Newton (2017) was a brilliant film and I am glad it was made. A must-watch for everyone who believes in democracy or wants to understand the true India. It was recommended to me in the last three years many times but I kept missing it till today. It is available on Amazon Prime Video.
The film is about Newton Kumar (played by Rajkummar Rao), a bright and young Government clerk who is sent as the presiding officer to conduct the Parliament elections in the remote jungles of Dandakaranya in Chattisgarh infested with Naxals. The memory of the scores of security forces who were killed by the insurgents in 2010 is fresh and the other officers are scared to go there. Newton quickly gets dismayed to find the bureaucracy and security forces taking the sacred ritual of elections lightly. Because the booth has only 76 voters, all illiterate and tribals, no one including the voters seems to care for the democratic right. For the locals’ everyday survival itself is a struggle – they are fighting daily against starvation and attacks from the insurgents and security forces.
Despite India’s many problems, it is an unbelievable achievement that it conducts (almost) free and fair elections every five years for over 850 Million votes in some of the remotest parts in the planet, and this is possible due to the integrity and the constitutional power vested with the independent Election commission of India and its foot soldiers who are temporarily assigned from various Government departments and schools from across the country. If there is one movie that can summarize the Elections then it will be this one. Simply brilliant.
I loved the dialogues and the screenplay by Director Amit V. Masurkar and Mayank Tewari. The training officer for new joiners in election duty on hearing the name “Newton” poses a question on the biggest achievement of Sir Isaac Newton, to then give the answer as “He proved that the laws of nature are the same for everyone whether they are kings or commoner. Say tycoon Ambani and a tea-seller if they were to jump off a cliff simultaneously, both will hit the ground at the same time”, profound isn’t it! He also advises Newton not to be arrogant about his honesty, because honesty is the norm and is expected.
Except for the opening scene, the insurgents are never shown again, but throughout the film, they are felt. The tensions between the security forces, the civil service, the politicians and the locals are brought out without being lectured or taking sides. His honesty and belief make Newton act cocky which is not a good way to deal with a security officer who is leading men with automatic weapons. It shows the enormous power a junior staff in the civil (Election) department fields over the other departments of the Indian state including the Armed forces just because of his posting for the election day as the presiding officer for the area. The tensions between Newton and Aatma Singh, the commanding officer for the CRPF security forces in the area are palpable.
While Rajkummar Rao as Newton comes out brashly due to his age, Pankaj Tripathi as Aatma Singh acts measured and constrained due to the situation and his diverse experience from his postings across the country. Both the actors have played out the contrast remarkably – a lesson for budding actors. We are able to understand and empathize with both the characters.
A ton of appreciation is due to the Director for not casting a superstar actor as the protagonist which would’ve turned the film into a spectacle of heroism and glitter. Newton (2017) is a fine tribute to the author of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica whose name it borrows.