Newton (2017)

Often try to comprehend one fact after watching a film in Bollywood, that why does the brilliant films never see the limelight that is enjoyed by most other no-brainers. Is this the price the artists pay for their art. The price for creating something meaningful with an equally relevant social message?

Anyway, a paragraph of complaints apart, Newton is a film, which is a film, above all, depicting the clash of ideas between idealism and reality. It’s both a brilliant and devastating film. Director Amit Masurkar packs minimal drama and flash, but in turn goes on to paint a man’s portrait, who just wants to earn his bread with honesty.

The films is about Nutan Kumar aka Newton, who is chosen to be the election officer for the day by mere luck from the reserve bench. He’s sent to the troubled jungles of Chattisgarh to the mythical forest of Dandakaranya to conduct polls for the 76 eligible voters of the region. Being an upright election officer aiming to do honest field work, he immediately locks horns with Pankaj Tripathi’s character Aatma Singh, a cynical military officer assigned to protect the booth against the insurgents who’re likely to disrupt the voting process.

Masurkar, who’s co-wrote the film, mines out humor from the most unlikely places. And the humor is mostly facilitated by Raghubir Yadav. But it’s also a remarkably perceptive film that casts an honest, unflinching eye on the farce of the electoral process, imploring us to consider the notion of democracy that we take such pride in. It is moving too, especially the portions that reveal the extent to which tribals and poor rural folk are unscrupulously manipulated.

Though Newton asks some difficult and important questions, it doesn’t only leave us with presenting one view. Multiple views are presented through its characters including Raghubir Yadav as Newton’s skeptic colleague Loknath, and Anjali Patil as practical-minded schoolteacher and Local Booth Officer Malko. Both actors are terrific in their roles, never missing a beat, inhabiting their characters completely.

The leads, Rajkumar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi, provide two terrific performances which lift the film to the level it’s meant to be on. In Newton, Rao is stubborn and stupid but also poignant and powerful. His anguish is searing. As is this film. The film doesn’t falter even once for the performance each of the small team of cast member provide. It is because of actors like them, directors can think of ambitious narratives.

I also tend to gravitate towards the films, which portray rural landscapes with a simplicity and minimal effort. Newton does that very efficiently and that is what also attracts me to the film. In the beginning of the film, a piece of wisdom is imparted through the wise looking Sanjay Misra, that being honest where everyone else is corrupt is not something to be proud of. This is something that resonates with me.

I’m going with 4/5 stars for Amit Masurkar’s dark-comedy Newton. It’s easily one of the best hindi films that  you’ll see this year. Make sure you go and watch it while it lasts in the theatres.