wogma rating: Must see - on the big screen (?)
You brace yourself for the highest degrees of scathing cynicism when you walk in to a film about India's election process. You walk out with a smile that balances the skepticism with healthy hopefulness. Those are just a few “when was the last time that happened” packed in 100+ minutes.Read more
Election in India. The process of election in India. The process of election in the interiors of India. The concept itself is intriguing. Added on rooted performances, cinematography and insightful dialogue make it a film I feel like watching right away. It has been ages since I felt so eager to watch a film.
Like any film with a social cause on agenda these two fears loom though – fear of repetition to hammer the cause down and fear of being preached to. Like any other trailer that excites me I am always wary that I have seen all the interesting bits in the trailer.
Let's hope my fears are unfounded.
Newton releases on 18 August, 2017.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Nothing that happens in Newton is really surprising. We know, more or less, how things work. The beauty is that you realise what you already know, as it unfolds in the film. This detailed unrevealing is what makes Newton a unique experience.
Even as Newton avoids becoming a lesson in civics and moral science, it makes you wonder about history. Is our skepticism well-placed when we know that just 70 years ago, you and I wouldn't have had the right to vote, let alone fight for others' rights?
This isn't an experience that glorifies the natural beauty of the forests of central India with its camera-work. There are no slickly designed action sequences that make it a must watch in the theater. It is the writing, the narration and the performances that make me want to watch it again. Of course, the film is pleasant to the eye and the action is real. But, the real hook is the sinking feeling that you are fighting. You know things are going to only get worse and ironically, you want to stay optimistic. And you are smiling through it all.
The conspicuous absence of satire is very satisfying. The humor comes from the situations and the everyday cynicism that fits in exactly at the place it is found at, in real life. Also, rarely does a film that takes on so many facets of life, does justice to all of them. A running theme through the film is the struggle between idealism and reality. This struggle is multiplied as our indignant, honest protagonist, Newton (Rajkummar Rao) meets the outright corrupt who patronize and humor him, till they realise they have to concede. You know why this latter group has a smirk on, as they watch Newton's realisation of the many-layered challenges in getting tribals to cast their vote in an election - villagers who live in abject poverty and are caught between the devil and the deep sea.
Even after a few hours of having left the theater, I am in awe at the arm's distance the film maintains from taking a skeptical route. At times, it is indeed difficult to not scoff at Newton's borderline anal, righteousness. Yet, you are concerned for him when he calls out pseudo-nationalism even though it is a well-placed joke. You want to talk practical sense into him as he takes on the entitlement that the army-men feel. Just imagine, frail and meek Rajkummar Rao taking on Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Yes, that scary. Because here, Atmaram (Pankaj Tripathi), the officer in charge of guarding the election officer's team could beat our protagonist brutally with good support from the rest of the characters. What's scarier is that the former might have support from a few in the audience too. It is no mean feat, to get an audience invested in as uni-dimensional a character as Newton.
You are that involved. That too when half the film is about a few men and one woman waiting for voters to show up. This part makes for a good chunk of this crisp, 100+ minute film and yet it doesn't feel like the pace has slackened. The only place that film feels like it's slipping is towards the end - an act of desperation that is uncharacteristic of the film so far. Fortunately, it recovers with one of the best climaxes I have seen in Hindi films.
There is also a song that might seem out of place. While watching it though, it felt like an intentional move to highlight the farcical proceedings of the election process. Also you realise that it wouldn't be surprising if a video like that went viral in real life.
So, we have come to the point I have been avoiding – the performances. What can one can say when every single actor is perfectly cast? It would be newsworthy only if Rajkummar Rao or Pankaj Tripathi failed us with their act. Anjali Patil makes an adivasi girl's indifference understandable and you can't complain when Raghubir Yadav's quirks bring out a laugh. Sanjai Mishra in his bit role is adorable. Even Mukesh Prajapati as Shambhoo has a screen presence about him despite his silence.
It is a risky film to make. Not just financially. A miffed group of trouble-makers could take objection to the balanced view. Hopefully unlike Newton, the character, the filmmakers won't have to bear the brunt of their virtues.
Newton must have been a tough film to make at many levels. The bravado needed, to approach the topic or its details, to take a gentle stab at misplaced national pride, is obvious. But, it also isn't easy to write a story around the election process on election day and not make it cynically preachy, a civics lesson or documentary-like. That is like dodging three bullets coming at you. To survive the temptations and tell a story of a relatively uni-dimensional protagonist, in a crisp, immersive film is challenging, to say the least. I feel the need to visit this film again and have my kids watch it too – because this is a once in the blue moon film, the details of which, cannot be digested in one viewing.
- meeta, a part of the audience
Thumbs up, by Subhash k Jha, Bolly Spice : ...As Newton and his bored colleagues proceed into places where voting is unthinkable, we are given a sense of the democratic process having to a go long way before the Newton Kumars at the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder can see the dawn of a new era. But then if we want to make a difference we can’t remain indifferent.... full review
Thumbs up, by Yatharth Chauhan, Desi Martini : ...Newton is authentic, it is thought provoking & it is so much more without once going over the top. We could really use movies like these that convey such subjects with constant humor.... full review
Thumbs up, by Harshda Rege, DNA : ...Do watch. 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. ... full review
Thumbs up, by Rachit Gupta, Filmfare : ...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.... full review
Thumbs up, by Johnson Thomas, Free Press Journal : ...With life-like performances from the crafty chameleon Rajkumarr Rao, the luminous Anjali Patil, gritty Raghubir Yadav and supremely gifted Pankaj Tripathi, added to the guerrilla camerawork and coherent editing to aid the simple narration, this one sure packs a sucker punch way beyond its weight category!... full review
Thumbs up, by T J Reddy, fullhyd.com : ...Indeed, the movie's sobering themes, its portrayal of apathy for the state of the Indian democracy, and the reckless insensitivity portrayed for the plight of the brave men and women of the CRPF brigade and the downtrodden folk of the Adivasi community all act as stark reminders of the privileged existence most of us city folk lead. Even as our 24-hour news channels indignantly scream about the loss of lives of innocent jawans or the state of panic citizens find themselves in as their basic human rights are trampled upon, the unshakable feeling that there are only a few members of society who are truly capable of facilitating change becomes wholly apparent. A change that requires generations to materialise because the men and women who truly care about and are capable of facilitating it are few and far between, and in a country of over a billion people, their work requires time to percolate.... full review
Thumbs up, by Vishal Varma, Glamsham.com : ...All said and done, NEWTON is a stark, dark, witty and symbolic gem presenting the mockery of democracy observed in certain parts of India. Powered by unbeatable performances and constantly amusing humour. NEWTON is a cinematic action on screen that deserves favorable reaction from the concerning and thinking audience. A must for those who yearn for quality and art in cinema. ... full review
Thumbs up, by Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times : ...Newton is one of the finest political satires we have seen in the last couple of years. It refrains from taking sides and offers a humorous take on state versus the Maoists bloody battle. It raises questions on the importance of the electoral system we are so proud of. It takes us much beyond what we see. The team of Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Raghuvir Yadav and Anjali Patil has come up with a top-notch performance. It’s a world waiting to be explored, so better do it now.... full review
Thumbs up, by Suhani Singh, india today : ...Newton makes you want to be a more diligent Indian. It's a film that tells you that cynicism won't take us anywhere. It's a film that makes you want to not give up on incredible India. And it brings all these feelings by keeping you invested in the outcome of the election.... full review
Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...I’m watching this movie again, just to show my support for such films, and witness the magical duo of Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi once again. You’ll not get an item song, seeti-maar dialogues or hero beating ten goons kind of situations in this film, but what will you get – is a pure & innocent film trying to explain something.... full review
Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...Does this film bear the scale and wide-screen drama to move you to bits and pieces? I wish it did, but unsure if that was ever the intention. To be fair, it does catch up on that front at some point. Does it hold you right till the very end, gently nudging you to think about 'the greatest internal security threat to our country?' Hell, yeah. That way, Newton packs a full-ton, and deserves full marks!... full review
Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Under Tendulkar-like curls, Rajkummar Rao plays Newton by realising his mind and heart. In every scene and situation, he carries the weight of his character's finer virtues and the inhibitions they come with. Pankaj Tripathi as the sarcastic army personnel is clearly included here for comic relief and his wry sense of humour takes the edge of scenes. Anjali Patil as a local teacher deputed on election duty is suitably cast and offers a restrained and mature performance.... full review
Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, News18.com : ...Newton is relevant and timely without being boring or inaccessible. You could say it lays on its message too thick in the end, or that the pace occasionally slips. But these are minor nigglings that never dent the impact of its thrust. I’m going with four out of five. It’s easily one of, if not the best Hindi film you’ll see this year. Make sure you make the time for it.... full review
Thumbs up, by Shreehari Nair, Rediff : ...At this point, an old guard, a crippled soul with little Nosferatu hands and shaggy clothing, suddenly rises up from his pallet and announces, 'I am the leader of these people, and I will go to Delhi.'... full review
Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...Isaac Newton’s law of gravity might be the greatest equaliser — one that, as per the film, obliterates the class difference between an Ambani scion and a tea vendor when they both fall freely towards the ground from a mountain. It’s the fairness and egalitarianism that motivates the hero Newton too. But there’s also a cussedness and obstinacy to him, a headstrong quality in the way he sticks to his principles that make Newton seem like the new Gandhi, the inner Mahatma that needs to come alive. If only he could be as effective as Gandhi was in his times.... full review
Thumbs up, by Neil Soans, Times of India : ...But their performances would ring hollow with the lack of a meaningful screenplay. Writer-director Amit Masurkar and Mayank Tewari have painfully captured the bittersweet essence of the people of an obscure jungle that's far-flung from civilization... full review
Thumbs down, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, NEWTON is embellished with powerful performances. But it’s a niche film and hence holds very limited entertainment value for the traditional cinema going audience. Also, the lack of buzz and multiple releases this week will make it tough for it to register impressive numbers.... full review
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