'Newton' Review: Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi make this movie the pick of the week

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Film: Newton
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Raghubir Yadav, Anjali Patil and Sanjay Mishra
Director: Amit V Masurkar

What's it about:
Newton Kumar, a first time presiding officer is sent on election duty to a Naxal-controlled area in Chhattisgarh that has just 76 registered voters. This also happens to be the jurisdiction of Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) a paramilitary commander. Newton and two colleagues, one of whom – Loknath (Raghubir Yadav) is constantly troubled by his tummy issues, are joined by a local booth level officer Malko Netam (Anjali Patil). Though Newton is determined to carry out the elections in a fair manner, the odds are against him. What happens next forms the crux of this satire.

What's hot:
Newton has some powerhouse performers creating magic on screen. The movie begins with a brilliant cameo Sanjay Mishra, who wisely advises Newton to keep at his job rather than expect praise for his honesty. That sets the tone for he movie. Rajkummar Rao then takes over as the youngster, who wants to do the right things - like object to marrying an underage girl, refuse dowry and go to great lengths to get as few as four votes cast. He is joined by the effortless Raghubir Yadav and Anjali Patil. And then there's Pankaj Tripathi. The actor is on a roll as far as performances are concerned. Be it Gurgaon, Bareilly Ki Barfi or this movie. He has been knocking it out of the park every time. While Rajkummar is probably amongst the better actors in the industry, Pankaj is the star of this show. Every movie belongs to that one actor who shines above the rest of the cast, no matter how brilliant everyone else is. This film belongs to Pankaj. He stands taller in every frame. Don't miss his expressions in the scene where Rajkummar tries to complain about his behaviour to another official. Anjali is great in her part and makes one wish we could see more of her.

Director Masurkar sets up the story in a rather clever manner. The various characters are a way to portray various ideologies. There's Newton who is absolutely honest, his colleague Loknath is slightly cynical who treats every day with equal disdain while thinking of writing stories of zombies, Malko is a realist who tells Newton that change can't be expected overnight, and completing the circle is another team member, who goes through all the motions without giving it all much of a thought. And at the epicentre is the system. The media sees what it is shown. From an officer who doesn't care if a single vote is cast, to asking his team rounding up all those who have a voting card, the irony of the situation is heartbreakingly real. The tribals, pulled in two different directions — by the officials and Naxals — are of little concern. With this film, we go into a territory and demographic that has largely been ignored in films, but at the same time, you don't feel out of place here.

Masurkar makes humour his weapon of choice and sets up a satire that leaves you entertained, but also brings to fore some uncomfortable questions. He also manages to stay neutral and doesn't pass a judgement on any of the sides. So, is hope a choice or a compulsion? That's for every individual to decipher. The film sends out two important messages — first, there's a lot of difference between the ground reality and what's portrayed, and second — do your bit without expecting a greater glory for it and the world will change bit by bit every day.

Masurkar's victory also lies in the fact he takes up an intense subject, but never lets it go into the documentary zone. He peppers it with laughs and thoughts that draw both smiles and smirks. While the flow of the narrative is easy-breezy, it doesn't offer a simplistic view of the scenario. Dialogues by Masurkar and Mayank Tewari are spot on as is editing by Shweta Venkat Mathew. Getting the casting right even for the smallest of parts proves to be a major plus. A special mention has to be made of the thought-provoking lyrics by Varun Grover and Irshad Kamil.

What's not:
There's very little to nitpick, but this isn't your regular masala Bollywood entertainer. It won't gloss over the truth and present a rosy picture.

What to do:
Do watch.

Ratings: ****
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