People At the Fore

The director duo hopes the engagement of people with politics will continue even beyond the elections.

Updated: April 8, 2014 2:31:23 pm
A still from the documentary Proposition for a Revolution. A still from the documentary Proposition for a Revolution.

A documentary produced by Anand Gandhi looks at how citizens engage with politics and the quotidian functioning of a political party.

A little over two years ago, when the India Against Corruption campaign had started to lose steam, two young filmmakers travelled to Delhi to engage with the debate on corruption. The idea was to take a closer look at the happenings and understand how politics played out at ground level. In this quest, the camera was meant merely to be a tool that captured what they saw.

Today, Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla are in the process of editing 400 hours of footage — shot in the one year they spent in Delhi — into a 90-minute documentary film, Proposition for a Revolution, produced by Anand Gandhi.

The film captures the day-to-day functioning of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) between December 2012 and December 2013, concluding with the Delhi elections. “We all find politics fascinating, but it functions behind a shroud. When we went to Delhi, making a film wasn’t on our mind; we wanted to see what lies behind that veil,” says Shukla, 28, who is working on the film’s edit
in Delhi.

Currently in Mumbai for a few days, Ranka, 28, says this party wasn’t a conscious choice but a default. “We approached AAP at a time when they weren’t even a party but a group of people unsure of what they wanted to do. But our request to other parties for similar access was turned down. We had no idea at that time that AAP will prove to be such a polarising force,” says Ranka, who co-wrote Ship of Theseus with Gandhi. The directors insist that the film uses AAP as a tool to show the process in politics, which forms the crux of the narrative. They had access to political party meetings where outsiders are never usually allowed. “Discussions on the party’s manifesto would be held: What are the important issues, how do they negotiate to arrive at a consensus within the party, how do speculations affect their functioning, the planning and execution of strategies. The film doesn’t provide an answer; it gives a fly-on-the-wall view,”
says Shukla.

In the process of making the film, the directors also constantly turned the camera away from the politician to focus on people. “People’s view of politics comes through TV and is largely performative wherein the leaders deliver rousing speeches to the gathered masses. But there’s also an element of absurdity and quirkiness at ground level that’s poetic. For instance, in a certain neighbourhood, a qawwali programme is tailored to precede an AAP rally. It’s interesting to watch the larger picture to understand people’s engagement with politics,” says Shukla.

Ranka recounts another incident when a layperson kept handing out garland after garland to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal even as the latter delivered a speech. “It wasn’t out of adoration or admiration, it was the man’s perception of politicians and rallies that made him behave in that manner,” she says.

In order to ensure that the film — since it uses AAP as device to explore the workings of politics — does not become a polarising factor for or against the party that is now contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the makers have decided to release it in August or September though the promo was unveiled on the film’s website on Monday. “We felt it’s the right thing to do as documentary filmmakers. That way, the film will provide a retrospective, which is healthier, and act as a portal into that time zone when AAP went from being a collective of nobodies to an important voice in Indian politics,”  says Ranka.

This way, Shukla hopes, the engagement of people with politics will continue even beyond the elections. He hopes that the film, which has received the IDFA Bertha Fund from the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, will start a dialogue on all aspects
of politics.

To ensure this, producer Gandhi is planning to host screenings of the film upon its release, followed by discussions with the audience. “We plan to invite influential voices with an understanding of politics who may or may not be pro-AAP, to talk on the subject,” says Gandhi.

He hopes their crowdfunding exercise to complete Proposition for a Revolution will encourage people’s involvement in the discussion, as they will be stakeholders of the film.

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