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High hopes on Newton

High hopes on Newton
Highlights

First the big news. Amit Masurkar’s Newton is India’s official entry in the foreign language films category at the 90th Academy Awards. The nomination has begun on a welcome note as this is perhaps a rare instance when the choice has been near-unanimous.

First the big news. Amit Masurkar’s Newton is India’s official entry in the foreign language films category at the 90th Academy Awards. The nomination has begun on a welcome note as this is perhaps a rare instance when the choice has been near-unanimous.

This implies that for a change there would be no bickering or washing of dirty linen this time around. The good news is also that Newton has already won critical acclaim having made it to a good number of film festivals, including Berlin, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Buenos Aires. Quite naturally, this will create hysteria, including in the media, about how brilliant the film has been conceptualised and directed and how articulate the cast has been in delivering performances that are outstandingly impressive.

As the title character, Rajkummar Rao has given a performance that deserves standing ovation. But then at Oscar, it is more to do the with the entire film and not about how an individual portrays, which is a lesson Aamir Khan learnt the hard way after his much-hyped Lagaan failed to impress or impact the mindset of the jury. It is ironical that for some unfathomable reasons, Indian films, right from the time of Mother India, have never hit the bull’s eye at the Oscar. This is even as those produced in lesser known nations have managed to garner Oscar glory, which, without a shade of doubt is the ultimate salutation for a movie-maker.

Newton is a film that revolves around a young election officer on poll duty in a Maoist-infested tribal village in Chhattisgarh. To the commercial masala-oriented film-goer, there may be nothing interesting in such out-of-the-box cinema.

But it is these mundane films that matter at Oscars, Cannes and International Film Festivals. Unknown to the Indian fraternity, there is a possibility that an Indian film may not generate any pre-event hype at Academy Awards ceremonies considering that for all its claims, no film has come anywhere close to actually being among the major contenders. Even the cinematic excellence and the amazing works of Satyajit Ray and Gautam Ghosh failed to win the jury’s verdict.

All Indian successes at Oscar have been for individual talent, from Bhanu Athaiya to Gulzar and AR Rahman. Satyajit Ray was fortunate to be given a lifetime award as a tribute to his unparalleled genius. It is a paradox that the world’s largest producer of films is yet to win an Oscar in the film category.

Coming to Newton and the likely competition it is likely to run into will be films made by proven masters or those that are backed by established names, the most potent ones being A Fantastic Woman (Chile), Loveless (Russia), The Square (Sweden) and They Killed My Father (Cambodia), a film by Angelina Jolie on the inglorious atrocities in Khmer Rouge.

To the genuine Indian fan, Newton is the closest that has come to the reckoning. A direct entry will hopefully stand it in good stead on D-Day.

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