An Insignificant Man movie review: A fascinating, voyeuristic docu on the ascent of Arvind Kejriwal

An Insignificant Man: Rarely can a documentary make your forget that you are watching something real, non-fictional and simply sweep you away with its storytelling

Udita Jhunjhunwala November 16, 2017 11:08:12 IST

4/5

Rarely can a documentary make your forget that you are watching something real, non-fictional and simply sweep you away with its storytelling. Vinay Shukla and Khushboo Ranka’s film mostly achieves exactly that.

Editors Abhinav Tyagi and Manan Bhatt have ploughed through 450 hours of footage and cutting it down to 96-minute that tracks the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ascent of Arvind Kejriwal from activist to politician.

While watching the discussions, debates, heartache, conflict, disappointments and attacks featuring Kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav and AAP, the most remarkable aspect of this film is the access accorded to the directing duo. With their discreet DSLRs they have captured conversations while riding in cars, witnessing meetings, filmed moments during train journeys and even got their camera inside polling stations.

An Insignificant Man movie review A fascinating voyeuristic docu on the ascent of Arvind Kejriwal

A still from An Insignificant Man. YouTube

Capturing a step-by-step building of the Aam Aadmi Party and studying the trials, tribulations and disagreements between the top leaders (namely Kejriwal and Yadav), the study — if one goes by the thesis posited by Ranka and Shukla — is to examine what transpires when an activist becomes a politician and whether he/ she can stay immune to the rub-offs of political life and its trappings.

I went in expecting a hagiography of Kejriwal, or visual propaganda for the AAP, but AIM surprises you with its rhythm, which is more political thriller than indoctrination. There’s a crime too, which makes your heart lurch at the violence. Captured over a two-year period, to background music (Ola Fløttum) that underlines the tension building in the ranks of a newbie political party, An Insignificant Man takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to document a pivotal moment which saw the birth of a people’s revolution.

The film starts with the anti corruption movement and the introduction of the Jan Lokpal Bill to AAP taking centrestage in the Delhi government.

Do you come out believing a little bit more in Kejriwal, or in Yadav, or in AAP? Are you convinced by who was on the right side of the differences that led to infighting and dissent? Is there adequate representation of the other political parties in the fray? While the Congress Party is sufficiently, since the story ends with the 2013 Delhi elections, the importance of the BJP is underplayed. This is one niggling issue I had.

To their credit, Shukla and Ranka do show conflict within the party and there’s enough reference to Kejriwal’s so-called intolerance and the changing narratives by the party high command.

This is a film that can bring up the question of how one can stay impartial when afforded this kind of intimate access over two years. But as a passionately told capsule of the birth and rise of a party, as an insight into party politics, while almost voyeuristic, An Insignificant Man is invaluable and fascinating nonetheless. The film stops in 2013, and the present position and future of AAP offers enough drama to be the stuff of a sequel.

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