An Insignificant Man

Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla.

India 2016. 97 mins.

Tellingly, the symbol for Indian party AAP is a brush. Which is apt, as their political vision boils down to one sentence – they want to clean up. Clean up the forest of bribes, corruption, fraud and humbug, which for too many years have plagued Indian politics. Clean up the politicians who can be bought, and who often pays citizens money or alcohol in exchange for their votes. Clean up in all the concealed deals, which, for instance, spell unnecessarily high electrical bills for some of the country’s poorest. In short: tidying up and bringing ideals back to Indian politics. The man behind this simple, and some might say, naive, vision, is Arvind Kejriwal, who laboriously fights his way through the political system to establish AAP, which stands for Aam Aadmi Party, or the Common Man’s Party. The struggle, and its accompanying journey, are documented in great detail by two young, Indian film makers Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla. Their film An Insignificant Man premiered in Toronto last year. Since then, it has been screened, amongst other places, in Tromsø, Göteborg and, imminently, at the Copenhagen CPH:DOX. This is the climax of an over two-year long film journey which, in many ways, echos the political voyage: ”We were told there was something very interesting happening in Delhi,” Vinay Shukla explains via Skype, continuing: ”So, we decided to relocate from Bombay to Delhi in order to follow the events up close. We were often told that we were wasting our time, but we could see with our own eyes that something big was about to happen.”

Politics as entertainment. The big thing about to happen, was Arvind Kejriwal succeeded in turning his idealistic and revolutionary thoughts into a tangible, political movement, which slowly is growing in strength. It is precisely this portrait of  a political movement, which is the truly interesting thing about An Insignificant Man. How a political movement is conceived, how it grows, what obstacles it meets en route, and how it can succeed. This is the theme of the film, which unfolds in a classic fly-on-the-wall style, a conscious choice by the young film makers: ”In India, we are so used to politics being gradually reduced to entertainment, a performance. So, we wanted to depict a more tangible and realistic version of politics. The paradox is, although we are the largest democracy in the world, most of us remain distanced from the democratic ideals about taking an active part in politics, attending meetings and discussing. By being a fly on the wall over such a long period of time, we hope to clarify that politics is not just entertainment but also something tangible in the world and among people,” explains Khuskboo Ranka.

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