Newton, a film by Amit Masurkar, has already created the news headlines by being nominated for the Oscars. Newton had its World Premier at 67th Berlin International Film Festival’s Forum Section. Newton is a satire on our country’s democracy and voting system. The manipulations are ingrained in the system. There is no space for an officer who wants to get the voting done as per the rule books. He has to bear the consequences for his honesty and sincerity. The best part of the film Newton is that its screenplay is full of humour, and to top it all, terrific actors Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Raghbir Yadav, Anjali Patil and Sanjay Mishra (special appearance) are there. It is a visual treat to watch Pankaj, Rajkummar and Raghubir in the same frame on screen. The film is titled very thoughtfully, rather this is used as a metaphor. As per one of the dialogue delivered by Sanjay Mishra’s character, Newton was the one who nullified the difference between the sky and the earth. And explaining it further he conveys that be it Ambani or anyone poor also, if somebody falls from the top, they have to go down only. Newton did remind me of Peepli Live which was another beautiful satire on the irresponsible and sensitizing journalism prevalent in our country. It is challenging to maintain the humour even when the scenes revolve around one of the most serious and relevant topic of voting system. As citizens of this country, many times, we are not even aware how voting system is manipulated. Especially in a democratic country like ours, it is claimed that people elect leaders. Amit Masurkar shows us ‘what is unseen’ or ‘what goes ignored’ by us. The very procedure of voting becomes questionable. The film says that the system is in place, but the authenticity and credibility is missing. Newton explores it beautifully.
The film begins with a politician doing his election campaign, asking for votes and promising mobile phones / laptops. He is shot dead on his way back after the campaign.
Another frame, where, Newton (Rajkummar Rao) is there with parents to see a girl. He is astonished to find that the girl is a minor, and not even 10th pass. He puts his foot down and walks out of the girl’s house in spite of offered dowry. And ultimately he ends up in a confrontational mode with his father (Bachan Pachehra) over his denying to marry that girl.
Then, we get to see Sanjay Mishra training the officials who are selected for election duty. He explains the usage of voting machines. He also adds that it is important to have integrity and loyalty. He also asks the officials not to resist and give away everything to the attackers as per their demand, in case, any polling booth is attacked. Sanjay Mishra explains to the officials that re-election can be done and if even that is being hindered by people, re-re-election can be done. Newton is one amongst the officials who are attending this session.
During a casual chat with Sanjay Mishra, Newton explains that how he rechristened his name from Nutan to Newton in 10th standard by changing ‘Nu’ to ‘New’ and ‘tan’ to ‘Ton’.
When an official denies going for election duty to the forest area of Chattisgarh, which is supposedly under Naxal influence / control, Newton agrees to go there without any reluctance to gather the votes by 70 odd people as voters.
Newton and his team Loknath (Raghubir Yadav) and Shambo0 (Mukesh Prajapati) are airdropped in Dandakaranya region. Newton meets Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), an Army Officer, who has served and looked over many elections in war-torn parts of the country. Aatma tries to dissuade them from going ahead to seek voting from the voters, but Newton does not pay heed to that. Aatma was left with no option than to accompany these officers. By that time Malko (Anjali Patil), a teacher and local booth officer, also joins them.
They all reach the election venue. For Loknath, it is another polling day, so he is very casual about the whole thing. Malko, excited in the beginning, but later she gives up. Shamboo just sleeps and does not do anything unless and until asked to. What happens afterwards ? Do the voters turn out ? Are the voters able to cast votes? Does any Naxal attack happen? Do the Adivasis, who lived in those areas for centuries, understand the whole concept of voting? What do they want in return? How does the concept of democracy exercised? What happenes to the conflict between Aatma and Newton, since Aatma is keen to get out of the place with his men before darkness descends whereas Netwon is determined to ensure polling under any circumstances.
Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tewari’s screenplay is successful in keeping this dark comedy consistent in its humour. They have not tried to find answers or solutions to the problems pertinent in our country, but have realistically portrayed the situations. Without showing any violence or fights, the reality is felt through dialogues. One of the dialogue is: “We want to break free from both the government forces and the Maoists”. Another dialogue, when Malko is asked about her being a Nirashavadi (pessimistic), she responds – “I am Adivasi”. Malko’s character reiterates the hard fact that nothing changes on the ground no matter how many elections are conducted.
Newton is a satire on India’s electoral system, democracy, bureaucracy, law and order machinery etc. and it hits the bull’s eye. It raises many serious questions about the manipulations and distortions that have crept into the democratic processes in our country. The film does not really seek answers, but does make its point clear. Newton makes us experience various emotions simultaneously. Powerful Screenplay packed with Powerful Performances by Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Raghubir Yadav, Anjali Patil and Sanjai Mishra makes Newton a delightful and thought-provoking watch.
Rating: 4 /5 (Very Good)