Frames in Movies

10 years of Traffic – How it gave us one of our most beautiful endings

“Sudevan Nair reporting sir – Destination reached in 1 hour and 58 minutes. Mission Success”

Good writers “close” things. They would introduce all sub-plots and situations earlier in the screenplay to make sure they are all connected well and brought to closure at the end. After 5 years from their second screenplay Notebook, Bobby-Sanjay wrote the masterpiece Traffic. Traffic was an edge of the thriller ride that made sure we couldn’t take our eyes off the screen even for a second. But Bobby Sanjay’s biggest success in Traffic was how they wrote so many characters with depth and space and yet brought in superb closure to all of them.

A look through the final frames of one of Malayalam Cinema’s most beautiful endings ever:

Late director Rajesh Pillai who did a tremendous job in making Traffic the way it is today, makes use of Mejo Joseph’s lovely background score instead of dialogues in the last 5 minutes of the movie and the impact is phenomenal. ( Till date, it surprises me that Mejo couldn’t have a successful career post Traffic).

It is when the van arrives at the hospital, Abel (Kunchacko Boban) walks amidst huge crowd inside the hospital , turns for one final time and shares a glance with Sudevan Nair (Sreenivasan). There is no smile. There is no nod . Yet you know that glance is how Abel thanks Sudevan Nair for making him still a part of the mission despite his mistakes.
It’s tough to believe that Traffic is the debut of cinematographer Shyju Khalid. He takes a couple of seconds here to brilliantly capture the face and hands of Sudevan Nair as he breathes a sigh of relief ( as do the viewers after the adrenaline pumping ride the movie was till then). The frame that shows how his hands are still shivering as he rests them on the steering again is just fine film-making !
Did I tell what fine casting Traffic had?! The movie prior to the release did not carry much hype as it had a cast with not really big names. But little did we know that it was about to revive the career of many actors – Asif Ali, Rahman, Anoop Menon and Kunchacko Boban ( his big break in his second innings). Anoop Menon in particular was spectacular as the City Police Commissioner who had to lead the mission. It’s the urgency in his performance that adds to the thrills in most parts of the movie. Here you could see he decides to sit and enjoy the success alone, while his team is busy cheering and congratulating each other.
Like I noted before, each situation that Bobby Sanjay has written before is to connect them to a fine conclusion at the end. Here Siddharth reads the questions that his daughter wanted the interviewer to ask him and realizes how detached he has been from her all the while.
Again every character , every sub-plot is there for a reason. You saw in the beginning how Sudevan Nair was suspended for taking bribe and how his daughter never talks with him – all for this lovely moment when she walks into her house full of people watching on television how her dad has turned a hero overnight. In mid of the other people, Rajesh Pillai captures the glance between the mom and the daughter and that spoke a lot more than any dialogue.
Bobby Sanjay did not write many lines for the climax sequence but when they wrote, they made sure it evokes goosebumps. After the pulsating mission he has just completed, Rajeev (Asif Ali) asks for a lift. When Nivin Pauly asks – “Are you afraid of speed”, Rajeev turns to the camera and smiles , again in contentment of what he has achieved.
Abel’s story gets a closure with a message from the police that his wife has dropped charges and a call from his sister that Swetha wants to talk to him. It is very smart from Rajesh Pillai and the editor, Mahesh Narayan, to make sure it is kept short and we do not really go into the actual meeting or conversation between Abel and Swetha. One other area where Traffic completely succeeds – Not a single moment in this movie or climax is unwanted.
Shyju Khalid’s camera next zooms out the image of how Saifudheen pours a handful of sand over his son’s body . He then quickly moves onto the next frame and shows how Riya opens her eyes at the very same moment. Rajesh Pillai doesn’t forget to make sure her mother (Lena) ,who has been waiting for this moment, is by her side
Can’t stress this enough. Not a single character is forgotten. Ajmal Nazar ( Anoop Menon) would call Dr. Simon Dzousa( Late Jose Prakash whose last appearance was in this classic) to thank him for his phone call that changed his mind to take up the mission.
In the final closing shot, Sudevan Nair sees a petty fight on way back to his house, smiles at them and passes through the junction from where the movie started with the accident of Raihan ( Vineeth Sreenivasan)

Today, January 7th, Traffic turns 10 years. Traffic started a new wave of Malayalam Cinema. It would change the way Malayalam Cinema is made in coming years. A lot of multi-starrer and hyper-link movies tried to follow the path of Traffic. But none were able to match up to Traffic.

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