Let’s get something out of the way- this is not a film for everyone. But this is definitely a film that everyone should watch. Directed by Amit V Masurkar, whose debut- Sulemani Keeda was widely appreciated, Newton is a story that will make you nod in agreement with what it is trying to say at several occasions. The story of a righteous government clerk sent to a Naxalite conflicted area to monitor voting and facing all odds in the process including the security services (which are ironically stationed there to protect him) will make you think. It is a slow film that takes its own time to grow on you but when it does, it has an impact.
The film raises a lot many issues that are prevalent around us- in our own country. The lack of information/knowledge, the total disregard to areas and most importantly people who do not matter to the larger scheme of things, what is wrong with democracy and its projection in a particular light, bureaucracy and the ease with which everyone- including the government officials and security forces- has accepted the state of affairs. It is normal to call a Naxalite area- Pakistan; it is okay to blatantly lie on air to a ‘foreign’ journalist; it is acceptable for the presiding election commission officer to not even conduct voting in an area because it might be ‘challenging’ and because ‘aisa hi hota hai!’ But the reason why Newton works is because it never becomes preachy. It does not have monologues on how everything is wrong, it does not exaggerate a situation in terms of violence, action or even emotions and maintains a ‘straight face’ while presenting the situation from the main character’s perspective. And mind you, it is not a dark film at all. It has its moments of humour, wit and intelligence.
Now we come to the star of the film- Rajkumar Rao. Oh my God! That man. He does not miss one note. He gets into the skin of the character and never ‘acts’. He has the pulse of the situation, works on the energy of the co-actors and improvises his reactions to perfection. He is one actor who is slowly establishing himself just through his immense talent- he can deliver a mass entertainer like Bareily ki Barfi and a film like Newton with equal ease. And that is commendable. Talking of his co-actors, we have Pankaj Tripathi as the anti-hero security head who is another gem that Bollywood should leverage more. He has such calm about his performance. We know that he is going to be against our hero- but we don’t dislike him- not even for a second.
The direction is layered. The storytelling is simple. You are thrown into the world of a these characters who have their individual ideologies, perspectives, motivations in some cases and hence tactics to deal with the situation. It is nothing but elating to see such films garnering much attention among all kinds of audiences despite not featuring the Khans or the Kapoors. At least a part of the Indian audiences is maturing. Finally!
Having said all of that, if the film was worthy of being the official entry to Oscars or not remains debatable. Even though being compared to an Iranian film- Secret Ballot for its story and characters- Newton remains a top contender for your watchlist. Do give it a shot!
Hits- Acting, Direction, Runtime
Not so Hit- Pacing (not a miss definitely)
Picture Credits- Wikicommons