Free Press Journal

Movie Rview: Buddha in a Traffic Jam – Steaming up on an ideology gone wrong


Cast: Anupam Kher, Mahie Gill, Arunoday Singh, Pallavi Joshi, Anchal Dwivedi

Director: Vivek Agnihotri

Rating: * * ½

Runtime: 108 mins

A Socio-political drama that seeds it’s ideology from a farcical point-of-view, this film about a young management student Vikram Pandit (Arunoday Singh) who finds his efforts to help the tribals hampered by Maoist threats, has a knee-jerk approach but is nevertheless tense and reasonably involving. The failure to approach the issue from a realistic and balanced meter is probably scriptural.

Director Agnihotri who did a reasonably good job with ‘Chocolate,’a thriller set in London, relocates to Bastar for this fairly gritty tale that encapsulates a war between ideologies which uses a urban yuppy, fed on theoretical research but totally dissociated from the reality based experience  to spearhead the ill-advised campaign. Vikram exists in a lush academic environment that has experienced neither hunger nor poverty and tackles social ills like he does an examination paper. Vikram, a student of the Indian Institute of Business becomes the blue-eyed boy of Professor Jamshed Batki (Anupam Kher) and follows in his ideals. He becomes an overnight sensation after a successful social media campaign against the radical fundamentalism of moral policing in India.

But little did Vikram know that he was about to become a part of a plot that would risk his life and possibly that of the entire nation. So far so good. Then comes the clincher. Vikram finds himself entangled between two facets of India – Socialism and Capitalism. And somewhere from deep within the hinterland conspirators are gearing up to cause maximum harm to the country. Vikram has to survive the sinister pulls of the establishment as well as steer away himself away from a course that could be devastating.

This film while hoping to resolves the age old conflict between Capitalism and Socialism ends up being an aggrandized denouement of violent people’s movements without deepening the understanding of the real reason behind that conflict.

The plot loses it’s way as it is governed by an agenda that doesn’t hold true to what went before it. As a result, the entire experience becomes flaky and unsatisfying. Vivek  Agnihotri though, should be commended for putting forth a fresh set of ideas despite being a product of an industry governed by sameness, formula and stereotype. His actors do a fairly good job articulating the ideologies within but the sloppy characterizations fail to make their effort memorable. Mahie Gill is the only one who manages to rise above the script though. The camerawork is quite inveigling . The dialogues though sound quite ridiculous and overbearing. Forced dramatics appears to be the key meant to unlock the muddle headed politics of the film.

This film has it’s fair share of high intensity and craft but the plank on which it is laid out appears to be too weak and fragile to hold strong under the weight of the myriad contradictions that spring forth here.