If irony was a country, it would be named India. I’m not kidding, we as a nation have such a diverse and vibrant culture, a glorious history, a plethora of resources and cuisines as the list goes on ad infinitum, and yet, we fail to make it big on the world stage when our ability is actually required. The same goes with Bollywood, the Hindi segment of the Indian cinematic industry, which apparently creates more than 600 films alone of the 900-1200 films produced by India per year, and till date, very few films have managed to win the top honors at major film award ceremonies, like the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, and more importantly, the Academy Awards or the Oscars.
But this time, it looks as if the scene is about to change. For the first time, after many years, the correct film has been sent as an official entry from India to the Academy Awards, with respect to the Best Foreign Language Film Category for the year 2018.
This is Amit V Masurkar’s second film ‘Newton’, a simple but maverick take on the Indian democracy, through the eyes of Newton Kumar, a role essayed by Rajkummar Rao with utmost finesse.
Newton is an idealistic government clerk deputed as an electioneering official in the Maoist infested area of Dandakaranya, which coincidentally has some religious significance as being one of the temporary living quarters for Prabhu Shri Ram, his wife Devi Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman, before they took refuge in the jungles of Panchavati, from where Sita was abducted by the demon Emperor Raavan.
Starring polished actors like Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra, Raghubir Yadav among others, this film has managed to mesmerize all of us with its simple, yet hard hitting narrative on Indian democracy, portrayed beautifully on the silver screens.
In a year, where star studded big budget movies nosedived to the bottom without making any mark, like ‘Tubelight’, ‘Raees’, ‘Jab Harry met Sejal’ etc., courtesy their shoddy content, Newton is a slap on the face of mainstream Bollywood, who think that they can serve anything in the name of entertainment. It is a simple story of restoring democracy in a troublesome area, and yet it is such an eye opener, that you can’t help but wonder about the stark realities of such locations, which our mainstream media conveniently ignores for the sake of pleasing their political masters.
But why am I telling you all this? It is because Newton has stamped the authority of Rajkummar Rao as the next acting powerhouse after the likes of Vishwanath ‘Nana’ Patekar, Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan among others in the current Bollywood industry. Starting with the role of Shaurya, a normal man, who has to deal with survival after being locked up in a high rise apartment in the Vikramaditya Motwane’s ‘Trapped’, Rajkummar Rao is on a roll this year, be it the role of the brozone phobic Shiv aka Gattu in ‘Behen Hogi Teri’, or the 321 year old Muraaki ruler in ‘Raabta’ [Trust me, he was the only bright spot in the otherwise drab movie].
One of the most remarkable roles that he essayed was that of Pritam Vidrohi in the hilarious comic cape, ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’, a meek salesman, who is forced by his best friend Chirag Dubey to pose as a no nonsense ruffian who wrote the book of the same name for Bitti Mishra, who wants to meet the writer in person. While Ayushmann Khurrana as Chirag Dubey mesmerized us and Kriti Sanon as the lead actress Bitti Mishra surprised one and all with her brilliant acting, it is Rajkummar Rao who became the ultimate showstopper. If ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’ is a sleeper hit, most of the credit should actually go to this man.
This is not all. The dedication of Rajkummar Rao to his roles is something that not many are able to match. For your records, he is only 33 years old, and yet he had no qualms in playing the role of a 324 year old Muraaki ruler in Raabta. For the role in Trapped, he lost 7 kilograms in 22 days, by restricting himself to a diet of coffee and carrot only. This is nothing new, for Rajkummar Rao even had the courage of not bathing for 20 straight days, to look messy and disheveled for his role of Hari Prasad in Mohit Suri’s ‘Hamari Adhuri Kahani.’
He went back to his normal self for ‘Behen Hogi Teri’ and ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’. He quickly gained more than 11 kilograms, to gain the perfect look for the role of the legendary freedom fighter, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose for Hansal Mehta’s web series ‘Bose: Dead or Alive’, which is a take on whether Bose actually died in the plane crash, or was something missing?
That’s not all, he even shaved half of his head to sport the exact bald patch that Netaji had. Only other actors I’ve ever seen dedicating themselves to their roles to this level are Nana Patekar [who trained himself with the Indian Army for his role in ‘Prahaar’] and Irrfan Khan [who effortlessly immersed himself into the role of ‘Paan Singh Tomar’].
To be truthful, Rajkummar Rao is one of those underrated actors, who is getting his dues at the right time, and not too late as happened in the case of Nana Patekar and Irrfan Khan. With his riveting portrayal of the idealistic government clerk cum electioneering official Newton Kumar in ‘Newton’, who risks his life and social status to ensure that democracy is properly exercised in a Maoist infested area, Rajkummar Rao is all set to become the next big thing in Bollywood industry, and needless to say, a tough competition to the so called huge upcoming stars like Ranveer Singh, Varun Dhawan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Tiger Shroff, Alia Bhatt etc. If ‘Newton’ manages to make it big at the Oscars, Rajkummar Rao will become a name that will be remembered for decades, if not centuries, as the man who changed the face of Indian cinema for once and for all. After all, an acting powerhouse who acts should get the honor he deserves, doesn’t he?