By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Newton”; Director: Amit Masurkar; Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi, Raghubir Yadav, Sanjay Mishra and Mukesh Prajapati; Rating: ***
Low-concept and modestly-scaled films are always hard to sell, but authentic passion and a steady accumulation of detail, sets writers Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tiwari’s “Newton” apart.
Set against the backdrop of elections in the world’s largest democracy, “Newton” is an exemplary indie drama. It is the portrait of an idealistic man surviving in a society that is corrupt by tradition and lethargy.
Wanting to make a difference in society and to standout, Nutan Kumar (RajKummar Rao) who has completed his Masters in Physics, rechristens himself as Newton.
He is now working for the Indian government. During elections, despite being a “reserve” (standby) he is named the presiding officer of a booth situated deep in the jungles where 76 voters reside. The area is purported to be infested with Maoists. How Newton deals with the administration and the security forces to conduct the elections there despite the constant threat of an ambush from the Naxalites, forms the crux of the tale.
Projected in a fair and balanced manner, Newton’s journey is truly an eye-opener. Initially, his gullibility is suspect, it borderlines to stupidity but Rajkummar Rao as Newton carries it with elan. You chuckle at his idiosyncrasies and conversations with his superiors and counterparts, especially when he attempts to conduct the elections by the book during the absurd circumstances. But it is his sincerity that touches the right emotional chord. It throws open questions about the democratic procedures adopted in the area and its projection by the administration to the media and the world thereby.
Rao is aptly supported by Anjali Patil as his assistant during the election process. She as Malko Neetham, the teacher in a local school and acts as a perfect balance to Rao’s naive beliefs. As a local, she gives an appropriate insight into the plight of the oppressed tribals.
Raghubir Yadav and Pankaj Tripathi add some spark to the otherwise staid narrative. Raghubir Yadav as Newton’s laid-back colleague, the near retiring Loknath is excellent. He keeps you entertained with his constant complaining of how he is forced to work under strenuous circumstances despite his diabetes and various health issues.
Tension brews with Pankaj Tripathi as Atma Singh the leader of the platoon deployed to provide security for Newton and his team members. He is natural with his patronising tone trying to demoralise Newton. And, it is interesting to watch him become submissive every time he tries to get his way around.
Of the supporting cast, the tribals have their moments of on screen glory. Standing out among them are the village headman, “Patil” and Mukesh Prajapati as the tribal Shambhoo, who assists Atma Singh.
Apart from the performances, the few things that stay with you much after you leave the auditorium are the visuals and the background score. Swapnil S. Sonawane’s cinematography captures the rustic set-up with flourish. The music by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor adds a subtle undertone to the sombre note of the narrative.
Overall, this simple, slice of life tale, is interesting, engaging and educative.
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