Kunal Khemu as Silsila
He was a mere ten days old when his parents were rendered homeless owning to a zealous anti – encroachment drive from the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. The family shifted with the others to another locality on the Kelkar Marg. Having spent a number of days with inadequate food and no hope in the future; his mother took to begging at the Kelkar Marg signal. Lugging a ten day baby in hand proved to be an incentive as it aroused sympathy and both the mother and son made good money, good at least in their present condition.
Ever since he was a kid, Silsila was everybody’s favorite. After his mother’s death he was virtually adopted by ‘Mausi’, a respected and elderly old woman in the ‘basti’. (or community) But the one person who adored and protected him the most was Jaffar, the local ruffian dreaded in the locality.
In the film Silsila plays the Manager of the Kelkar Marg Signal. A manager is one who collected revenue from all those making money at the signal, whether by begging or vending knick-knacks. Although his job was limited to collecting money, Silsila went beyond. For him everybody living in the Kelkar Marg locality was like a family. He looked after their needs, found pleasure in their happiness and made their sorrows as him own.
Neetu Chandra as Rani
She came to the city of dreams with a purpose. A wish to make some money so that she could go back to her hometown and settle for good. Her sister Chutki who helps her sell traditional garments that they have bought from their hometown in Gujrat accompanies her. Unknown to the ways of the city life she displays her wares at the roadside and gets snubbed by Silsila who tells her that she’d have to pay a percentage of her earnings as a rule. Their first meeting ends in a scrap, but things become amicable as time goes by and eventually they fall in love. It is with Rani’s strength and support that Silsila stands up against all odds to challenge the system.
Ranvir Shorey as Dominic D’souza
A software engineering dropout Dominic was on his own since childhood. He lived with his mother who barely had any time for his son, doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Things got to a state where she chose to take on prostitution.
Dominic was academically brilliant but had nobody to guide him. He was also a good sports person and represented his school in hockey at the state level. He won several awards and was instantly well known in the locality. The little success he received got blown in cigarette smoke and alcoholism. His smoking went out of control and was replaced by something much worse….drugs. Dominic started using drugs at a very early age.
That year was special for him. He had won a trophy for his college at the state level hockey tournament, he’d been granted scholarship for a year and had also been inducted for a course in software engineering. He was on a high. He loved life a lot and decided that he would live life to its fullest even though for a short time. What started as a one time trial turned to a life taking disaster.
Konkona Sen Sharma as Noorie
It was her old parents who got gypped by a fellow villager, who paid them a hefty sum to seem good to his word that there was a lot of work in the city.
For Noorie who was yet groping her way into womanhood it was a nightmare. She had seen the treacherous side of men, but in the city they seemed to like a different species. She realized that she had to chance her life with each new male she came across. On the other side it made her remorseless and tough. She refused to play by the rules and wouldn’t call a father a father.
She however had a soft side which was reserved for just one person…Dominic.
Take a walk down its mean streets and one gets the essence of Mumbai; pause a while at one of its Traffic Signal and one gets the essence of life. In a day scores of people go past multitudes of Traffic Signal’s scattered all over the city. People sitting in their vehicles impatiently wait to get going. Though this waiting lasts but a few minutes it feels like a lifetime to them.
However unknown to them there thrives an industry that derives its livelihood from these people waiting at the Traffic Signals. The work force of this industry is not less than that of an average sized multinational. It comprises of a gamut of people thrown in together by fate or hunger. There are oddities to the likes of eunuchs, handicapped and impaired beggars, lepers, street kids, drug addicts, and prostitutes, vendors selling flowers, fruits, sunscreens to sunglasses.
Yet it doesn’t end there. There is an intriguing world lurking behind all the poverty seen at these traffic signals. Each signal is said to have a manager who collects a certain percentage of the day’s revenue from each of those working at the signal. The pecking order broadens further and each manager is supposed to hand over his weekly collection to the person who is in charge of the region that covers a dozen or more signals. The ladder is raised in its hierarchy and the collector of each region deposits the money with the local Mafioso, (a local king pin) who then ensures that it reaches offshore to his master.
Traffic Signal is a story of one such signal, which is representative of all other signals around the city. Silsila a young orphan, who was born and who took his first tiny step at the signal is now its manager. For him the Signal is his workplace and a home where he lived. He’s a sensitive soul with a heart of gold who considers the people like his family. He loves all those working at the signal, which in a way is his family but would spare nobody when it comes to business. He has a mentor, named Jaffar, who also is the collector of his region. Both he and Jaffar work for the local Mafioso, Haji and would even lay down their lives for him. Inherent in the social structure, lies a nexus between the local Mafia and Politicians, though at that level Silsila is almost nonexistent. Yet by a force of circumstance Silsila gets drawn into the bigger game and finds himself to be responsible for the annihilation of his own world, something to which he’s dedicated his life. His deeds are irreversible and he would most certainly not be able to get things back to normal.
What would Silsila do in such a situation? Someone who had never hurt anybody in his lifetime. A person with a heart of gold who was left to fend for himself and the future of those who’d been devastated because of him. Silsila being a practical person knows that he can never take on Haji who is too powerful and way beyond him. Yet no matter what and how he has to get his life and the lives of his family at the Traffic Signal back on track how he gets around to do it is the summing up of the film Traffic Signal.