New tune Newton

Newton is refreshing, stark, hard hitting, pure, timely, subtle, honest, humorous, thought provoking, wistful, pithy, absorbing, engaging, meaningful, interesting and sharp. In fact, I run out of adjectives to describe this powerhouse of a movie. Blessed with some superb casting and an even more amazingly tight script {just 108 mins} , this is an absolute MUST SEE movie that challenges the typical escapist fare that Bollywood doles out to us week and week. And due to Rajkumar Rao’s stellar performance and Amit Masurkar’s (Director and Script writer) contribution it will leave you spell bound.

The theme is absolutely unique: a rookie government clerk foisted into an election tour of duty, which no one wants :  as the scene is set in Maoist infested jungles of Chattisgarh. The story revolves around how this seemingly unlikely hero stands up for the election process and fights the establishment (security forces, media, local apathy, and the police) to allow the tribal voters to exercise their franchise. In this effort, he is assisted by a motley gang of four who themselves are hardly convinced about what they are doing. But Newton stands firm and challenges all around him to allow the “dance of democracy” to roll unfettered under his watch!!

The movie makes you laugh. And the movie makes you think. The small vignettes played out by the characters will leave a lasting memory. Dialogues sparkle!! Some of my memorable moments were :

  • the name Newton is coined by Rajkumar himself:as he explains: Nutankumar me se nu ko hamne “new” banaya aur tan ko “Ton” so ho gaya Newton
  • when one of the Election Duty team confesses he is here only because he saw an opportunity to ride a helicopter, which he had never done before
  • The old and tottering village Patel offering to intervene in the standoff between Election Duty Officer and the Security Incharge (beautifully enacted by Pankaj Mishra)  even as he cannot even stand upright as he  intervenes in the argument
  • The world weary Raghubir Yadav calmly combing his hair when madness is all around and his  Presiding Officer is tense
  • the Security detail forcing the tribals to cook “desi” chicken curry and requisitioning the local hooch for their afternoon repast
  • the tribal school teacher Malko’s reply when she is asked whether she is a “nirashavadi” : she says she is just “an adivasi “
  • Atma Singh ( Pankaj Mishra) explaining to the people to use the Electronic Voting Machine :- ” uspe cycle hai, paani hai, motorcycle hai, diya hai, jo kuch chahiye uske samne ka button press karo”
  • Or the same Atma Singh counseling Rajkumar Rao : “Newton ho, Einstein ban ne ki koshish mat karo”

As a movie, what is most heartening is that there is no pretense, no sham. Everything is true to life: so close to reality that it hurts; and yet at another level: it tickles. The top gun in Police is only interested in impressing the foreign journalist;  maybe all the more, as she is a lady. He has no interest except ensuring normal semblance: “izzat ka sawaal hai”. Or the way he brushes aside Rajkumar Rao’s apprehensions, when he tries to complain. His response: ” Koi booth capturing hua hai? False voting hua hai? Violence hua hai?” If all this has not happened, he cannot understand or take cognizance of the basic travesty of justice or the total rape of the electoral process. Rather he consoles the Presiding Officer and walks away.

The magic of the director came across to me in two scenes most strongly:

  • in one memorable shot, Rajkumar as the Presiding Election Officer on duty has spent the entire morning half waiting for voters to arrive. He sits at a table in an empty class room and the camera pans long shot to the blank, stark blackboard just behind his chair. The camera continues to go behind and show the dark yellowing wall behind the blackboard: equally blank: equally harsh: equally stark as the situation the protagonist finds himself in . Salutations Directorji for the thoughtful composition of that shot.
  • When Malko is leaving, Loknath laughs at Newton sir’s card where he has drawn a five of spades. The school teacher Malko’s response will remain with me for long. She points out to Loknath that the 5 can represent the 5 fingers of a hand. When they come together, it forms a fist: substantially increasing it’s power. And further she points one finger at the head signifying the fist can be directed/led by the head/intelligence to achieve much, using the proverbial “sixth sense”. Reminded me of the Zen masters’ teaching. It has the same simplicity of thought and yet is so profound in it’s import.

To end I quote the famous Director Hansal Mehta’s tweet : Making films is not a race with a finish line but just a never ending search for your ‘self’. Thank you  for reminding me of this.

I owe you Newton for making me think, and taking me deep within myself: vikas

5 Replies to “New tune Newton”

  1. The new title is absolutely apt. I watched this film on Sat and recommended it to all my friends and family. Agree 100% on what you write about the film.
    It takes on a unremarkable subject- charming satire on the dance of democracy. A dark comedy on the socio-political scenario that holds a mirror to the times we live in. I found it simple yet crisp raising important questions without being preachy or melodramatic. Movies such as these are breaking the shackles that glitz and glamour is required for a “paisa vasool” movie.
    A well deserved nomination for the only Indian entry for best foreign film at the 90th Oscars after doing exceedingly well at the Berlin film festival etc…A big applause and wishing the film’s crew the very best!

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    1. Knew about the Oscar nomination but not about the Berlin festival. Thanks for adding to my knowledge
      Bareilly ki Barfi was another movie where Bollywood has unshackled itself from the traditional escapism and shown very believable characters and a story which is a slice of everyday life. Newton similarly takes very normal people to a somewhat not normal situation but their responses and actions are totally normal. Even Newton’s pulling a gun on he security folks is totally par for the course after all that he has experienced in the day. Truly an amazing story; visually and verbally told beautifully. Hope it does well at the BO and so we get to see such films more often

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      1. Yes, hindi cinema is coming of age. Watched another very realistic and poignant film “Lucknow Central” which narrates the true story of an upcoming singer from UP and his dreams of forming a band. Unfortunately, he is accused of murder and put behind bars.The entire film is shot within the confines of a prison proving yet again that the audience wants much more than stereotype love stories, exotic locales and big stars.
        Watch it for its sheer authenticity and powerhouse performances by Farhan Akhtar and Ronit Roy. Dil maange more of such films…..

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