‘Newton’: Just A Film Or A Reflection Of Naxal-Affected Areas?

Posted by Amit Singh in Culture-Vulture
January 8, 2018

When you know English, and consider yourself a bit superior to everyone else, the first thing you do is start hating everything that is desi. One such dislike you develop is for Bollywood movies, partly because they are mostly masala films. But sometimes it gives us a gems like “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Rang De Basanti”, “Kahaani”, etc. as well. One such gem that I recently saw was “Newton”, starring Rajkumar Rao in the lead. I didn’t watch the film when it released. However, when I read that it was India’s official submission for the Oscars, I decided to give it a go.

I had seen the trailer a long time ago, so I didn’t remember much of the plot. I had no expectations of where the plot would go and how the film would be. Usually, I have this habit of rooting for the person I feel is right, in the movie. But halfway through this, I was in splits. Whom should I support? Who is right? Is this the real situation of Naxal affected areas?

I thought, as the film progresses, my thoughts will become clearer as who is right and who is wrong. But, with the film coming to an end, I was still left with the same question.

Was Rajkumar Rao’s character Newton, correct by setting up the booth where he was ordered to and adhere with the timings? Or was Pankaj Tripathi’s character Aatma Singh, correct when he asked his men to fire, just to wrap up the whole affair before sundown, so that he and his men wouldn’t get into trouble afterwards?

General viewing says that Newton was right to stand his ground. But if we consider what a police, a BSF or an Army officer goes through when they have to report one of their men’s death, we see a whole new side of the movie – from the perspective of Aamta Singh. As said by Capt. Raghu Raman, “We make a widow in this quarter, she remains a widow for rest of her life. Our mistakes come home in body bags!” Aatma Singh’s strategy in the film, was to take minimum risks, minimise casualties and get the work done.

The next thing I thought about was – who should be blamed for the situation of the people living in these areas? Is it the government’s fault as it doesn’t pay attention to these areas after the elections? Or are the Naxalites are at fault? Or, do we blame the media, that is more interested in the best dressed celebrity at a party, rather than talking about important issues like this?

I went for a Services Selection Board (SSB) interview, wherein the topic for group discussion was on Naxalism. and its effect on people, we ultimately came to a point where we were discussing ways to tackle Naxalism. After putting forth many points, like development policies dedicated to these areas, educating the people in the area, etc. we realised that it’s a vicious cycle. We cannot educate the people because no one wants to go to such areas, and if we don’t educate them and spread awareness, we cannot change their situation.

So, I think it comes down to the government to develop a situation where the people are willing, or at least feel safe to go to such areas. And if we don’t provide them with employment opportunities, we are ultimately pushing them back to their previous situation. They have been robbed of their natural habitat, and it’s the responsibility of the government to provide them with a new one.

The name of the movie was “Newton”, so we focused on him, and couldn’t pay attention to some major issues in our country like the situation of Naxal affected areas, the ill-equipped police force in the area and the methods that government officials use to get people to vote. In the end, I can only ask this one question – can we do anything to change this situation. And if we can, what is it?