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Even after 5 years, Rajkummar Rao and Pankaj Tripathi’s Newton stays as applicable as ever

Rajkummar Rao in a still from Newton.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, there can be no denying that Indian politics is currently in a very strange place. These are times when reality is stranger than fiction. And, in such times, I happened to watch Amit V Masurkar’s political satire Newton for the first time.

Five years have passed since Rajkummar Rao’s film was released in cinemas, but its narrative remains as relevant as ever. It follows a meek, scrawny guy Nutan Kumar, who renames himself as Newton to avoid being laughed at. He lives by the simple rule: “If you don’t change nothing, nothing will change.” His idealistic approach to life is visible from the word go. He refuses to marry an underage girl for Rs 10 lakh and a motorcycle. He is the only government official who agrees to oversee the smooth functioning of elections in the Naxal-infested jungles of Chhattisgarh. Even during the entire procedure, he goes by the book of law and doesn’t like anyone coming in between him and his ideals. However, he is not shown to be a superhero. He is just a law-abiding officer like those you would find around you.

But, just like Newton, these honest and law-abiding officers too become helpless when voters and other forces refuse to cooperate. In this case, Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), the forest security official, who provides security to Newton and his team. In one of the sequences of the film, while Newton is persistent about abiding by the rules while setting up the EVM for 76 tribals of the village, Aatma Singh tells him, “Newton ho, Newton hi raho, Einstein mat bano”. At this moment, you may perceive him as the film’s villain as he seemingly impedes fair democratic procedure in order to be able to exit the Naxal region as quickly as possible. However, if you have read about the Naxal assaults in Chattisgarh and the large number of police officers and special operations officers who have been killed in Maoist ambushes, you will understand his perspective as well. According to an Indian Express report, 21 security personnel were killed in Naxal attacks in 2019, 36 in 2020, 46 in 2021, and four as of March 21 this year.

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