This year has seen big budget films being rejected by the audience, some even starring superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan. But at the same time, the audience has helped films with quality content succeed at the box office. Hindi Medium, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan are some examples.
Now, we can add Amit V Masurkar’s Newton in the list. In fact, it deserves a top place as it’s by far the best Hindi film of 2017 so far. The makers have tackled a super serious issue of the relevance of voting in a severely naxal prone area in a humorous manner without taking away the main essence.
The film tells the story of Nutan aka Newton (Rajkummar Rao), who starts his government service in Chattisgarh. He is an epitome of honesty and idealism. He gets a chance to handle the voting process in an area deeply hit with Naxal activities. How Newton goes about forms the rest of the story. His biggest thorn in the path is a tough army officer (Pankaj Tripathi).
Newton doesn’t follow a conventional story pattern. It just provides you a glimpse of an exercise of voting in an area where getting people to vote is almost impossible. We have heard numerous times as to how culture changes in India every 200 kilometers. However, very few of us would have got the opportunity to witness this reality so closely. For city dwellers, this wouldn’t appear like our India.
The film presents the ghastly situation in the deeply naxalite areas without taking any sides. It doesn’t take long for you to realize the messed up condition of the people living in these areas with hardly any hope of resurrection. It takes a dig at the notion of democracy in such areas of India but doesn’t question its importance.
However, all these realistic attacks don’t prove heavy whatsoever due to the humorous approach. The film is peppered with humour in almost every situation. It is extremely difficult in terms of the writing and presentation to make sure the main issue doesn’t get lost in the laughs. Newton takes care of this perfectly.
The pace drops somewhat in the middle. An act by Tripathi’s character is questionable later on. Thankfully, these are minor issues and they don’t qualify as proper flaws.
The production design makes the scenario believable, especially the school where elections take place. The camerawork is up to the mark while the background score is as minimal as possible, which goes with the nature of the film.
Rajkummar Rao is going through a terrific phase. His utterly honest and dedicated performance here once again shows that he is one of the finest actors in the country currently. It will be an understatement that he makes Newton believable. You realize that there can’t be a person more honest than Newton.
Pankaj Tripath makes his mark felt yet again this year. The actor once again forces you to notice him through his powerful act with shades of dark humour. Anjali Patil made a terrific debut with Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh (2012). She continues the goodness here as she actually appears like a local. Raghuvir Yadav is lovable, as one expects from a veteran artist like him.
Overall: Newton is an example of honest storytelling that makes it the best Hindi film of 2017. Personally, I feel its selection for the Oscars is just. The film saw a huge jump in its box office collections yesterday. With the very positive word-of-mouth, it is sure to turn a safe bet for the producers.
Review by: Keyur Seta
Director: Amit V Masurkar
Producers: Drishyam Films
Writers: Amit V Masurkar and Mayank Tiwari
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil, Raghuvir Yadav
Runtime: 107 minutes