Amit Masurkar’s acclaimed Newton (2017) is about a conscientious government official determined to conduct an election in a troubled tribal in Chhhatisgarh. Naxalites have killed the previous candidate and Central Reserve Police Force personnel are swarming over the villages – and demanding meals of chicken from the beleaguered tribals. Who cares whether any of the 67 registered voters shows up, and who wins or loses? Rajkummar Rao’s Newton Kumar certainly does, even if it means going to extreme lengths.
Masurkar’s film is considered subversive, especially for the manner in which it suggests that the CRPF personnel are rigging the election, but it actually provides a snapshot of a genuine Indian patriot – the kind who believes in democracy and duty. Newton maintains faith in the electoral process, however flawed and compromised, and his uprightness is surely an antidote to the spinelessness associated with much of the bureaucracy.
This dwindling species of Indian who acts on his beliefs is celebrated by the song Chal Tu Apna Kam Kar, written by Irshad Kamil and composed by Rachita Arora. In both versions, one sung by Amit Trivedi and the other by Raghubir Yadav, Kamil attacks the armchair activist, the kind who is wont to “sit at home and curse your luck,” and “unleash weapons on Twitter”. Kamil’s advice seems to have worked in 2019, where lakhs of Indians came out to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act and, in the spirit of Newton, fulfilled their collective duty to the Indian Constitution.
Read all the articles in the Art of Resistance series here.