Mumbai: “Newton” director Amit V. Masurkar, whose movie has been selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars, says he always wanted to explore a story in a political space which is otherwise lesser known to urban India.
“Newton”, which deals with the ideological battle between the government and Maoists, has been selected by a 14-member jury constituted by the Film Federation of India and will represent the country at the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category in 2018.
The story of the film revolves around a young government employee Newton Kumar — essayed by the critically acclaimed Rajkummar Rao — who is sent out to execute an election in a Maoist-prone area in Chhattisgarh.
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“Newton” is Masurkar’s second film after “Suleimani Keeda”. What made him choose a political subject that’s quite complicated and not as popular in the cine space as the Kashmir issue or the political crisis of northeastern states?
Masurkar told IANS: “I wanted to tell a story in the political space. The reason for choosing Chhattisgarh is that the issue here is different from the two that you have mentioned. Naxals are not asking for a separate country or fighting for development or seeking an answer to any injustice.
“The battle is from the ideological differences on democracy. Naxals want to bring a change in democracy by establishing a communist rule.
“Therefore, the story of the film is quite clear – a government, an opposition to the government and then there is a man who represents the government, who is honestly trying to do his duty and struggling on his way.”
The movie, which released on Friday, has been raved about by critics and the film fraternity. It had premiered at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.
Recounting his struggle to find a producer to the make the film, Masurkar said: “I showed the script to a couple of studios who said that ‘Oh, it’s politics… Youth have no interest in it’. The moment I narrated the story to Manish (Manish Mundra of Drishyam Films), he said ‘Yes’ in no time.
“He has got a great taste for stories and understands the pulse of the audience.”
It was later that producer Aanand L. Rai and a banner like Eros International Entertainment came on board.
“I showed Aanand sir the film and he liked the film and decided to be a part of its release. And of course, I am thankful for that. But what touched me is, how he remembered me. I once assisted him 14 years ago for one of his telefilms.
“He is such a gem of a person. He came out after watching the film, remembering me, saying, ‘I am so proud of you Amit, tu kitna bada ho gaya (You’ve grown up so much)! You made this film.”
Rajkummar plays the lead character in “Newton”, but according to the director, all the characters in the film have been written substantially to build the story.
“I made some small changes according to the talent of the actors. Like Pankaj Tripathi is such a brilliant actor who has a command over Hindi, so we wrote the dialogues for him accordingly.
“The character of Raghubir Yadav was also elaborated according to his calibre. And Rajkummar was the first choice because there are some of the strong similarities of personality between him and Newton. They are both quite sincere in their job and idealistic,” Masurkar said.
He hopes that in a scenario where the taste of the Indian audience is changing, they embrace a movie like “Newton”.
“We are just putting the film out there and leaving the rest to the audience.”