An Insignificant Man (2016) by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla

A masterful documentary about an extremely significant man

The importance of this documentary becomes evident from the way it raised the funds for its production. As the makers of the film had a goal of $20.000, they decided to "plea" through their film site for financial support, in order to conclude it. The result was staggering, since 782 contributors (who are thanked in the beginning of the film) donated $120,000,  at the end of the campaign, making it the largest crowd funding campaign of its kind in India, hosted by the filmmakers on their own platform.

The documentary revolves around Arvind Kejriwal, and the rise of anti-corruption protests in India that led him to form the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man's Party), with the help of Yogendra Yadav, an academic of politics. The documentary captures the day-to-day functioning of the Party between December 2012 and December 2013, ending with the New Delhi elections.


The presentation is quite detailed, as it describes the forming of the party, starting with the basics and ending with the 2013 elections, although at the end of the film, its current situation is also revealed. In that fashion, it begins with the first meetings between Kejriwal and the volunteers, and chronicles their door-to-door approach to their voters, their desperate efforts to change India starting with New Delhi, and their struggles against their well-established opponents. The Indian National Congress (INC), headed by the Sheila Dikshit who has been elected for 15 years in a row and the Bhartiya Janta Party, whose funding was exuberant in comparison with AAP and were not above using any method to blemish Kejriwal's campaign.

What is impressive though, and despite the obvious pro-AAP approach of the documentary (they asked from the other parties to participate but they declined) is that it does not shy away from portraying the negative aspects of the campaign. In that fashion, the friction between the volunteers and the leadership, and the eventual succumb to populism, as Kejriwal, in a desperate effort to reverse the curve against him a little before the election promised 700 liters of free water to each household daily, and that he would cut the electrical bills by 50% are also presented in detail. The latter, however, was eventually accomplished.



As the documentary chronicles a man who has started changing India just with his determination and sheer relentlessness, three scenes stand out, in completely different fashion. The first one is rather dramatic, and deals with the death of Santosh Koli, a 28-year-old woman who was one of the initial members of AAP. Koli was attacked a number of times before her death, and although the episode (a car hit her bike) was never investigated as murder, everyone consider it as such. The dramatic moments that follow her stay in the hospital and her funeral, are among the strongest in the film.

The second one occurs in the middle of the documentary, and shows the members of AAP, including Kejriwal, not being able to stop laughing as they try to record some spots for the TV. This sequence provides a well-sought relief of all the heaviness of the feature, making it more entertaining, and at the same time showing the more humane side of the party's members.

The third one is dealing with the elections, which is, probably, the most impressive one in the film. Khushboo Rhanka and Vinay Shukla's direction and Abhinav Tyagi & Manan Bhatt's editing find their apogee in this sequence, which is so elaborately shot, that makes the documentary function as an agonizing thriller.  These aspects, along with Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla, and Vinay Rohira's cinematography, which includes behind the scenes footage that was distilled from 400 hours of shooting, succeed in levitating "An Insignificant Man" to an extremely high level, as it combines meaningfulness with an artistry that is very rarely seen in documentaries.

"An Insignificant Man" is a true masterpiece, a must-see spectacle that could easily be described as flawless.



"An Insignificant Man" is screening at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, running from 5 to 9 April.


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Asian Film Vault: An Insignificant Man (2016) by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla
An Insignificant Man (2016) by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla
A masterful documentary about an extremely significant man
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