A cinema for the people, by the people and of the people of India who care to dare and take the stark, dark route in presenting a metaphoric mockery of the election process in the circus of democracy observed in the naxal dominated area of the heavily forested state of Chhattisgarh.
NEWTON starring national award winning actor Rajkummar Rao and helmed by the 2013 slacker-comedy SULEMANI KEEDA fame Amit Masurkar, NEWTON is a stark, dark & witty lift for the helmer and a smart, pitch-black & deliriously amusing leap for Eros and Colour Yellow in unmistakably ringing the bell of truth away from the shine of escapisms offered by the accepted wine of ‘entertainment’.
Destined to please, amuse and enthrall the souls who constantly yearn for quality and art in cinema, the Indian sensation at the 2017 Berlin that bagged the international Federation of Art Cinemas (CICAE) award in its Forum segment, NEWTON is a unique experience. It doesn’t promise to blow you away like FOUR LIONS or WAG THE DOG, it rather prefers to stay with you for quite some time so that the viewer can ponder on the stark and dark realities of voting in certain parts of India and foster on the humour, wit it offered during the process. The smartly written script by Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tewari brilliantly finds humour in the feeble stage of democracy witnessed in the jungles of Chhattisgarh, it’s tough to extract humour from such situation of chaos and keep it engaging throughout, Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tewari achieve this rare feat with honesty.
Newton (Rajkummar Rao) changed from the original Nutan Kumar, is a science graduate. Born idealistic, Newton wants to see the change like many of us. Working as a government employee, Newton is not perturbed by the recent naxal attack in his region. He wants answers and is not convinced by the reply given by senior election officer (Sanjay Mishra in a cameo) on what should be done if the naxals keep on attacking the booth again and again during the training, as the state is observing an election. Kept initially as a reserve, Newton gets the assignment as the presiding election officer in naxalite infected village as the officer on duty makes an excuse and is unwilling to head towards the troubled region to conduct election. Newton takes the charge and he has to conduct a ‘free and fair’ polling for around 76 voters in the area surrounded by jungles, fear and insurgency. An experienced polling official Loknath (Raghubir Yadav), the local liaison Malko (Anjali Patil) and a picture of ‘reality’ in leader of the security forces Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) join in as Newton’s company. As the day of the voting rolls, Newton struggle begins right from the early hours of morning till the scheduled end time of voting – 3:00 p.m. How Newton manages to survive the reactions to his actions in the movie which is symbolically based on Newton’s third law of motion is the crux of the movie.
Director Amit Masurkar graduates from a slacker-comedy to the more challenging terrain of a black comedy with political overtones. The inevitable danger to become preachy is brilliantly ducked by the director in smartly engaging the viewers with constant conflicts of Newton that invariably adds layers to his persona in a pleasingly humourous ways. The rejection of marriage, the introduction of Aatma Singh, Loknath etc gives the helmer the chance to take side and remarkably while doing so Amit also convincingly brings the contradictions from time-to-time and concludes with an open end making the audience harp on their choices they made during its 206 minutes run time.
Coming to the performances, Rajkummar Rao is in his known zone after adding brilliant shades of colour, innocence and street smart flamboyance in BAREILLY KI BARFI. Here the actor is unmistakably at his best. The constant blinking of his eyes or the sheer lack of excitement portrayed when Anjali Patil shares some interesting local gyan, Rajkummar Rao makes his character come amusingly alive on screen in a flawless act. The actor is on a roll this year for sure – TRAPPED, BAREILLY KI BARFI but the role in NEWTON is the actor’s best shot for top awards.
Pankaj Tripathi in one word is amusingly terrific. An all the way winning act by the gifted actor helps in the desired contrast required in the contradictions of NEWTON.
Anjali Patil is a fabulous talent and was last seen in the low budget decent thriller SAMEER. The wonderful actress who made her mark in Prakash Jha’s CHAKRAVYUH based on naxal insurgency, NEWTON is a testimony that Anjali should be seen more on screen.
Raghubir Yadav is excellent and quite amusing. Sanjay Mishra showcases his brilliance.
Technically a splendid job as well with good productions values. Swapnil S Sonawane’s cinematography captures the atmosphere and the jungle in telling tones. Shweta Venkat’s editing and Angelica Monica’s production designing is perfect. Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor’s music adds to the flavor.
The minus point of the film is its inability to please the typical entertainment hungry souls of Bollywood with action, item songs etc.
All said and done, NEWTON is a stark, dark, witty and symbolic gem presenting the mockery of democracy observed in certain parts of India. Powered by unbeatable performances and constantly amusing humour. NEWTON is a cinematic action on screen that deserves favorable reaction from the concerning and thinking audience. A must for those who yearn for quality and art in cinema.