IMBd ratings: 8
You don’t have to shout to be heard and Amit V Masurkar’s Newton tells us exactly that. For a film that has a poignant message – one that is the need of the hour for social media activists and armchair cynics alike – no diatribes against the present establishment or long speeches beseeching us to do the right thing are employed.
Instead, it puts its money where its words are, and does the one job at hand to the best of its abilities – giving us a compelling 106-minute-long film, that will stay with us long after we have stepped out of the theatre.
‘Newton’, the eponymous hero of the film played by Rajkummar Rao, is a stickler for punctuality and rules, a fact established right at the beginning.
This trait is seen in snippets of his personal life, for instance, when he refuses to marry an underage girl, or the fearless pursuit of his duty as the Presiding Officer for the elections to be held in a Naxal-ravaged area. It’s here that we meet his nemesis, Aatma Singh (essayed by Pankaj Tripathi), a police officer assigned the task of protecting the election team.
Aatma Singh is well-meaning, but one who knows which side of the bread is buttered and who must control the gun’s trigger. Their interactions are the crux of the film. Both Rao and Tripathi are such supremely consummate actors that from the smallest of gestures and actions, they portray a burst of emotions .
There is also Raghubir Yadav (Loknath), Anjali Patil (as the adivasi school teacher Mako) and a special appearance by the always delightful Sanjay Mishra, who give their vociferous support to the film.
Of Inclusivity & Humanity
But in spite of the genius performances, it’s the screenplay by Amit V Masurkar and Mayank Tiwari that give us a compelling piece of cinema. It is a film that raises pertinent questions about India and its democratic processes, and gives us insight into how we easily make adivasis the insentient “other”.
Newton explores how the rights of adivasis are usurped by a State that is ill-equipped to even talk to them, and how this one-sided communication further alienates them. At times, it makes us question the democratic ideals on which our country was founded – pressurising locals to cast their vote is no different from trying to bait a fish.
But, in spite of the uncomfortable questions it raises, the film never becomes cynical. The message of inclusiveness and humanity is not lost.
Newton and Aatma are at two ends of the spectrum. The latter’s casual lack of concern for procedure and his general insouciance is in stark contrast to Newton’s zealous commitment to duty. There are a number of humorous, ironic, satirical scenes, cleverly included.
The takeaway is as simple as the song that comes with the end credits Chal tu apna kaam kar – to do the right thing and to do it with singular passion.
There is almost a faint reassurance that it’s these odd, good-to-a-fault, idiosyncratic “Newtons” that keep the spirit of our nation alive.
Despite no concession to mainstream contrivances, Newton is an entertaining and evocative watch.