An Insignificant Man movie director: Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla
An Insignificant Man movie rating: 3 stars
It’s not just the events that An Insignificant Man captures, important though they are in many ways, that makes this feature length documentary significant.
Of course, it is in the very subject. It is about politics, and it is deeply political. But equally, it is in the very fact of it being released for public exhibition this week. Films in India run the risk of denied certification on the flimsiest of excuses, and this one is a hot potato: an up close, detailed record of the formation of a political party which was born out of citizen protests, and out of a very vocal dissatisfaction with the system, and widespread corruption in its very fabric.
The directors are clearly present, and yet keep themselves out of the frame, except in one or two inadvertent flashes. What they, and we, get is a fascinating account of how a brand new political entity comes about, from grounds up. The Aam Aadmi Party was born out of protest and a strong egalitarian sense of right and wrong: here were the ‘aam aadmi’’, and there were those who were in power, and there was a huge rift in between.
The major dramatis personae are, of course, Arvind Kejriwal and his early lieutenants (some, like the analyst Yogendra Yadav, are no longer part of AAP, having been expelled for ‘anti-party activities’). From a tax officer to a protestor, to an activist, to a reluctant rookie politician, to winning an election, and to becoming the chief minister of New Delhi, the film is the journey of Kejriwal, and his AAP.
Because no other party gives access to the filmmakers (this is mentioned in the credits), except for televised excerpts and public meetings, the film has Kejriwal and co in focus: in conversation with potential voters, in a rare relaxed moment, in strategizing, and finally, in the historic win at the hustings.
That a day can be a long time in politics is evident right during the film itself: was Yadav already distancing himself from Kejriwal even before the formal parting of ways? The film shows Yadav in the crowd, far away from the dais, where Kejriwal is taking oath. Is Kejriwal really, in his heart, a small, insignificant man (‘main toh ek bahut chota aadmi hoon’, he repeats in the film), when he starts off? Was he always really the autocrat that so many people accuse him of being, or does being in power does that to him? Then how is he or his party different from those he fought?
Even for those who were following the events very closely on a day to day basis, the film is a bracing refresh: the sense of wild exhilaration that even the most cynical amongst us felt, when AAP swept the elections in 2013, dissipated soon after as the party fell from grace. In events that followed, it resurrected itself, and won Delhi again.
Right now, AAP still rules Delhi. But how many of us still feel as thrilled as we did when it first beat the mighty old parties (Congress, BJP) on the plank of corruption, and the chants of we-will-change-everything?
How significant, in other words, is that insignificant man? Keep watching, because politics is even more strange than real life and the movies.