Newton is a 2017 Indian black comedy drama film co-written and directed by Amit V. Masurkar. The film stars Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil and Raghubir Yadav. The film was produced by Manish Mundra under Drishyam Films, known for the 2015 film Masaan, and the film is Amit Masurkar’s second feature after his debut film, Sulemani Keeda in 2013.
Newton had its world premiere in the Forum section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. The film received universal acclaim, securing eight nominations at the 63rd Filmfare Awards, including Best Film (Critics), Best Actor (Critics) for Rao and Best Supporting Actor for Tripathi, while winning Best Film and Filmfare Award for Best Story. Rao won the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Actor and the writers won the award for Best Screenplay. Newton was also awarded the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. Pankaj Tripathi won a special mention at 65th National Film Awards. The film was selected as the Indian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.
Nutan (Newton) Kumar (Rajkummar Rao), a rookie government clerk on reserve is sent on election duty to a Naxal-controlled town in the insurgency-ridden jungles of Chhattisgarh, India, when one of the main duty officers there is found to be facing heart problems. Faced with the apathy of the war-weary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) security forces, led by Assistant Commandant Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), and the looming fear of guerrilla attacks by communist insurgents, he tries his best to conduct free and fair voting despite the odds stacked against him. He is disappointed when the voters do not turn up for the election. Later when a foreign reporter turns up at the polling station the CRPF force the villagers from the constituency to turn up to cast their votes. When one of them enters the polling booth, he becomes bewildered with the voting machine and its operation.
After talking to the lot, soon Newton realizes that they have no idea what the election is about. Some thought they would earn money from this, while others asked hopelessly about getting paid sufficiently for their work. He desperately tries to educate them but to no avail. Taking the lead, a frustrated Aatma Singh pushes Newton aside and shames the villagers by telling them that these officers have risked their lives for their vote, and they should not turn them away. He tells them that the voting machine is a toy; there are symbols of elephants, cycles, etc. and they could press any symbol they like (leaving them uneducated about the fact that those symbols represent respective political parties). So while they vote for their favourite symbol, instead of politicians they have never heard about, the foreign reporter gets a good news report about India’s democracy.
Newton wants to sit at the polling booth for the stipulated time but is forced to flee due to a Naxal ambush which he realises later was staged by the CRPF. On gaining such knowledge, he tries to outrun his escort team back to the polling booth, but gets caught on both sides, and is forcefully taken back to safety. On the way back Newton decides to collect the votes of four villagers who suddenly turn up from deep inside the forest. Aatma Singh is reluctant to let them do so. It is here where the film gives the viewer the conundrum of the situation in war torn areas, through two men without any rivalry, bent on their duty, yet a stark difference, exposing the conundrum of truth. Taking his duty very seriously, Newton steals Aatma Singh’s rifle and holds the officer at gunpoint till the villagers cast their votes. Singh comments out of frustration that he did not want polling to be conducted in an area that was only secured by government forces 6 months ago, mentioning that there are still more landmines than men. He tells Newton that he doesn’t want to lose any more troops, especially when the government cannot even supply them with night vision goggles that they have been requesting for 2 years. Newton keeps him at gunpoint even after the voting for the remaining two minutes of his official duty (till 3pm). The CRPF troops then beat him up out of frustration.
The movie concludes with a shot of the area six months later, showing mining activity going on. Aatma Singh is shown shopping in civilian dress with his wife and daughter during holidays, suggesting he is humane and conditions in Naxal-infested areas made him a dispassionate and cynical person. Newton is shown in his office wearing a neck brace for his injury from the beating but otherwise happy, and keeping with his old ways. He is visited by the local election officer Malko (Anjali Patil) who asks him what happened after she left as she is unaware of the events and Newton asks her to tell everything over tea, but only after five minutes, when Newton’s scheduled lunch break begins.
Rajkummar Rao as Nutan “Newton” Kumar
Pankaj Tripathi as Assistant Commandant Aatma Singh
Anjali Patil as Malko Netam
Raghubhir Yadav as Loknath
Danish Hussain as Police DIG
Mukesh Prajapati as Shambhu
Krishna Singh Bisht as Krishna
Pistak Gond as The Village Patel
Sanjay Mishra in a special appearance as an Election Instructor
Mukesh Nagar as Mangal Netam
Bachan Pachera as Newton’s Father
Kirti Shreeyansh Jain as Newton’s Mother
Omkar Das Manikpuri as Lakhma