The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after a middling start went on to sweep the 2015 Assembly election in Delhi — a story that is known to all. But, what we never knew in depth was the genesis of the idea, how a revolution of sorts was born, the discussions that led to decisions, the beginning of friction, and more. Taking us into the heart of the birth of AAP and its subsequent growth is the crowd-funded An Insignificant Man, written and directed by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla.
The riveting award winning documentary engages you and keeps you wondering, even though you know what ultimately transpired. As a documentation of an important people’s political movement, it could have been boring. But, it helps that Khushboo and Vinay have been given unrestricted access to the party and its leaders. It also helps that they are as unobtrusive as possible, so no one really behaves like they know they are being filmed. This access and the time spent on the project shows in frames that are rare in a political documentary. Arvind Kejriwal is tense and fidgets with the hem of his shirt, Sheila Dixit laughs while speaking to an acquaintance about a cartoon that takes a dig at Kejriwal, who doubles up in laughter when Kumar Vishwas tries to create a slogan, and on the day of results, all Kejriwal’s mother asks him is when he will come back home that night.
Beginning as a side player but emerging as the driving force of the campaign and its conscience keeper is Yogendra Yadav, who seeks to find the middle path between ideals and practice. As the 100-odd-minute film progresses, you sense the first signs of dissent. Yadav is all for thinking out plans, but they are already in the public domain, thanks to the leader’s social media account. Still, they all persist. Today, Yadav has gone on to start his own party.
The film is also a lesson in how to impress an electorate that is so used to money and liquor to cast its vote.
In a country deeply divided over its support to political parties, An Insignificant Man is a significant record of how an alternative was born. You see the fire of youth, the earnestness to be different, the desire to work… Among its most heart-tugging moments is seeing Santosh Koli in action, speaking in support of the party at meetings, and then seeing her covered with a shroud – she died in an accident after she was announced as a candidate for the elections. Unlike a film, this one is real. And, so are the tears, because it’s not an actor on-screen, but someone alive, and recorded on film for posterity. That single episode is proof of how dogged the directors have been, in following members to create a formidable record of the movement.
What the AAP did was audacious; it quelled two parties that claim a greater support base and more years in polity. But, seeing them defy predictions is ecstatic. It’s probably what every common man wants to do, but does not know how to. It is nothing short of sweet justice when Sheila Dixit is seen asking ‘Who is Kejriwal?’, and it is later announced that he’s trounced her by 22,000 votes.
The timeline of the film begins in December 2012 and goes on till December 2013, when the Delhi election is conducted. All credit to Ola Fløttum for a background score that flows gently, keeping time with the ebb and flow of the narrative. The director duo had shot nearly 400 hours of footage, and worked with editors Abhinav Tyagi and Manan Bhatt to weave it into a cohesive narrative.
Once the end credits run, you’re not just grateful for the directors’ tenacity to follow the party into gullis and dim-lit meeting rooms, you’re also grateful to the 700-odd people who contributed to the making of the film. But for them the might have truly become insignificant.
The An Insignificant Man review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.