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Newton  : A New Thought
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Friday, September 22, 2017
Amit Masurkar
Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil, Raghubir Yadav

When parents name him Nutan Kumar and that’s fodder for jokes, he replaces Nu with New, turns Tan into Ton and Nutan rechristens himself Newton.


When his parents fix up a bride for him, he turns it down because the girl is nabaalik, underage. “That’s how it is,” fumes his father. “Girls grow up in their sasural, with their in-laws.” Newton has the courage to walk away from it.


And so you get an early taste of what Newton is all about. Individualistic, idealistic and doggedly stubborn aboutsticking to his stand.


Fortunately, what this Newton wants is to make a difference. Do what’s right, however daunting the odds.Even as a freshly-enrolled government employee going into the interiors of Chattisgarh where Naxal guns rule, Newton is obstinate about giving the Adivasis the chance to exercise their franchise in a fair and free election. While the fear of the Naxals who’ve called for a ban on voting looms all around, the military security assigned to Newton is cynically apathetic – they’ve done-it-all-seen-it-all-and-this-is-how-it’s-done-here.


But Newton’s streak of stubbornness digs in once more; he will do his job. It isn’t easy with almost everybody around casual about an election booth is such a way-out place. Even a mantriji who arrives for a photo op with a foreign journalist to show her how our democracy works even in the remotest areas, urges Newton to pack up and go home. Does that Adivasi vote really matter?


It does, to Newton, he won’t be demoralised by the sceptics. He’s undeterred even after he has to pay a price. It’s there when he’s done and dusted and back at his desk,still a stickler for rules.


Director Amit Masurkar’s Newton makes his point: everybody counts and everybody can make a difference.


Fortunately, what could’ve been dark and dreary has been given a touch of humour that does nottake away the seriousness of what’s happening in parts of our country. Part of it is because of the writing and direction and a lot of it is because of its actors. Especially Rajkummar Rao who has a certain sincerity that shines through and makes Newton credible. Pankaj Tripathi as the sardonic security in charge who’s used to doing things his way keeps his scepticism light with a slight edginess. Anjali Patil as the educated Adivasi registers the essential female presence. 


There are words of wisdom from Sanjay Mishra as an election commission official who tells Newton that Newton’s law of gravity proved that the sky and the earth are connected, that whatever the man-made differences, nature is the great equaliser. It kind of sets the tone for Newton’s own sense of duty where every vote counts.


While the take-aways are many and interpretation depends on the viewer, it must be said that the narration dips in places. It’s a film that critics, awards committees and film festivals will applaud and not a mass audience.


For afilm that beats its own path away from mainstream attractions, Newton gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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