AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN (2017)

“An Insignificant Man” is a documentary film by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla that chronicles the journey of the Indian Politician and Social Activist Arvind Kejriwal through his formation of the “AAM ADMI PARTY” that routed the Congress and Bhartiya Janta Party in the Delhi elections to lay its claim to the throne of Delhi. Kejriwal was one of the authors of the much-hyped Jana Lok Pal Bill (an anti-corruption bill) that could not be passed in the Parliament. He was an important ally of Anna Hazare and played a crucial role in the nationwide uprising against corruption. He never had the inclination for Politics but changed his mind when he realized that the only way to fight corruption was by being a part of the system. “An Insignificant Man” shows us all this and a whole lot more.

I am baffled by the scale and quality of this film. I have nothing but praise for this film and I will divide my praise into four categories.

The Making: This is a film that has been more than 2 years in the making. Going by the timeline, it had to be. There had to be an enormous amount of content to work with as one could not have scripted such a documentary as no one could have actually foreseen Kejriwal coming to power. Thus to hold on to all those trivial files and details till the point of time when they could actually assume meaning was in itself a herculean task and a work of brilliant foresight. The next task was to ensure that all of it was well done. The camera work in the film is impeccable. It’s as good as it could get and the biggest surprise for me was the audio quality. Kejriwal must have let the two directors into his innermost sanctums but the kind of stuff that they have captured and with the kind of precision that they did, that’s something I haven’t seen too often in any documentary film in this country.

I watched the making of the film in which it was told that apart from the two directors helming the camera, there were other students who were trained and put in the field to capture different aspects of the matter at hand. When you watch the film, you never feel that it has been shot by that many different people. They are able to successfully merge the content in a common thread and there is practically no difference tonally. That is another huge achievement.

The Content: It has to be agreed that the documentary had great content to start with and with Kejriwal’s victory it became one of the biggest underdog stories of that time. But that cannot take away anything from the two directors who have approached the material in a manner very similar to a Bollywood thriller. The story is transfixed on Kejriwal’s side of approach but often cuts back to his opposition showing their views about the protagonist and how miniscule his presence was in front of the two ginormous parties. In doing that Ranka and Shukla successfully bring a David Vs Goliath feel to the narrative and makes it that much more interesting. For someone who doesn’t know the outcome of the election beforehand, this film will be no short of a cliffhanger.

It must also be noted that in spite of not having any voiceover or direct interviews, the film is easily comprehensible. Anyone who has some very basic idea of the matter it deals with will understand the film completely. This I believe has been an important contributing factor to its success abroad.

Putting it all out: We live in a country that is enraged by the slightest of provocations and sometimes no provocation at all. This is a country that bans a film for showing a queen in bad light but takes pride in treating its women as a commodity. In such a place, to even think about releasing a film like this that involves two of the largest political parties was nothing short of an outrage in itself. It took the makers 6 months to get it out but they succeeded in the end. That’s just brilliant. I believe the fact that the film is very level headed and never for once takes any sides helped the matter. They show what their camera captured and lets the audience take whatever side they want to take.

There are scenes where we are shown Sheila Dixit ridiculing the AAP. There are scenes that show Kejriwal turning away from his promises and Yogendra Yadav apologizing for the misgivings. There are scenes that show AAP making fun of their own advertisements. It’s all there in its truest form.

Final Thoughts: An Insignificant Man feels complete and definitive. For a film that is just about 100 minutes long and covers a 3 year period, it’s an unheard of achievement. The fact that the campaign was ripe with controversies and twists and turns on a daily basis that must have been extremely hard to rate on a scale of importance, only makes the task of the makers that much more tough and laudable. Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have pulled it all off with clinical easy and precision. I was completely immersed in the story and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The fact that it is so well shot and sounds so clear even in the midst of all the hullabaloo, helps the film make a bigger impact.

“An Insignificant Man” is one of the best documentaries of the decade and that is taking into account our western counterparts as well. This film is available on YouTube and one can watch this for free. I generally don’t request my readers to watch a film but in this case, I will make an exception. I am adding the YouTube link of the film with this review. Please watch this film and be enthralled by its cinematic prowess.

Rating : 5/5 (5 out of 5 Stars)   

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