Think of the human heart, and a complex mix of veins and arteries feeding into the central pumping organ comes to mind. Much like life, where various strands of experiences and people branch in and out of every individual's journey.
Chennai created history in 2008 when it transported a dying boy's heart to save a young girl's life, making the 45-minute road journey between the two hospitals in around 13 minutes, with the traffic police creating a green corridor or a signal-free zone. It exemplified how the people of a city could come together for a cause.
Traffic, the Hindi remake of a 2011 Malayalam film by the same name and by the same director, has been inspired by this incident. The film turned out to be a major hit and brought about a new wave in Malayalam cinema. Pillai, the harbinger of change, however, breathed his last in February because of non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis.
Dev Kapoor (Prosenjit Chatterjee) is an absent father but a rich, well-connected actor. When he discovers his dying daughter's need for a fresh heart, he starts to pull every string he can. The head doctor of one of the two hospitals, both plugged prominently in the film, then inspires a sceptical joint traffic commissioner of Mumbai, Gurbir Singh (Jimmy Shergill), to take on the challenge. That of transporting the heart of a dying reporter (Rehan Ali played by Vishal Singh) to Kapoor's daughter which must reach her by evening. The mission has to be carried out during Mumbai's peak traffic hours, and make it to Pune, 160km away, by the expressway. Keen to win back his lost respect having been caught earlier for a bribery charge, constable Godbole (Manoj Bajpayee) rises to the occasion, with the journalist's loyal friend (Amol Parasher) and a doctor (Parambrata Chatterjee) for company. What follows is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that occasionally loses its way, both literally and symbolically.
One of the first questions that come up is that in an age of hyper technology, where the police can swoop down on your mobile records, no one thinks of using the GPS to keep on track when the vehicle loses its way. A few scenes look like an advertisement for the SUV as it hurtles towards its destination.
The other question is, would the same thing happen for someone who wasn't as well-connected? Can the common man hope for a feat like this being pulled off for him? There is an interesting point raised in the film when the police is asked, 'you can clear the routes for VIP movements, why not be able to do the same for a cause like this?' to which they rise to the challenge. But remember, you're dealing with a rich person's heart here.
The story is strong but doesn't tie up into a central thought. Some of the other issues it touches upon—friendship, betrayal, relationships, communal harmony—add weight to the script. Bajpayee does a competent job playing the constable.
Director: (Late) Rajesh Pillai
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Divya Dutta, Kitu Gidwani