulfil his left-wing ideologies. A dim-wit Vikram is influenced by the notes that his professor gives him, but he soon realises that he is not cut out for it. But he is again entrapped by the professor when he urges the students to develop a marketing plan for a pottery club run by his wife, Sheetal (Pallavi Joshi) to help the adivasis in Bastar.
It is revealed later in the film that Professor Batki is a “lal-salaam” comrade and is also joined by Charu (Mahie Gill), an NGO worker working for the upliftment of adivasis.
The film made with a propaganda, hardly strikes a chord with the audience at any point throughout the film. Aiming to resolve the age-long conflict between socialism and capitalism, it rather leaves you confused with bad acting and unnecessary sex and masturbation scenes.
However, if you have been a poetry enthusiast, what strikes you at the end of this 115-minute film is the beautiful nazm by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Chand Roz, that has been rendered beautifully by Pallavi Joshi.
Film: Buddha In A Traffic Jam
Director: Vivek Agnihotri
Cast: Arunoday Singh, Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Mahie Gill