New(ton) Testament: Jesus in the Latest Bollywood Film

By Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon –

Imagine getting a Biblical solution bang in the middle of a Bollywood film.

I would advise Christians as well as future Christians (I never dare to call persons non-Christians or unbelievers. Everybody believes in something. “Non” on the other hand, negates existence itself) to see the recently released ‘Newton.’ This is not a film review, and I am not going to waste bytes and pieces telling you the story of the film that is India’s official entry for the Oscars. I will simply take you to the Jesus parts of the film.

First, just a few words about the backdrop and the central character: Newton (Yeshua?) Kumar, rookie government clerk, finds himself in the conflict-ridden, Maoists-infected jungles of Chattisgarh. 3 pieces of information you can bank in your knowledge chamber of mind:

The actual election officer feigned ‘heart problem’ at the last moment since the previous election in that region had seen 19 deaths. Nobody else wanted to go; so Newton got the assignment.
Maoists or Naxalites? Could be either since the terms are used inter-changeably. Naxalism originated in 1967 as a rebellion against marginalisation of poor forest development and grew as a movement against lack of development and poverty in the region. Naxal’ was the name of the village. Maoism was the fruit of the original uprising; Maoists work with an agenda and use weapons to get what they want. Naxalism focuses on the original theme and focuses on mass organisation.

Chhattisgarh is been named so because of 36 forts or else the 36 feudal territories it comprises. Divided opinion, but it must be true. Why else would anyone call a place Chhattisgarh?

Newton baba (get set to make him your favourite hero) is faced with total non-cooperation from the police official of the region and lack of enthusiasm from his own team subordinates. However, despite there being abs nothing in favour of him and his assignment, Newton Kumar tries his best to conduct a fair voting process in the region.

I know many Christians – including Catholics and Protestants – who do not want to go to Church today. They love the Lord sincerely and want to live for Him and perhaps even die for Him, but not within the portals of the local or worldwide church. I will quote Peggy Wells who encapsulates the reasons best. She says, “We come to church desiring to connect and belong. In the spiritual family setting, we do not expect to get hurt. However, many of us get shot, not in the foot, but in the heart. Church has been reduced to a social clique I don’t feel part of because it’s being run like a corporate company today.” The Church was supposed to go into the World and affect it for Christ. Instead, the World has come into Church and transformed it and consumed it until you cannot recognise it anymore.” Why would you want to be part of it?

In the same vein, look at the election process and democracy in India which is viewed as a stunt show. As writer, Anil puts it, “A gigantic farce on the people of the country at huge cost… Never has the electoral process been as vulgar, degenerate and cheap…” We are aware, for instance, that after the dissolution of the Parliament, the BJP spent 400 crores on its advertising campaign alone. He says passionately, “Rs 400 crores could have fed millions of starving families for months. Now, film stars pose with politicians, and sell themselves to the criminal political mafia in return for favours.”

Scams after scams that are pouring all over the news channels today prove that all expenses are recovered with extra taxes after the elections. Yet people continue to participate in elections, believing it to be a genuine democratic process, in the biggest democracy of the world. Their reason is, “One needs to choose the better of the two evils, with whatever flaws at least there is some democracy.”

So there is the similarity between the Church and the democratic process – both are going to seed, and those who participate do so with helpless resignation or indifference … while some prefer to stay away.

What is a genuine believer of Christ meant to do in such a despairing situation?

What this sensational actor, Rajkumar Rao, does in Newton. As a ‘type of Christ’, with endearing simplicity and blinking innocence in every expression, he does what he has to, what has been assigned to him. He is idealistic and committed; ready to have his face shoved in the dust if necessary, but will fulfil his duty at any cost.

We may have started out the same way in our faith walk. Initially, we wanted to change the world, our evangelical souls were on fire. Then, due to all we encountered, personally and impersonally, we allowed ourselves to be tainted by the corruption, injustice, wrongdoing, and cynicism that have become a second skin to the people in this country, including the precious souls in the church.

Through Newton Kumar, I learnt it is possible to keep yourself pure even amid a soaking environment of compromise and immorality. Think about changing the world later; first keep to the biblical brief given to you. I know Jesus wants me to be part of the His Body (the Church, its people), the Word of God clearly instructs (Hebrews 10:24-25) that being an active (not an indifferent, uninvolved) part of a church is mandatory.

The naïve Newton, like down to earth Jesus, executed his assignment, without any great fuss and drama, simply doing what he was called to do. Galilee and regions around it were hardly known globally then, and when Jesus died, only a few hundred people may have known Him or about Him. Today, Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with 2.2 billion adherents (31% of the total) of the 6.9 billion people on Earth. All because of one Man following His calling and doing His work diligently.

Let us keep our sights and energies to help us focus on doing our own job, rather than spending a lot of time analysing those around us, then the church and the country will be a better place to live in.

BTW, there is a reason why he is called Newton. Do not expect me to reveal that to you. Stop trying to see the movie from over my shoulder.

Buy your own ticket.

Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon has been in the mainstream media in India for 37 years. After heading magazines like STARDUST, SOCIETY, SAVVY, ISLAND and FAMILY LIFE, she was the founder editor of BANGALORE TIMES. Besides a post-graduation in Mass Media, as well as additional diplomas in Environmental Science and International Human Rights Law, Ms. Albuquerque has also done her Masters in Theology (Pastoral Care) through TAFTEE in affiliation with the University of Wales.