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Movie Review: Newton

via filmfares Newton Review

Cast: Rajkumar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil, Raghubir Yadav, Sanjay Mishra, Hardik Meriya

Amit V Masurkar

Quick take: Gravitas of great storytelling

Rating: 4.5 stars

Some films are as important to the world as an apple falling on the head of Sir Isaac Newton. Whether it’s their gravity or gravitas, these films are a sheer joy to behold. Amit V Masurkar’s Newton, is a film about the most ordinary man living out the most extraordinary experience in the most commonplace of Indian locales. The sheer brilliance here comes from the fact that Masurkar and his co-writer Mayank Tewari pack-in so much detail. It begs you to wonder if the drafts of Newton must’ve as bulky as the Indian constitution. Because that’s the level of insight and relevance of this film. It takes something as basic as the right to vote in the world’s largest democracy and turns it into a story of subtle but sublime drama. This is definitely one the best films of 2017.

Rajkummar Rao plays Newton. He’s a regular government employee who takes immense pride in his honesty and morals. Why he has the quirky name of Newton makes for a very interesting conversation within the film as well. So, Newton is tasked with conducting an election deep in the heartland of Naxal territory. With a military escort and a motley crew, he sets off in to an unknown setup where a handful of adivasis (tribals) must be cajoled into casting their votes for the Lok Sabha elections. The leader of the army escort, Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Newton and vice versa. And that’s what forms the major crux of drama in Newton’s adventure with elections and non-negotiable honesty. Newton is no hero. He may be a man of strong morals and incorruptible faith but he’s also a complete social misfit. He’s the lad who’s so obsessed with being righteous that he’s forgotten how to be courteous. At many points in the story, Newton’s penchant for truth and honesty becomes frustrating. It’s rare for a Hindi film hero to be making the viewers feel like he deserves a tight slap, but that’s exactly the beauty of this film. Forget fighting stereotypes, this film takes a completely unknown path and shows how great writing can make great cinema.

The most superlative part of Newton is its dialogue. The lines are just phenomenally clever and relevant to modern times. There are conversations on consumerism, patriotism and social values that are so deep that they can blow any other film this year out of the water. Yet, none of the lines are heavy duty. They’re wrapped in a comfy and zany quote of humour and it all looks as effortless as posting on Instagram. It’s the perfect combination of classy thoughts and mass appeal. Yet, Newton is not a commercial film. It doesn’t have the trappings to pull in a crowd and make them cheer for an aspirational hero. In that context, Amit Masurkar’s subliminal little satire is a niche product. While it’s no docu-drama, it is a veritable art film that can be appreciated by all, but truly savoured only by connoisseurs of finer taste.

The star of this film is Rajkummar Rao. He’s had quite the busy year in 2017. While he’s walked away with hosannas in every release, no other movie this year has offered him the kind of chance Newton has. He’s not just a character, he’s representing an entire ideology. It’s like he’s RK Laxman’s common man rolled into a Rajkumar Hirani character. His quirks add zing to his story but his stern values and desire to do the right thing make him a mirror to everyman who has ever tried to be good. In Newton’s slightly outrageous story, he fights the system in a madcap but innocent way. Rajkummar Rao never acts out the character, he is the character and his performance is mind-blowing to say the least. Supporting performances by Raghubir Yadav and Anjali Patil are A-grade as well. But its Pankaj Tripathi, another actor with a prolific 2017, who matches Rajkummar step for step and reaction for reaction. Sanjay Mishra in a cameo, has some of the best lines of dialogue.

Despite being the most diverse and complex democracy in the world, India’s election system has its own highlights and problems. Newton addresses the fact that the right to cast a vote means everything to an individual in a country like ours. When it gets down to drawing parallels between city slickers like Newton and jungle dwellers like the naxals and the tribals it is at its most brilliant. Newton presents everyday life in the most intimate and interesting way. Its comedy is on par with classics like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and yet it has the real grit of a Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho. Funny, relevant and deeply gratifying, Newton is a veritable modern classic.


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