Directors: Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla
An Insignificant Man is a powerful and poignant portrait of a shining moment in time when it seemed that integrity, passion and idealism could bring forth a revolution. The documentary follows the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi party.
Kejriwal goes from activist to politician and throws the traditional two-party race in the Delhi legislative assembly elections into a tizzy. Three-time incumbent chief minister Sheila Dikshit continues to dismiss him – Kejriwal is not even on our radar, she says haughtily. We all know how that turned out.
Directors Khushbhoo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have an all access pass to this riveting story. They follow Kejriwal and his party members through 2012 and 2013 – we are with them on trains and busses, in the party war room, in Kejriwal’s house and even in fraught party meetings when the ideals that AAP was started with begin to fray. Significantly, there are no talking heads, no interviews of people recounting what that heady time was like. You only get what cameras captured. Which doesn’t mean that the documentary is impartial. Khushbhoo and Vinay are clearly admirers but this film is not propaganda.
We get glimpses of Kejriwal’s arrogance and his autocratic ways. In one meeting, when he is questioned, he shuts the volunteer down saying, meri bhi toh chalni chaiye. Through the campaign, one of AAP’s members is killed in a suspicious accident. And ultimately, as power comes, so do compromises. Khushbhoo and Vinay thread this narrative together like a political thriller with effective background music by Ola Fløttum. Editors Abhinav Tyagi and Manan Bhatt had the gargantuan task of paring down 400 hours of footage to 96 minutes. They’ve done a masterful job – An Insignificant Man has humour, tension and tragedy.
What it doesn’t have is adequate representation of the other parties – both the Congress and the BJP chose not to participate. So this is a one-sided view but it’s a fascinating one. See it as a companion piece to this year’s other winner – Newton. Both films give you an invaluable glimpse into the corruption and idealism that fuel the messy business of Indian democracy.