Newton had perhaps the most compelling trailer among the recent Bollywood flicks. I decided to watch this film first day first show and I felt validated to see the news of the film being nominated as India’s official entry to the Academy awards (Oscars) – Best foreign film award. I was also supposed to watch another promising film … A Marathi film titled ‘Nadi Wahate’ (river flows) with an equally interesting trailer but an unusual glitch led to the afternoon show being cancelled … otherwise it would have been a double header Friday … Though I will have to wait for the Marathi film …I found consolation in the fact that Newton’s director Amit Masurkar is a Marathi chap …
The most challenging thing about writing reviews of good films is the dilemma of how detailed the account should be … well every viewer has his or her own perspective, context and watching a film is a unique experience … one does not want to kill the spontaneity of the experience.
Casting is perhaps the strongest aspect of this film. There is no villain … and the hero is not all macho all perfect guy … it is a story of real and simple people … Rajkumar Rao brings alive an adamant, righteous babu … not so high in the bureaucratic ladder ..
Pankaj Tripathi is the annoying, battle hardened para military officer who is constantly irked about risking his troops for a polling both with 76 odd voters and hates being under a rookie clerk like the protagonist. Sanjay Mishra has played a typical Hardik Pandya like cameo but he unfolds layers of Newton’s persona. Anjali Patil portrays Malko … a tribal teacher who is honest and clever … her sprightly smile tells us how refreshed Malko feels to see a sincere officer like Newton … Raghubir Yadav is a legend … but one needs to write good roles for such actors to unlock their potential … And the pitch is perfectly prepared for him to play a talkative, laid back clerk .. reluctantly doing election duty in Maoist affected region before signing off from his government job.
Swapnil Sonawane’s camera work is understated but brilliant … he has not just composed pretty frames … various visual elements are brought together to convey the director’s vision. The quiet, unsafe, eerie jungle is captured beautifully in wide shots and close ups of characters tell us lot more about the state of mind they are in … the relationship they share with their context.
The story flows smoothly … it is not a fast paced storyline … but it doesnt have to be fast paced … is our real life always fast paced? It is dramatic because the situations are dramatic. The story is about some other planet within our political system. The most striking element of the film is the negative spaces on audio track … it is a profoundly quiet film … no jarring background score … no artificial ambient sound … it leaves lot of open space for an immersive experience.
The director has told us a political story … Amit Masurkar refrains from delivering any preachy message … but instead he provokes us to think … about our ideas of governance… habitat … human rights … political awareness … progress … We are forced to revisit all these ideas because now the frame of reference is a 76 voter polling booth inside dense naxal affected forest.
The protagonist has changed his name to Newton from Nutan out of early embarrassment … but does the story have any connect with what Issac Newton did few centuries ago?
I would say lets look at the first and the third law of motion … and take it into the domain of social change … Nothing will change due to social inertia unless you make an effort to change it … and every action will have equal and opposite reaction … so want to change something? Be brave enough to pay the price too! Well … Newton was a genius … but he was not as brave as one would have imagined … A friend like Edmond Halley ensured that Newton was able to deliver what he was capable of… Malko perhaps is a bit of a Halley for our Newton Kumar … It is a black comedy … must watch for effortless acting and a thought provoking experience …