Traffic Ramaswamy: A Disappointing and Underwhelming Tale
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Named after the real-life public interest litigator and social activist Traffic Ramaswamy, this film is directed by debutant director Vicky. Ramaswamy’s real life is filled with so many twists and turns that a film based on him would seem incredibly interesting on paper. But a filmmaker who takes up such a task must also realize the responsibility that comes with it. In this film, fragments of traffic Ramaswamy’s fight to ban motorized fish carts are covered in detail. But the elements used to cover this aspect and the manner in which they are conveyed is disappointing. If the director had refrained by polluting the screenplay with too many proclaimed mainstream film elements, he could’ve stayed true to the life of a real hero who continues to wage battles for the well-being of Chennai and its people.
The first half of the film gives us vignettes of Ramaswamy’s (S.A Chandrasekhar) life. From protesting to shut down a TASMAC bar that has been set up close to a school to investigating the death of girl as a result of water shortage, you are given a gist of his rollercoaster journey. Shortly after these events, witnessing a brutal accident instigates Traffic Ramaswamy’s fight to ban motorized fish carts. The trouble this ban brought along and the ways in which he strived to succeed, forms the crux of the film.
Practicing film language is immensely important for a film like Traffic Ramaswamy. This visual literacy is what lays the groundwork for the cultural, political and social significance of a plot. But visual literacy or even basic visual understanding goes completely missing in this film. Just because this is a film based on Traffic Ramaswamy, you are a witness to shots of traffic every few minutes before you see Ramaswamy. When did filmmakers get so literal? What happened to film language? What happened to subtlety in visual-storytelling? This urgency to stuff information down people’s throat is what takes away the magic from a decent story.
A film loosely based on a strong social activist like Traffic Ramaswamy needs to be bold and realistic to leave an impact on the audience. Take director Raju Murugan’s Joker for instance, initially, you don’t understand the quirks of his central character. But as the film goes on you empathize with him. In Joker, no social message or political incident is dramatized and yet it evokes such deep emotions. This screenplay sensibility is what director Vicky lacks. While desperately trying to make the film commercially viable, he has let go of developing a base plot that can withstand the weight of its central character.
As the story gradually picks up speed, a random item number makes its way to the screenplay. Why squeeze in an item number in a film that sings laurels about a renowned social activist? The moment you decide to include an item number in such a serious film, the activism in the story goes right out the window. Such pointless aspects could’ve been done away with.
As far as physical appearances go, S.A Chandrasekhar plays the part of Traffic Ramaswamy pretty well, sans the ‘namam’. But if you take emotional nuances and acting into consideration, nothing much has changed in his skill set over the time. His acting skills have certain limitations that are easily noticeable till date. Most of the members of the film’s supporting cast to deliver underwhelming performances. The little girl in Traffic Ramaswamy doesn’t act her age at all. As the politically incorrect judge, Ambika’s portrayal is downright absurd. However, it is clear that the fault with the character development is directly responsible for the actors’ poor performances.
Technically, the film does not impress. None of the visual nuances capture the emotional core of the story. The events that take place in the film are either overly dramatized by the cinematographer or left untouched. This unstable approach takes away from the realism of the film. Music too fails to capture the essence of the film. The film is political and serious but the music is casual and sometimes over the top celebratory too.
On the whole, Traffic Ramaswamy is an underwhelming and disappointing film. Its lack of an imaginative screenplay and a meaningful plot crushes the responsibility that comes with executing films based on such inspiring real-life heroes.