An opening scene introduces us to this curly haired, blinking eyed guy biting on an apple while he is sunk in some manual. Nutan Kumar cleverly changed his name to Newton as a child, to escape mockery and of course inspired by the legend himself.
Newton has been selected as presiding officer for an upcoming election in an area with mere 78 voters. It is a day in the lives of people involved in the painstaking operation of conducting elections in the Naxalite affected jungles of Chhattisgarh. What follows next is the unlayered portrayal of the perplexed Indian democratic system. Without being cynical, Amit V Masurkar and Mayank Tewari’s screenplay excel at the immersive storytelling of this ‘just another’day, in the electoral process of India with an unflinching dark humour.
The weight of such nuanced writing lies majorly on the rock-solid shoulders of Rajkumar Rao & Pankaj Tripathi.
Rao as Newton is idealistic to the fault. He swears by the rule book and lives by his punctuality. Rajkumar Rao once again gets into the skin of the character making it almost impossible to separate the actor from the blinking Newton Kumar. Aatma Singh is a cynical military officer, doing what needs to be done. The burst of emotion that explodes with the tiniest of gestures is what makes Aatma Singh another one of Tripathi’s best performances. The verbal duel between these two opposite ideologies poses multiple questions and does not pretend to have any answers. Meanwhile, Raghubir Yadav is back and how. After we last saw him in Peepli Live, he returns as a veteran election officer by profession, a writer at heart.
Special mention for Sanjay Mishra, who with a presence of not more than 10 mins in the beginning, casually sets a beautiful pretext to the honesty of this officer and the story that is to follow.
The makers dig out humour from the grimmest of realities. The absence of expression of a locale witnessing a voting machine for the first time, a voting card tucked in any possible corner of the attire, a diabetic officer’s struggle through the jungle, an Adivasi lady’s two cents to the ‘outsiders’, everything is precious. With a pace that calm, there is hardly a shot or a dialogue that doesn’t add value to the narrative.
This is reality at its finest best with compelling performances and intricate visuals. 106 minutes of subversive storytelling that will stay with you longer than you’d think.