Newton by Amit Masurkar

I loved Newton so much I hoped it would be a series. I forced myself to go see it because I was unwell. I chose well because I came home invigorated albeit with a headache thanks to the blinding September sun. What times those were, solo movie outings in half empty theatres.

The writing is brilliant. We see the ground reality but the narrative is peppered with laughs drawing out maximum humour, mining it from unlikely places due to astute observations, proper research, and of course the incredible cast. It’s a treat to watch excellent actors play off each other. Watching Pankaj Tripathi’s interview today where he got asked about a scene from Newton I realized I hadn’t done what I had promised myself once I saw the film, I’d tell everyone to see it on a streaming platform. So here I am three years later!

Pankaj Tripathi is a class act injecting life into his part, and I will be watching this movie again for him alone. He was one of the best things for me in Bareilly ki Barfi apart from Seema Pahwa of course. Rajkumar Rao is spellbinding as Newton. We see the world through Newton’s eyes but the film is balanced with varied viewpoints which is a rare thing. One is the local Malko played by Anjali Patil (who was spectacular in Afsos) who has grown up seeing these “elections” so it doesn’t surprise her. And the other by Tripathi whose posting in Naxal infested areas have hardened him or perhaps made him more practical. He isn’t going to be taught about rules nor is he going to run a fool’s errand. Newton allows us to make up our minds, and doesn’t try to tell us what’s right or wrong.

I have come to believe that stellar actors can make any role their own. If this is not star power I don’t know what is, getting under the skin of the characters, making them believable, and not caricatures which Malko could so easily have been. And it doesn’t laugh at Newton. It shows us Newton as he is but doesn’t tell us why he’s the way he is. This is the rare film which doesn’t spoon-feed the audience or try to do their thinking for them.

Laughs come from real situations, the ways something is said, facial expressions, the movement of an eyebrow. This is as far away from slapstick comedy as India is from America. With humour the audience is more receptive, Pankaj Tripathi said in an interview​.​ He has a hook to draw the audience in for his character, and nothing works better than making them smile. I agree.

Newton shows how far rules and reality stand from each other. On paper we have a perfect little democracy but the reality is something else. It makes you wonder what the government does with the taxpayers’ money.

Take Odisha for example which has a large tribal population, and many districts have problems with Naxalites. I don’t much know about the reality of lives of these people who live a few hours away. We live in cities in our cushy homes with roads, electricity, and internet. Whereas most of our people don’t even know what the word democracy means.

The school where the election will be held is just a one room decrepit building. Election is a farce because people don’t know who they are voting for as no political leader has been there for prachar because Naxalite areas mean life risk, and that just won’t do for a few paltry votes. I wonder how many people enter into the government sector idealistic and wanting to make a difference, but come out disillusioned, if not beaten.

Newton ended on a good note but I would have liked to see more. By injecting humour into their writing they have transformed such a bleak narrative into something one has fun watching but still sees the harsh reality. The film is about the spirit with which people live their lives not allowing the circumstances to define them. There is a lot of difference between by the book understanding and experience gained from living in the real world which for me is the main theme of the film.

The two actors, Rajkumar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi, are not hero and antihero (certainly not villain!) but yin and yang to each other. Both are doing their duty to the best of their understanding, and their actions reflect their life experiences.

The award for punctuality shows what a farce our sarkari naukri system is. You are given an award for arriving on time which one is taught (and hopefully learns) in school. How many people are fighting to do their jobs in this country without having the complete information, without knowing what they are dealing with, I wonder. Even if they have the right intent, it’s a waste of their time and their capability if they are not provided with the means to do their jobs.

Raghubir Yadav‘s comic timing and expressions are priceless. He was a find, and I will be watching more from this veteran thespian. A mainstream film with a difference is what I would call Newton, and we need more such films.

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