Newton’s entry to Academy Awards has yet again given us a reason to keep believing in good cinema. The list of Oscar nominations and winners from India so far has made it clear that the critics do not fancy a luxurious big budget drama but the talent and a detailed dig at social issues of our country.
As far as India’s box office is concerned, like every other Friday, everyone decided to treat themselves to a movie. And no doubt, after Rajkummar Rao’s praiseworthy performance in Bareilly ki Barfi, many opted for Newton. But as the box office collection (Rs 96,00,000) of the movie on the first day suggests, more people chose to watch Sanjay Dutt's Bhoomi collecting Rs 2.25 Cr and Haseena Parkar collecting Rs 1.87 Cr the same week.
But as soon as Newton got nominated for Oscars, people actually went to watch the movie and here’s why.
It shows you or me are good enough to become a hero in life as long as we do what’s right. In the times of complaining about system, politics, and corruption, Newton gives you an in-detail view in the day of an honest government employee. The story uses dark humor to unfold the layers that you have not seen before.
You see, this isn’t a story of a hero that picks up the heroin and sings or a hero who fights against the goons and puts them behind the bars through his unattainable superpower that you can’t have. It’s about a hero who sticks to his job, refuses to marry a minor for dowry and fulfills what is expected of him just like you and me.
Sanjay Mishra: Do you know what your problem is?
Newton Kumar (a government clerk on election duty): My honesty?
Sanjay Mishra: No, your problem is your pride in your honesty.
In this scene, an experienced employee is teaching Newton that he isn’t doing a favour by being honest. Honesty is what is expected out of him. Newton Kumar doesn’t have to break a mountain to bring the change. He only needs to continue his right doings, he only has to walk on the right side of the road, come what may and the country will itself see the progress. That’s the formula.
Every five years India sees a day which brings the result of hyped promises by politicians to voters. The movie is specifically about that one day. We are taken into the jungles of Chattisgarh over-run by Naxals and the way Newton Kumar, as the presiding officer of the area, is taking a stand for what’s right like any other honest human, is what makes all the difference. You see, he’s not armed to fight with an army officer but is too focused to entertain fear.
Residing on the privileged side of this country some of us treat voting day merely as a holiday but a certain ratio of the population doesn’t know how, why, where to vote and for whom should they vote, their votes are not of same value because of this and we didn’t even know.
Fake gunshots were planned by Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi, pressumably a CPRF officer) and his other subordinates to make the idealist Newton Kumar move from his position and proceed back to the city without completing his work. But voting closes at 3 PM and there’s still sometime left. With his beaten-up body and tired eyes on the way, he sees a few people coming to vote and this time he snatches the weapon and puts Aatma Singh at gunpoint to get the voting done proving the country’s point - “each vote counts and matters.” Once the minute needle hits 12, he officially closes the process. Big or small, your contribution makes a difference. Newton’s contribution of fighting back, come what may made those 4-5 honest votes count.
The movie ends with more questions in your mind than answers. But it sure confirms that an individual, who can easily be anybody of us, yes, the one who goes to work sharp at 9:00 AM and leaves sharp at 5 PM, does what is expected of her or him, is not ordinary. Rajkummar Rao’s Newton Kumar is one person we all need to become.
As we are talking about Newton Kumar, you might as well browse through Sir Isaac Newton’s discoveries in these books: The System of the World Paperback by Sir Isaac Newton (Rs 358) and Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer by Michael White (Rs 1,733).