Newton Film Review: Falls Short of Scoring a Ton

| September 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

To review a movie that has already been announced as India’s Official Oscar entry requires a great deal of objectivity and integrity.

Since I saw Newton in the evening show after a PR coup of sorts had been made regarding its ‘Oscar worthy’ Credentials, my task was tough.

To give the Devil its due, Newton rides on a farm fresh concept that brings out the travesty of election holding process, in one of the far flung areas of India that has no connect with civilisation as such.

A victory of sorts for India’s democratic credentials (or it being a farce), election commission sends a UDC (upper division clerk) Nutan Kumar aka Newton(Raj Kummar Rao) in the deep jungles of(Dandkarenya) infested with internal insurgency of Maoists and Naxalites.

He reaches along with his associates Loknath (Raghuvir Yadav) and Shamboo(Mukesh Prajapati).To reach the polling booth they have to walk miles under the security cover provided by Special Reserve Force Deputy Commandant Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi).

It really makes you wonder that this Aadivasi belt where even road,electricity,water is not available even after seventy years of Independence, political candidates are exhorting the voters to choose them and they would bring laptops and mobile phones at their doorstep.

The whole story is about getting registered voters numbering 76 in total to come and exercise their right by punching their choice on EVM!

Newton wants free and fair polls. All around, he is surrounded by a sea of cynicism,indifference whereby his expectations,optimism of getting voters to come, forget about holding a fair poll, is ridiculed and derided.

His only support is a local school teacher Malku (Anjali Patil).The whole spectrum of outlook is summed up in a dialogue where Newton asks Malu ‘ kya tum bhi niraashavadi ho?’ (Are you too a pessimist).To that she quips: ‘nhin main Aadivasi hoon’ (No, I am a tribal).

This is as practical as it can get, where we have an insight about the people at the margins of growth and development,who have no expectations whether their lot will improve, if so called development, that is infact unabashed exploitation of mineral wealth of their land, is brought by any winning candidate.

These tribals live day to day with no dreams and ambitions.

The screenplay (Mayank Tiwari and Amit Masurkar) takes its time to set up the premise.Its in no hurry to reach its resolution. As placid as the jungle,it takes its time to reveal the undercurrents and simmering conflicts.

The dash of dark humour and irony peppers the otherwise staid and at times dull proceedings.

Raghuvir Yadav shown as MA in hindi with illusions of being a writer who is on the verge of retirement, provides insights with his pithy observations about how democracy works and elections conducted in these la la lands forsaken by the messiahs of development and welfare- be they politicians,bureaucrats,media moguls,the security forces of the State or guardians of tribal lands notorious as Maoists and Naxalites.

Director Amit Masurkar (previous outing- Suleimani Keeda) has his heart in the right place. His timing also seems right. His handling of the material and his artists is praiseworthy.

Pankaj Tripathi shines bright in the light and shade of thick jungles.Raj Kummar Rao, is now a synonymous with authentic performances indeed.

Raghuvir Yadav is effective and amusing. Sanjay Mishra amuses with his cameo.Anjali Patil too portrays her character well.

Not only the mainline artists but non professional actors, the real village folk acquit themselves with honours in portraying their characters.

Then why am I not convinced that its an Oscar selection material. For one this kind of authentic portrayal with satirical narrative has been seen earlier too. Peepli Live is a close example.

No doubt the engaging narrative gives you sufficient fodder for thought, and in no way is entertaining or tickling your funny bone, except for few chuckles. To be fair, it need not be.

Still I wonder at the overall impact.I feel nothing churning in my belly at the end of it all. It definitely fell short of moving me.

On the sidelines,I came out with this niggling thought, that this self-righteous,principled Newton who would go to any length to fulfil his duty, could be having an Achilles heel. He seems to be impervious to opinions,cynicism,barbs of others when he feels that he is right, but could not take in his stride the mocking of his name Nutan Kumar. He himself changed it to Newton.That shows a crack in his otherwise solid veneer.

So is the case with the film in totality.It too lacks that visceral punch, that in the gut feel to overwhelm.

A 26 member FFI jury returning a unanimous decision to flag Newton for Oscars, is indeed a clean sweep in democratic parlance, but requires some Einsteinian calculations to make sense.

Meanwhile, all the best to the film all the way.


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Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Dhieraj Mohan is Hindi cinema's keen observer. With earnest interest in its dynamics and constantly changing milieu he revels in dwelling on the discrepancies, idiosyncrasies,contradictions,masala and the formula that defines Bollywood.He is a poet and a screenwriter too,who simply adores Hindi cinema's chameleon like traits.

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