Movie Review: Newton

Newton is very important but largely ignored recent movie depicting the reality of the state atrocities in the tribal areas of India in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh etc., and the Maoist movement which emerged as a response to these atrocities.

The movie is a story of a young and honest bureaucrat Newton (Nutan Kumar), played by actor Rajkumar Rao, who is appointed to do a difficult job of conducting election as a presiding officer in a Naxalite area in the state of Jharkhand. Because the area is affected by Maoist insurgency no other bureaucrat is ready to go there. Honest Newton takes up this job. He is flown to the remote tribal forest area by the government where he is accompanied by two of his team members.

Upon reaching the tribal forest area he comes face to face with the grim reality of the whole Maoist movement saga. He is welcomed there by an Army officer, played by Pankaj Tripathi, and his contingent who is in charge of security of that area. He and his team is then joined by a local tribal girl, played by Anjali Patil, who works as a BLO (block level officer) for Indian election commission. What transpires after this is the real story of this movie.

Newton soon realizes that the Army, and its master government, is not interested in conducting any free and fair election in this tribal area. The whole election is just a facade, and the tribal people themselves are neither informed nor interested in the election process. The reason tribal people are not interested is because they have nothing to do with the Indian government. As told by the local BLO girl, tribal people have their own age old customary laws and their traditional way of life, which they don’t want to give up. They do not need the Indian government interfering into their matters. Like all other tribes, they have their own customary leader, known as Patil, and so they do not need any political leader too ruling over them. In fact, these people don’t even know the candidates who are running for political positions in this election!

These tribal people are heavily intimidated by the Indian army who is exploiting them since long. The Indian army and the government is treating these tribal people as inferior human beings who are there to be exploited. The only thing in which the Indian government and its protector army is interested is the land of these people, which they want to grab and give to foreign companies which will give them their cut. This is Indian government’s “development” model! This fact is the very reason why the whole Maoist resistance movement has started in these areas.

Despite this realization Newton tries to conduct a fair and free election. In this work he is being constantly harassed by the Indian Army officer and his soldiers. He goes on foot to the remote forest area and establishes his election booth in a dilapidated school. There he observes that villagers are intimidated by the Army and told not to come for voting. Later when the district police chief comes to visit this booth with a foreign reporter, army officer and soldiers goes to nearby village and forcefully brings villagers for voting. This show-off is to impress the foreign reporter so that the world thinks that India is a successful democracy where the votes of the very downtrodden people also count!

Later it turns out that the whole talk of constant danger of Maoist attack on the election booth was just a hoax perpetrated by the Army because they are not interested in conducting a free and fair election. Their only goal was to somehow dissuade Newton from conducting this election so they can later rig it in favor of politicians who want to control and exploit the tribal people. To end the election process, the Army officer asks his soldiers to fire some rounds in air and then tells Newton that this is an attack on the booth by the Maoist! They are told to dismantle their booth and run in the jungle. While running in the jungle the tribal girl gives hint to Newton that the Army officer created whole drama to end the election. Newton realizes that he was fooled by the Army. He then tries to run back to the booth but is captured by the soldiers. While walking back to base he makes sure, by snatching AK47 of the Army officer and pointing it at them, to register votes of some villagers who were on their way to the election booth. He is then beaten up by the gang of Army officer and his soldiers for doing so!

The movie ends with a scene where bulldozers are seen destroying the jungle land of these tribal people, and the Army officer comfortably shopping in mall with his family using corruption money! Newton ends his election duty with a broken neck!

Newton undoubtedly is a powerful movie depicting the atrocities of the Indian government and Army on the tribal people. It also tells us why the whole Maoist movement has come into existence as a resistance movement against these atrocities of the Indian nation state and its Army. The movie didn’t do well at the box office, I think, because of its obscure name. Notwithstanding its name, the movie is a must see for anyone who is interested in knowing what the Indian government and its Army is doing to the poor tribal people of India. Unless these injustices are stopped, movements like Maoism or Naxalism will continue to rise in India. And these movements one day with rip India apart, and for good.


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