This Newton wakes you up to the gravity of the times we live in.
Rating – 4 / 5
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Raghuveer Yadav and Anjali Patil
Directed by Amit Masurkar
Screenplay by Mayank Tewari and Amit Masurkar
Newton Kumar, a polling officer, is in conversation with a senior trainer and wants to know how things will change for the country. Further in the conversation, the senior asks ‘What do you think your main problem is?’ Newton replies quickly but with some smugness – ‘My integrity?’ Senior shakes his head and explains, no, it is the arrogance about possessing integrity. Integrity should be the default state for us; there should be nothing extra ordinary about it.’ He further explains – ‘To see a real change, you just keep at your work honestly, day after day and things will change.” (Dialogue translated from Hindi)
This is the ideological premise with which Newton starts.
Newton accepts a task to manage the polling booth in a village called Dandkaranya, which has a strong Naxalite hold. It has been many years since the last elections were held there. He and his team shows up at the village and meet Aatma Singh who heads the team that will protect the Election officers from the possible dangers of a Naxalite attack.
Aatma Singh boasts of having bee posted in the toughest regions in India and of understanding the reality of India, Naxalites, and grassroots issues. He is the face of the all pervasive cynicism in our country especially with what we understand of “democracy”. He represents all those in the system and us who believe that “democracy in India is a joke” and “jo jaise chal raha hai, chalne do.” If we can survive somehow, great, otherwise we are doomed.
Mind you, he is not corrupt; he and his team work hard and almost honestly but are just too jaded. Newton’s dogged insistence and fresh faced enthusiasm of holding elections even for just 76 is voters is bound to irritate, amuse and sometimes really piss off Aatma Singh and team.
Newton goes by the rule book and despite all glaring challenges sets up the booth.
The biggest challenge of course is, will anyone even venture out to vote? Appearance of a foreign journalist and accompanying DIG, resolves that issue and voters are literally dragged out from their homes.
The rest of the film is about how the voting continues, even when a firing breaks out and the polling officers have to run for their lives. An unscrupulous plan is unraveled and finally the task is completed.
The performances are outstanding by not only those who share the screen space more but also the smallest role.
The screenplay is taut.
The dialogues are in a league of their own. They are so crisp and on point that they make you laugh and wince at the same time, at the painful reality that they carry. Just like a brilliant political cartoon would do.
Despite it being a sharp commentary on the bleak politics of our country, the film is surprisingly easy to watch and enjoy. Especially because of the sweet earnestness of Newton which peppers the film with optimism and hope.
Newton is India’s official entry to the Academy Awards this year. There’s no wondering why.
Reviewed by Nandini Arora
Nandini Arora is a TV writer by profession, having contributed to many a masala saas-bahu shows. She seeks masala in her real life too, sometimes by unashamed gossip, delectable food and in books. She loves movies and discussing them even more, over a cup of elaichi chai!