Thursday, August 16, 2012

Story first: Traffic, a Malayalam gem.



Even from the outside, looking in, before I'd seen a single Malayalam film, I had a strong sense of their character. Despite not being the most prolific Southie regional film industry, nor the one bursting with the biggest budgets or the most recognisable stars (while Mammootty and Mohanlal are known outside Kerala, too, I would rate Hindi stars or Rajnikanth above them in pan-Indian recognition), Malayalam films had the reputation of having good stories. Why else would the other industries borrow from them so much? It seemed like fresh ideas and interesting characters in solid stories was Malayalam industry's USP - unique selling point.

Of course, not every film can be amazing, so the generalisation is never without exception, but I have to admit that my blind purchase of the 2011 film Traffic hit jackpot - it crafts something marvelous and character-focused out of a rather simple premise, and through slow reveal, keeps its viewer constantly on the edge of their seat.


The film, directed by Rajesh Pillai, introduces us to its rather varied, big cast of characters, all going through the inevitable grief of ordinary life: traffic. The introduction lasts as long as need be, and once you're settled into the world of these characters, the first big event occurs - an traffic accident that touches them all, one way or another, through the course of the film. There is the central character of a police officer, marred by corruption allegations (Sreenivasan). There's the famous actor, realising his family life is less than the ideal (Rahman). Abel (Kunchacko Boban), a surgeon listening to his best friend flirt with a girl on the phone. A young journalist (Vineeth Sreenivasan), on his way to his first job.

To say too much about the plot would be to ruin it. Even if you never decide to seek out this film itself, you might be able to catch its Tamil and/or Hindi remake in the near-future, and I wouldn't want to spoil you the biggest twist of the film, which makes the plot considerably more interesting.

The best thing about Traffic, I think, is the way it doesn't even try to reach for the stars, or aim for an epic scale. It's story is told simply, but through interesting choices, and cleverly not revealing everything to the viewer at once, the simplicity comes into full bloom. The performances all around support the story, and it's difficult to pick who are the best ones; Sreenivasan is mostly in focus, but all the others seem to do great as well. There are only a couple of songs, but they provide perfect little lulls to an otherwise intense story. 


If you have a way to get a hold of Traffic, I would recommend it - if you have to wait for the inevitable remakes, so be it, I'm certainly waiting eagerly myself. It's a positive surprise that certainly confirmed all the positive stereotypes I had about Malayalam films as character-driven, story-driven solid films, and I hope to catch other Malayalam films as good as this one. 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

try to watch salt N pepper ,22 female kottayam,indian rupee all recently released great malayalam films

veracious said...

Thanks for the recs, anon! :D

sakthi said...

Yep I vouch for Indian Rupee, I will wait for your verdict on 22 F Kottayam (great performance from the actress) yet to watch Salt N pepper. I am yet to watch Traffic because, I couldn't find the subtitled version anywhere, mostly I could understand malayalam but the dialect in this movie is making it difficult to follow.

Welcome to the world of Malayalam movies :) as you stated there are good and bad everywhere, but I have had mostly good experiences with Malayalam movie :D Infact I used to get Malayalam movie cravings once in a while.. It also has some good looking men :D

Apart from those recommended I would recommend Pranchiyettan as one of the recent good ones..

Nirvana said...

Thank you. Period. I have always wondered why no one spoke about the superb acting and some of the amazing storylines in Malayalam movies...... Loved this one.

veracious said...

I've not seen enough Malayalam films but based on what I've seen, they're pretty damn good. :)

Elizabeth said...

It was a good idea not to reveal too much of the story of this movie. Manoj Bajpayee is playing the role of Sreenivasan in the Hindi remake, ensuring that it is going to be too good...Irfan Khan also would have done a cool job.