Monday, May 09, 2016


Race Against Time

The Hindi version of Rajesh Pillai’s Malayalam film Traffic, comes out without much promotion. Based on a true incident of a heart being transported from one hospital to another in the next city for a life-saving transplant operation it does not sound all that interesting, but Pillai lined up a fine ensemble cast and turned it into a human interest drama in which good intentions trump all obstacles.

 The characters are established quickly, a disgraced traffic cop Godbole (Manoj Bajpayee) caught taking a bribe, a star Dev Kapoor (Prosenjit Chaterjee), his neglected wife (Divya Dutta) and their young daughter, who will die without an immediate heart transplant.

 Rehan Ali, a young journalist (Vishal Singh) is on his way to interview the star, when he meets with an accident and is declared brain dead. His grief-stricken parents (Sachin Khedekar-Kitu Gidwani) are first rather insensitively pressurized and then emotionally blackmailed to agreeing to donate their son’s heart. These scenes are truly tragic and tear-inducing, as two sets of traumatized parents endure the suffering of their children.

 The traffic commissioner Gurbir Singh (Jimmy Shergill) reluctantly takes on the mission of having the heart taken from Mumbai to Pune by road, braving insane weekday Mumbai traffic.
Godbole volunteers for the drive so that he can wipe out the blot on his name. Along with Rehan’s friend Rajeev (Amol Parashar) and Dr Fernandes (Parambrata Chatterjee) he sets out at high speed in bad weather. The Chennai episode when a clear corridor was created to let the ambulance pass unhindered to the hospital has little drama, so Pillai (who passed away earlier this year at the age of 42) and his writers (Bobby-Sanjay) added obstacles-- from a fugitive doctor to an oil spill, a religious procession and so on; he has also intercut between the various time frames and strands of the story and used a lot of split screen.
The film has a few emotional moments, but it badly lacks the pulse-pounding pace that would have made this race against odds a worthy watch. The incessant and soporific background music does nothing to help.  The Malayalam film was a success and remade into other Southern languages.  The Hindi film is a bit underwhelming; on the plus side, the performances are first-rate.


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