At various stages of Newton, the eponymous protagonist espouses that he is “just doing his duty”. Newton, the movie, is pretty much the same-it is duty bound to show us the farce that our democracy has been reduced to, when who we are fighting are one of our own. We the people, the very foundation of democracy, are the ones who are caught in the cross fire. The story revolves around Newton, an election officer who has to preside over voting in a Naxalist/Maoist ravaged area called Dandakaranya. To aggravate the situation, it seems as if the thick jungles of Dandakaranya have literally ensured that the only government that villagers in the area know about, are either their own panchayats or the banana government that the Maoists operate. In a telling scene, one of the villagers ask if they will get paid to vote as for them, it is but a show for the world that is not going to materially affect their lives. In a juxtaposition of sorts, one of the scenes shows two simultaneous sequences-a lady trying to catch a chicken to make a meal out of it and the army threatening and rounding up villagers to get them to vote. That the meal is later enjoyed by the contingent, only adds to the significance.
In all this, it takes a single minded man like Newton-an earnest, selfless, duty bound officer who knows nothing else beyond getting the job done, and making sure it happens by the rule book- to ensure the wheels of democracy keep turning. He wants to make sure voting happens, but also recoils from the thought of forcing people to do so. He wants people to be aware of not just the fact that voting is underway, but also takes pains to explain the significance of doing so, when he realises that the motley group of “voters” that have assembled, know nothing about the voting machines/why voting’s important. It’s almost as if he is been tasked to raise democracy from the ground up to the extent that he has to resort to violence. This is perhaps a sad parallel to the Maoists taking up arms in the face of government apathy towards the downtrodden in the country. Rajkummar Rao excels as Newton. While most of his famous exploits have been captured in the trailer, what the movie displays is the way he has imbibed the character and made it his own by adding his own quirks to it-the way he blinks, for example. Rajkummar’s run on the box office has been impressive this year and is one of the very few actors in the Hindi film industry who can play ordinary people with extraordinary traits with ease. The supporting cast in the movie does a superb job-notable among them is the ever dependable Pankaj Tripathi(last seen in Bareilly ki Barfi) ,Raghuvir Yadav and Sanjay Mishra who provide comic relief and gravity in parts.
Newton is as much a movie about Rajummar Rao as it is about the story and the message that it carries. Don’t miss this(now the official Indian film entry for the Oscars) gem!
Ankita Singh for nearbuy.com