There’s a conversation in the beginning of the movie between a senior election instructor (Sanjay Misra) and a government officer kept in reserve for conducting elections (Rao) where in the later asks the former about the way in which he can bring a difference to the world. The former, though amused, tells him that he is too arrogant about his honestly and should instead just do his job right. You take care of your work and the rest of the things will fall in place. Yes that’s how simple it is. In the last quarter of this year, here comes a movie that makes one sit up and be aware of our surroundings in a way that most of the urban population don’t even know about.
- Rajkummar Rao (Nutan Kumar aka Newton Kumar)
- Pankaj Tripathi (Aatma Singh)
- Rajpal Yadav (Loknath)
- Anjali Patil (Malko)
- Mukesh Prajapati (Shambu)
Director – Amit Masurkar
Duration – 1hr 44 minutes
Genre – Black comedy
Rao works with the collectorate office and is undergoing training for the upcoming elections though he is still in his probationary period and thus kept in reserve. Rao’s parents, considering that he is already settled starts looking at alliances. Their judgement is in favor of a ninth pass girl whose father is a contractor. When Rao, a M.Sc pass, turns down the offer because the girl is barely sixteen and half and wishes for a graduate partner, his father is furious. There’s this epic dialog “Zindagi bhar ghee main dooba rahega” that brings out the stereotypical mentality of choosing marriage proposals. Yet Rao stands his ground. Very soon, circumstances lead to Rao being sent on election duty to a naxalite prone village in Chattisgarh as presiding officer. This is the first time that the area with seventy six electorate will be conducting elections and the naxalites have already announced boycotting the elections.
Rao is escorted to the nearest army camp. The army in charge Tripathi is a man of the world He is confident that none of the electorates will turn out to vote and proposes to stay indoors. But Rao, a man who goes by the rule book refuses to budge. Tripathi has no option but to provide security and bullet proof jackets to this team of election officers. His army team escorts them to the school where the polling booth is to be set up. They are soon joined by a localite who is also the BLO (Patil). What happens next is a tussle of words and emotions between Tripathi and Rao. Tripathi is a man of action, he offers to get his men to do the voting instead, wrap up the elections and go back to the camp to ensure that everyone is safe. But Rao, a man of principles is ready to wait till the last minute because he believes in democracy and how every vote can make a difference. The situation looks bleak until a quick turn of events forces Tripathi and his men to initiate the process of getting the voters. The exploitation of the villagers is aptly depicted. The climax is a little over the top and dramatic yet when the movie gets over, there’s a smile on the lips. Amidst the despair and hopelessness, men like Rao bring about a ray of hope.
This is definitely the best movie this year and will go down the books as one of the greatest ever. In the world of glamour and glitter, it is so difficult to believe that there also runs a parallel universe where survival itself is a daily struggle. Like the leader of the tribals say, “we are stuck between naxalites and army. If we vote, naxalites will kill us and if we don’t, army will harass us”.The irony of the situation hits hard. Tripathi’s apathy and doubt towards Raina for being a localite) goes to speak volumes about the discrimination faced by the adivasis.
Full marks to the screenplay by Amit Mansurkar & Mayank Tewari. The dialogues (by Tewari) are short and crisp. Not a single word is spoken extra, specially by Aatma Singh, the character played by Tripathi. There are stretches of the movie without any dialogue but the expressions, specially of the lead characters are flawless in conveying their emotions. They manage to keep the undercurrent of tension flowing strong. There’s just a single song in the movie that brilliantly brings out the helplessness of the circumstances.
Every single actor has performed their role to perfection, be it the adivasis school teacher Raina or the about to retire official also an author played by Yadav or the officer who has accepted this duty only to ride a helicopter, played by Prajapati. But hands down this is a movie that belongs to Tripathi and Rao. Both these men have only been scaling up their quality of work with every release this year. It is difficult to believe that the man who effortlessly played the humor laden role of Bitti’s father in Bareilly ki Barfi is the tough army man with dry humor here. As far as Rao is concerned, this has been his most successful year so far. From Bareilly ki Barfi to Trapped to Newton, he’s proved that he’s class apart. His attention to details deserves a special mention like subtle mannerism of blinking of eye at intervals.
Rating – 4.5 of 5
This is India’s most deserving entry to the Oscars and like every one else, I hope this begins the record of win. In my opinion, if Satyajit Ray would have been alive today, he would have discovered his next favorite in Rajkummar Rao.
Edited to add –
On a Tuesday morning, when I reviewed Newton, little did I know that the person replying to my tweet on the review link would be the man himself. A true fangirl moment indeed. It is worth slogging for moments like today. Thank you #RajkummarRao for acknowledging my work.