Ravish Kumar: ‘An Insignificant Man’ is Brilliant, But Selective
The film brilliantly captures conflict within the party and you get to watch Kejriwal become a leader in real time.
Watching a movement on television and then watching a movie about the movement like it’s live is a significant experience in itself. An Insignificant Man is no ordinary film. The Lokpal movement, for 21st century India, was the first experience in becoming a politically charged media society. This film gives us an opportunity to watch history recorded in real time.
The birth of the Aam Aadmi Party out of the Lokpal movement reminded everyone of what happened in the 1970s. At that time, emotions ran high and dominated the atmosphere. The biggest plus point of this film is that emotions do not dominate.
I remember seeing Khushboo and Vinay with their cameras on many occasions. They would be dispassionately covering their subject, and this comes across in the film. Apart from PAC meetings, the Aam Aadmi Party allowed the two filmmakers to shoot in places which would be unimaginable for any other political party.
Back then, transparency was one of their core values, but now the same party would be unlikely to allow in a filmmaker with their camera.
Still, the Aam Aadmi Party can be proud of itself for giving record to the history of politics. It can reminisce about itself and also about how the bitter realities of politics forced it to change itself.
The film gives an inside view of the party’s formation and its ascent to power. Vinay has said that they had about 400 hours of footage, from which selecting sequences for a one and half hour movie was not easy.
The footage should be bought by some film archive, as getting this much footage, that too in one place, is next to impossible. The film takes a close look at the political chain of events within the media society.
TV channels put the movement on a pedestal, then they backed off and once their surveys proved to be wrong, they were left red-faced. You get to see the hubris of established political parties and stalwarts, they ridicule the insignificant man but after the results come out, they become the butt of jokes.
Between all of this, we get to see how the party is working to establish itself in the mainstream.
It knows it’s steeping into Delhi’s media-saturated world, so the slogans, posters and everything else is tailor-made to appeal to the cameras. While watching it, you will be amused at the time and the trends prevailing then. This film makes you laugh a lot. Maybe that is the best way to look at and understand that era.
The film also brilliantly captures the party’s internal conflict. You get to watch Arvind Kejriwal become a leader in real time. His own principals round up on him like the Opposition. He never lets up on his claim of being a leader among the leaders of his age. He always keeps himself in the space of a politician.
Several close-ups in the film give an opportunity to look closely at Arvind Kejriwal.
The possibility of winning against established political parties is there, but the principle of transparency and collective decision-making starts to slip in practice.
Watching Yogendra Yadav, stuck between principals and practice, is a little amusing. In reality, politics puts good people through cruel tests. You will watch both of them going through these cruel tests, who will succeed and who will fail is left to you, otherwise the film will lose its enjoyment.
The film skips over many events from that time.
For instance, watching the film you would never have guessed that someone named Ramdev had anything to do with the movement. You never get to know that someone named Kiran Bedi was ever with them. You never get to see that Anna Hazare came to Delhi from Ralegarh Siddhi as a Gandhi II or JP II to get India a second freedom, just like how Mohandas Karamchand Gandi came to India from South Africa.
An Insignificant Man is a film that takes a close look at history, but it isn’t history. It has been edited with such skill that it is difficult to separate it from today’s events. From the very beginning you can see that Yogendra Yadav will eventually leave Arvind. You notice him separately. Kumar Vishvas is like a sweet memory. Politics is never this smooth, nor can a film made on it ever be smooth and conclusive. Do go watch it, you will enjoy it.
(The author is a senior TV journalist. Views expressed in the article are personal and The Quint neither endorses the same nor is responsible.)
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