The 36-year-old filmmaker Amit Masurkar’s second film puts the spotlight on the election process in the Indian heartland, a subject rarely tackled by filmmakers in the world’s largest democracy. Amit, who made his debut with the 2014 indie comedy “Sulemani Keeda” says, “You will see the growth of a character, somebody who enters the jungle thinking that he will do his duty the right way and then what happens on the course of that one day”. Excerpts from the interview:
How did you come up with the concept of Newton?
I was looking for a new idea, so I just sat on my laptop and typed random words some words like electronic voting machine and election booth. I have never seen a film with these elements in a film. So, I read about this and the story formed on its own.
Why the title Newton?
I thought that Newton is a very quirky character that it deserved a unique name. I couldn’t name him Raj or Rahul, it wouldn’t suit him. Isaac Newton was obsessed with finding order in chaos, even my character is someone who follows his duty and doesn’t really care about anything else. So, it felt like this guy was Newton.
Compared to your first film, this time you are working with much more experienced actors, how was the experience?
I have known Raj since Love Sex aur Dhokha (LSD), I directed Pankaj Tripathi in a short film and I have known Anjali through friends, so this wasn’t that difficult. They all are very professional actors so if you write your script in such a way that people can understand it, then half your work is done. Apart from our main cast, the rest are all first-time actors who are the locals.
So how was it directing the locals and how familiar were they with the camera?
Some of them were from deep within the jungles, they had never even heard of cinema or even seen a camera. But they were not camera shy as they were familiar with cultural activities. On the first day itself, we had a workshop of how to act in front of the camera and since they knew that this was a story of their life, they wanted to contribute to the story. They also came up with suggestions and even improvised.
What are the challenges that you faced during your shoot in Chhattisgarh?
There were many challenges as it is in a very remote location and there was no infrastructure in place. But we got full support from the forest ministry so they gave us permission to shoot in the jungles. It seemed like a very difficult task when we set out but once we were there.
You also had some interesting thoughts on the preamble of India?
The preamble talks about the ideals, about how a country should be. And when you see the gap on how our country is actually functioning you realise that this gap is very large. Reading the preamble just gave me the impetus to do something.
How do you view India’s electoral process?
It is a very difficult task to conduct an election in a country as huge and diverse like India. The election commission is doing a thankless job. These guys are some of the best bureaucrats in our system, they have to make sure that no matter who is in power the elections have to be free and fair. That is why our politicians take elections seriously as they know anything can happen in election. The election commission conduct elections in some of the most treacherous areas, they have to do their job well.
In a country with so much of corruption, how difficult is it for an “imandar” person like Newton to survive?
It is very difficult. It is easy to say those good lines, but it is very difficult to practise. People around you who as not “imandar” will not let you survive and make your life difficult. Moreover, if you choose that difficult route then the rewards are also there, you’re conscious is always clean.
How do you view the paramilitary’s involvement in Chhattisgarh?
I have not had a direct encounter with the para-military forces while I was making the film as we were not seeking any protection. When you speak to the local who live in the jungles, they don’t share the same view. They feel that they are forced to take sides, either with the para-military or the Naxals, otherwise, their lives are in danger. It is a grey area and this is question has a very complex answer
As a writer-director, how difficult is it to pitch a content-driven film?
I have written 7 scripts and out of that only two were made. It is quite difficult but I think that once the ball starts gathering momentum, now it will be a bit easier for me to get the next one made.