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All about the Iranian film and NEWTON, that is NOT A COPY. (A revealing analysis by Bobby Sing)

24 Sep, 2017 | Articles on Cinema

To begin with, it was really an amazing chain of events experienced in the last two days in relation to film NEWTON that had already raised enough curiosity and excitement post its wide appreciation in festivals and an interesting trailer released.
The positive reviews started pouring in from Wednesday onwards and just on its release day, the announcement of the film getting selected as this year’s Indian official entry for the Oscars came with a perfectly amazing timing raising some immediate questions. Now though the makers honestly deny having any knowledge of the news in advance getting pleasantly surprised themselves, its obvious that many are bound to consider it as a very fine PR work benefitting the film in its opening weekend itself getting some extra shows.
However just when the doubts were being muffled by the loudly praising reviews by Friday evening, there came news of NEWTON being identical in concept to an Iranian film SECRET BALLOT released way back in 2001. In no time the social network was flooded with posts, tweets and messages with the link of Iranian film’s trailer and within hours everyone started cursing the makers with charges of plagiarism, blatantly copying and hiding their actual source.
Such a hurried negative campaign was last seen in case of Anurag Basu’s BARFI that eventually did turn out to be a classy collection of many exact scenes lifted from various sources in World Cinema, count of which even crossed 15-20 that could also be easily searched on the internet.
Fortunately that is not the case with NEWTON and SECRET BALLOT as here the allegations are simply being made watching the trailer of the Iranian film and very few have taken the initiative of going through the complete film (available at Youtube) before declaring it to be NEWTON’s hidden original source. 
Surprisingly a very reputed critic/writer/director even pulled off his 4 star review all of a sudden, saying that the film was entirely copied and didn’t deserve such rating. But now having seen it myself, I really wonder which SECRET BALLOT he actually saw, as there is not even a single common scene in both the movies apart from their basic concept of election being conducted or votes being collected from the unconcerned people living in the far off remote areas.
I myself shared the trailer at my social network accounts and raised a doubt that possibly a strong inspiration might have been there coming from this Iranian film. But it was really great witnessing people calling it a shameless copy in hours without even confirming the same watching the easily available film at Youtube. Yes, the uploaded file hasn’t got any English subtitles conveying the exact conversations, but strangely the social activists didn’t even bother to go through the entire film in a fast forward mode to at least catch an exactly similar scene of NEWTON supporting their FB posts and tweets.
Anyway, allow me to do the same for all friends taking the initiative. And please find below the details of the much talked about Iranian film, leaving the ball in your court to decide what has been taken from there in exact terms and in what measure?
Secret BallotSECRET BALLOT (2001)

Directed by Babak Payami, the film revolves around only two people, a young lady agent sent for collecting votes on an island in Iran and a soldier escorting her in a jeep to every place where she is supposed to go with a sealed ballot box. The script is all about the people they meet and the diverse experiences/conversations they have with various (mostly illiterate) men and women in that one day tour, visiting different parts of the island that are not even mentioned in the official map with the lady.
The solider is initially surprised and not comfortable with the voting agent being a woman and the same is the case with other men too later coming into various sequences of the film meeting the bold lady.
The couple first encounters a man, he starts running seeing the soldier with a gun and then fearfully gives his vote without even looking at the list of candidates. Another person comes with a truck loaded with women and kids who don’t know how to read and write and are just willing to vote as per the choice of their leading man. He even insists to allow a 12 years old girl to vote against the set rules.
A few men get annoyed and are not interested in voting as there candidate name is missing in the list. They ask, “We won’t vote for these! We want our candidates. Who are these? Never heard of them! What about ours?”
In another village the agent and soldier are directed towards a stone with inscription, "Dear election agent... our votes are under this stone."  But they find nothing under it and then spot a four years old date also mentioned there.
The lady agent is next directed towards a graveyard where all men have gathered. She asks them to cast their vote, but is informed that “Women are not allowed to be here”.
In another place as a group of illiterate women are not able to vote, the agent tells them of an option of looking at the pictures of candidates in the list and decide. To this she gets an answer, “We cannot look at pictures of men we don’t know.”
The lady meets a local salesman selling various goods on his cycle but he wants her to buy something before he votes. She obliges, but the man turns out to be a foreigner having no right to vote.
Interestingly they also visit a solar plant and the operator/owner is a philosopher kind of an old man. He is least interested in the system and says, “I don’t know anyone except God Almighty and he takes care of me and us all” pointing towards the Sun. 
“If I vote, l have to vote for the God!”

“But God is not a candidate” says the lady agent.

“God is my only candidate” he answers and casts his vote.
Post all these enlightening experiences the agent goes back with the ballot box and the soldier returns to his routine duty on a small military post. 
And that’s the entire content of the Iranian film SECRET BALLOT.
NOW not even one scene mentioned above is there in NEWTON to be straight. 
And the only common thing in both the films is that both have an agent assigned a duty to go to a remote area for a one day voting scheduled and that’s it.
Beyond this basic and initial similarity both the movies move into completely different directions making their own strong statements over the system and poor state of men and women living in such neglected regions. Moreover where the Iranian film keeps focusing on different kind of people (voters) and the agent’s mutual interaction with them, NEWTON has its entire focus on the interaction between the poling agents team and the military officer with only a few scenes actually focusing on the voters.
The above similarity at the best can be called ‘Inspiration’ or an inspired idea developed in an unrelated manner, adapting to the contrasting conditions prevailing in a different country. But in no way it can be termed as ‘Copied’ or ‘Plagiarized’, especially when you don’t even have a single sequence identically found in both the films.
Putting it differently, Copied is a case when you can open two windows on your screen and play scenes together from two films displaying a copy-paste work. But nothing of that sort can be extracted from the films here as they both have their own distinctive story progression and sequences not at all related to each other. 
So it’s really strange that many are interested in tagging NEWTON as copied without having seen the Iranian film. A truthful person would never agree to call it copied, once he or she has actually seen SECRET BALLOT realizing the real fact.
Giving my honest opinion, NEWTON might not be great or mind blowing film made on a novel theme. But it is unarguably a good film conveying some important shocking facts about our social and political structure through a simple narration but strong noteworthy enjoyable performances. The makers have incorporated some lighter moments in it to keep the interest alive, but it would be insulting to call it a comedy thinking so irresponsibly.
Also it’s pleasantly surprising that despite presenting the electoral system of our country and its military forces in not so positive shades, the film not only got a censor certificate, but was also chosen as the official entry for OSCARS ahead of many worthy contenders silencing the opposition.  
In the end, would humbly like to request that don’t just form opinions by reading the misguiding headlines. Our society has already suffered a lot from such immediate opinions formed in the last few years and we certainly need to give it a deep personal thought before reaching any hasty conclusion. So if possible, do watch both NEWTON in theater and SECRET BALLOT at Youtube giving them a few hours of your valuable time and then have an original opinion of your own forgetting about the blind allegations. 
And believe me, once you have seen them both, you would come out rating NEWTON as a much better film in comparison to the SECRET BALLOT.

Tags : All about the Iranian film and NEWTON that is NOT A COPY, Newton and Secret Ballot, A revealing analysis by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Articles on Cinema by Bobby Sing
24 Sep 2017 / Comment ( 2 )

I'm sick of the fact that only those films which portray india as a land of the poor and corrupt are chosen to be sent to participate on international platforms. In case of slumdog it were the foreigners who did it, this time it's our very own film fraternity! It's sad to know that we also have the same mentality that to win awards and get acknowledged as good film makers, u have to make films showing the misery of Indian people.

In Newton, the team has gone a step furtherd to show even our military as corrupt. That too in a Naxalite area, where the bigger role played by our military is to maintain peace!! I don't say there are no corrupt people in the armed forces, there may be few, but is that the lot we want to highlight in front of international audience? This movie shows that the only honest person in this corrupt system is a misfit. How about making a film giving credit to our election commission for achieving the difficult task of conducting fair and unbiased elections in such a huge country despite all the odds? Or make a film showing hardships faced by soldiers on the border? Why only those films are considered praiseworthy which highlight the dark side? Why not send baahubali instead for oscars? Is it because of the predetermined notion that Americans like to see only the bad side of India and a film like baahubali which achieved technical excellence is not worth winning an Oscar just because it will not reinforce the idea of poor and dirty india that Americans have?

At last I would like to appreciate this film as a good satirical take on how elections are conducted in a remote tribal area where people are least concerned about who wins or loses. And how one honest employee is a misfit in the corrupt system. But at the end it remains more of director displaying his own political ideology on the screen about how the govt and paramilitary forces are equally responsible for the Naxalite problem.

Bobby Sing

Hi Anurag,
Thanks for visiting and writing in a detailed comment.
Its not that you dont have a valid point Anruga. You do have, as its true that mostly those films have been sent in the past with this one avoidable feature.
But regarding your other submissions.
Firstly BAHUBALI is surely a great achievement in VFX as per our Indian standard but it is not the same as per theirs. At times its VFX turn out to be quite strange and easily catchable especially in part 2.
Secondly INDIAN CINEMA is not HINDI CINEMA alone. That is infact the most ridiculous assumption even influencing the jury.
For me the best film that could have been sent were many others.
And the top one among them is DOCTOR RAKHMABAI (Marathi) telling us a part of our history which I bet 95-99% of Indians would not be knowing leave alone the foreigners.


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