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Much Ado About Cinema

One of the lesser-known facts about me (which I am wholly proud of) is that I managed to secure a perfect 100 in Social Studies in my 10th standard exams. My affinity for the workings of the world past and present was palpable from a young age. One of the most seminal debates I had with my peers and teachers was about how democracy became ubiquitously accepted as the way of the free world. The primary hang-up in my young mind was I could not be easily convinced that dictatorships, monarchies, communism, socialism etc. fell by the wayside en route to accepting democracy as the law of the land.

During one of these debates, one of my teachers once uttered a statement that punctuated her argument to a tee and has rung true with me since. It went: "Democracy is the only system of governing that remained after all other options were deemed futile by the citizens being governed." Such an apt argument that was when truly deconstructed. While I can't go into her justifications in detail, the deftness of her words made me question my socio-political beliefs to their minutia, which is something I do to the present day.

So when I saw Nutan Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) being slyly admonished by his teacher for his strict adherence to the government's principles, I was in equal parts amused and intrigued. Nutan Kumar (who retitles himself Newton Kumar) is a simple servant of India's government, lost in the massive expanse of Chattisgarh, trying to perform his duty to perfection without ever paying heed to the social implications, or lack of thereof, of his line of work.

Kumar is assigned the task of procuring votes for the Lok Sabha election from the citizens of two remote villages tucked away in the Maoist/Communist insurgent jungles of Chattisgarh. The magic number of voters Newton, his team and the CRPF protecting them are after is 76 - a number of people whose opinions would not qualify to be even a blip on the radar of the world's largest democracy. However, with undeterred resolve and bolstered by a police chief with an ulterior motive (of being interviewed by a foreign journalist), Kumar traverses the harsh bullet-studded landscapes, sets up a polling booth in a dilapidated school, and patiently waits till 3 in the PM for the registered voters of the community as CRPF officer Aatma (Pankaj Tripathi) and his battalion subtly advise them against it with unflappable fervour.

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