Review: Newton

Who says that art cinema in Hindi films is non-existent? In India, politics and politicians have always made strange bedfellows – as the inveterate R K Laxman would lampoon in his daily column and which second-time director Masurkar ( Sulemani Keeda,2014) would have done well to emulate. Both Masurkar and Mayank Tewari, without attempting to be didactic in the ways of Indian politics have co-scripted the delightful ‘Newton’, showcased at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. Nutan Kumar (Rajkumar Rao), hassled by the incessant taunting of his name, renames himself Newton. Enrolling as a Presiding Officer during elections in the notorious Maoist and Naxalite infested jungles of Chhattisgarh, he is shortlisted from the reserves at short notice when the incumbent withdraws at the last minute citing safety concerns.
Director Masurkar has assembled a fine outfit of supporting actors to complement the brilliant Rajkumar Rao – the enigmatic head of the paramilitary force Aatma Singh ( Pankaj Tripathi), the local teacher and coordinator Malko (Anjali Patil) and the soon-to-retire official Loknath ( Raghubir Yadav, who also has the best lines). The more gripping parts of the film are where the dedicated and conscientious Newton engages in verbal duels with Aatma Singh, whose sole objective is to vacate the polling booth along with his group before the 3 pm deadline, despite the fact that none of the 76 disinterested  voters in the constituency has turned up for voting.
Seldom has Hindi cinema tackled the subject on voting issues without the eponymous politician. The election manual in Newton’s hand symbolises the rigidity of his ideals and morals. The  build-up to his character and persona too is well-defined and structured, either while walking out of a meeting fixed to arrange his marriage to an under aged girl or asking questions of his superior (a brilliant cameo by Sanjay Misra), who analyses the lad’s problem as ‘having an innate pride in his integrity’.
Where it all adds up is the brilliance of the supporting cast (Tripathi going from strength to strength in all his films this year), outstanding cinematography by Swapnil Sonawane and at less than two hours, sagacious editing by Shweta Venkat Mathew. Definitely worth a watch!

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