Documenting a movement with An Insignificant Man
Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla explore the journey of Arvind Kejriwal around the time that he was forming his own political party AAP. An Insignificant Man transports you to a tale of election frenzy of rallies, protests, countless meetings and some sour moments like a death and ink-splashing. Both the directors opened up to Pandolin about the making of this much awaited film which happens to be India’s biggest success story in terms of a crowdfunding campaign.
What prompted you to make this documentary? Did a particular incident trigger the idea?
Both of us were following the anti-corruption movement. When Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas and others decided to form a political party we were wondering if it was a good decision. We really wanted to get out there with our cameras and make our film. We were chasing stories together. It so happened that this was one of the stories that we were following and the characters from this story landed up becoming really big. Also, the idea to make a film with politicians was too good to reject. Here we were, getting an opportunity to film our politicians doing big and small things and eventually get to project it on a big screen. It was hard to resist. At least we felt that we hadn’t seen something like that in our lifetime. We tried our luck with these guys and were surprised by the kind of access that they gave us. As filmmakers you want to reflect on things around you. How can you not? As artists, how can you not use it as a raw material in your own storytelling?
How did this association with Anand Gandhi happen? How has it contributed to the film?
Anand is family. Without even asking each other we are de facto part of each other’s project. There wasn’t any moment when he wasn’t around. We had moved to Delhi and one day we called him and said that we are making this film and not coming back to Mumbai. So, he was excited about it and said, “Count me in!”
You have traveled internationally with the film. This is its first screening in India, excited?
We are very excited. We made this film for India. For friends, family and for people who this film is most relevant to and for people who we discuss politics with. The film traveling to festivals and getting acclaim is something that came as a bonus. Ever since, we did our crowdfunding campaign there has been an enthusiasm about the film. People keep asking about its screening schedules. From all corners of the country we get inquiries about when and where can they watch it. We find it very exciting because it shows that people are waiting to engage with more voices on subject of politics. The news can’t possibly cover everything. People want more independent voices and films around such topics. Our film represents that engagement.
As filmmakers, it’s the biggest day for us since the time we started making this film. There’s a lot of expectation about the reaction of people. We are not sure whether they will reach positively or negatively. The political climate in India is so intense right now. In this time, it will be interesting to see how the viewer interaction happens.
Who all did you speak with for the film? Please talk about the research.
We did not do much research before shooting because everything happened so suddenly. These guys announced that they were forming a political party and we had to run and start shooting. We had an idea of what kind of a film we wanted to make but there didn’t exist any other film like that. So, it was a process of understanding. Each day we were learning. The first day we landed there was when they announced about the party from Jantar Mantar. We are people from Mumbai who have never been to a political rally. The whole experience was like overloading of senses. At that moment you are wondering, how the hell I am going to make this film. What is the film about? It is an existential crisis as a filmmaker. In due process we understood the film.
When did you lock the final cut? AAP and Arvind Kejriwal had a certain image when the film started. The popular image kept changing. How did you cope with that?
We filmed till their first election. After that we came to Mumbai to edit and brought as much distance between ourselves and what we were shooting about. This was done to bring objectivity and perspective into the edit. Of course a lot of things happened later and there was a constant urge to go back and shoot. But at the end of the day, the story that we have chosen to tell is a bit resilient from past and future. It is a moment in time which is complete within itself. It’s not just talking about Arvind Kejriwal or AAP. Its talking about ideas which they represent. People can see it as a cautionary tale, as an underdog story or they can see it as political thriller. However they see it, we hope there is enough in the film which sustains beyond the topical newsworthy moment.
What are your future plans of film screenings after MAMI?
We are planning to do a big outreach campaign within India in various cities. We are also planning a theatrical release within India. Besides that, a digital release is also on the cards. You will be hearing all this in the coming months.