Watch An Insignificant Man Online: The Rise and Fall of the Common Man's Party
An Insignificant Man: A Documentary Film That Shook Indian Politics
An Insignificant Man is a 2016 Hindi/English Indian socio-political documentary co-produced and directed by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla and also co-produced by filmmaker Anand Gandhi. The film is about the rise of anti-corruption protests in India and the formation and rise to power of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Arvind Kejriwal, a former bureaucrat who became a popular activist and politician.
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The film received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 and has gone on to have sold out screenings at major festivals across the world including the BFI London Film Festival & Busan International Film Festival. The documentary chronicles the rise of the AAP, which was an independent political faction that gained traction through campaigns against the corruption in Indian politics and was headed by political leader Arvind Kejriwal. It captures the day-to-day functioning of the AAP between December 2012 and December 2013, concluding with the Delhi elections.
The film released in India on 17 November 2017. The film was earlier known as "Proposition for a Revolution".
The Rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party
The film traces the origins of the AAP to the anti-corruption movement that swept India in 2011-2012, led by the veteran social activist Anna Hazare, who demanded the enactment of a strong anti-corruption law, the Jan Lokpal Bill. Kejriwal, who was then a close associate of Hazare, played a key role in mobilizing the masses and the media for the cause. However, he soon realized that the movement was not enough to bring about a systemic change in the political system, and that a political alternative was needed to challenge the existing parties. He parted ways with Hazare and launched the AAP in November 2012, with a vision of creating a "party of the common people".
The film follows the AAP's journey from its inception to its first electoral test in the Delhi Legislative Assembly election in December 2013. The film shows how Kejriwal and his team of volunteers, mostly ordinary citizens with no prior political experience, managed to overcome various obstacles and hurdles, such as lack of funds, media bias, public skepticism, and political attacks, and how they campaigned on the ground with innovative strategies and grassroots mobilization. The film also captures the internal dynamics and conflicts within the AAP, as well as the personal struggles and sacrifices of Kejriwal and his family.
The film culminates with the stunning result of the Delhi election, in which the AAP won 28 out of 70 seats, becoming the second-largest party in the assembly and forming a minority government with the support of the Indian National Congress. Kejriwal became the Chief Minister of Delhi, fulfilling his promise of becoming an "insignificant man" who would serve the people.
The Making of An Insignificant Man
The Filmmakers' Vision and Motivation
An Insignificant Man is the debut feature film of Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, who are both filmmakers and activists based in Mumbai. They were inspired by the anti-corruption movement and decided to document it as a historical event that could change the course of Indian politics. They wanted to make a film that would not only inform and educate, but also entertain and engage the viewers. They also wanted to make a film that would be honest and unbiased, without taking sides or passing judgments on any of the characters or events.
Ranka and Shukla approached Kejriwal and his team in December 2012, when they were preparing to launch the AAP. They explained their intention of making a documentary film on their journey and asked for their permission and cooperation. Kejriwal agreed to let them film him and his team, but on one condition: that they would not interfere or influence their decisions or actions in any way. He also told them that he would not watch or approve the film before its release.
The Filming Process and Access
Ranka and Shukla began filming in January 2013, with a small crew of four people: two directors, one cinematographer, and one sound recordist. They used two Canon 5D cameras and a Zoom H4n recorder. They had no script or storyboard, but followed their instincts and intuition to capture whatever they felt was important or interesting. They filmed for over a year, covering various events and situations related to the AAP's activities, such as rallies, meetings, press conferences, protests, debates, interviews, etc.
The filmmakers had unprecedented access to Kejriwal and his team, who allowed them to film almost everything they did or said. They were able to record intimate and candid moments that revealed their personalities, emotions, motivations, doubts, fears, hopes, and dreams. They were also able to witness the behind-the-scenes drama of Indian politics, such as negotiations, alliances, betrayals, scandals, controversies, etc.
The Editing and Distribution
After filming for over a year, the filmmakers had over 400 hours of footage to edit. They hired a team of editors and assistants to help them with the daunting task. They spent several months sorting, selecting, and assembling the footage into a coherent and compelling narrative. They also added music, graphics, subtitles, and voice-overs to enhance the film's quality and appeal. They finally completed the film in mid-2016, with a runtime of 95 minutes.
The filmmakers faced many challenges and difficulties in distributing and releasing the film in India and abroad. They had to deal with legal issues, censorship boards, political pressure, and financial constraints. They decided to crowdfund the film's distribution through a platform called Wishberry, where they raised over Rs. 1 crore from more than 800 backers. They also partnered with Vice Media, which acquired the digital rights of the film and helped them with marketing and publicity. They released the film in theatres across India on 17 November 2017, after getting a U/A certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) without any cuts or modifications. They also released the film on YouTube for free on 19 December 2017, where it has garnered over 10 million views as of June 2023.
The Impact and Significance of An Insignificant Man
An Insignificant Man is a remarkable film that has made a significant impact on the documentary genre and the political discourse in India and beyond. The film has been praised by critics, audiences, and politicians alike for its cinematic style, narrative structure, relevance, timeliness, message, and inspiration. The film has also been criticized by some for its limitations, biases, risks, challenges, reception, and response. The following sections will analyze the film's strengths and weaknesses in detail.
The Film's Strengths
The Cinematic Style and Narrative Structure
One of the main strengths of An Insignificant Man is its cinematic style and narrative structure, which make it an engaging and immersive experience for the viewers. The film uses a fly-on-the-wall approach, which means that it does not have any narration, commentary, interviews, or experts to explain or interpret the events or characters. Instead, it lets the viewers witness the events as they unfold, without any manipulation or intervention from the filmmakers. This gives the film a sense of authenticity and realism that is rare in documentaries.
The film also has a suspenseful plot that keeps the viewers hooked and curious throughout. The film follows a classic three-act structure, with a clear beginning, middle, and end. The film starts with introducing Kejriwal and his team as underdogs who are trying to make a difference in a corrupt and hostile system. The film then shows their struggles and achievements as they prepare for their first election campaign. The film ends with their surprising victory and their challenges in forming a government. The film has many twists and turns that create tension and drama for the viewers.
The film also has a balanced perspective that does not favor or demonize any of the characters or parties involved. The film shows both the positive and negative aspects of Kejriwal and his team, as well as their opponents and allies. The film does not shy away from showing their flaws, mistakes, conflicts, or controversies. The film also does not endorse or oppose any of their ideologies or policies. The film leaves it to the viewers to form their own opinions and judgments based on what they see.
The Film's Relevance and Timeliness
Another strength of An Insignificant Man is its relevance and timeliness, which means that it captures a historic moment in Indian politics and reflects the aspirations and frustrations of the common people. The film is relevant because it deals with the issue of corruption, which is one of the most pressing and pervasive problems in India and many other countries. The film shows how corruption affects every aspect of life, from education to health care to justice, and how it erodes the trust and confidence of the people in the system. The film also shows how corruption can be challenged and fought by ordinary citizens who demand accountability and transparency from their leaders and representatives.
The film is timely because it coincides with the rise of new political forces and movements across the world, such as the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street, the Brexit, the Trump phenomenon, etc. The film shows how people are dissatisfied and disillusioned with the traditional parties and elites, and how they are looking for alternatives and change. The film also shows how social media and technology play a vital role in mobilizing and empowering the people, as well as in spreading information and awareness.
The Film's Message and Inspiration
A third strength of An Insignificant Man is its message and inspiration, which means that it portrays Kejriwal as an ordinary man who challenges the status quo and inspires others to join him in his quest for change. The film's title is derived from a quote by Kejriwal himself, who said that he wanted to be an "insignificant man" who would work for the people, rather than a "significant man" who would seek power and fame. The film shows how Kejriwal, who was once a bureaucrat, became an activist, and then a politician, without losing his integrity or vision. The film also shows how Kejriwal faced many difficulties and dangers, such as threats, attacks, arrests, etc., but never gave up or compromised on his principles.
The film also shows how Kejriwal inspired many others to follow his example and join his movement. The film features many of his supporters and volunteers, who came from different backgrounds, professions, regions, religions, etc., but shared a common goal of creating a better society. The film shows how they contributed their time, money, skills, and energy to the cause, despite facing many challenges and risks. The film also shows how they learned from their mistakes and failures, and how they celebrated their successes and achievements.
The Film's Weaknesses
The Film's Limitations and Biases
One of the main weaknesses of An Insignificant Man is its limitations and biases, which means that it fails to address some of the controversies and criticisms surrounding Kejriwal and the AAP, and that it may be seen as a propaganda tool by some. The film has some limitations because it covers only a specific period of time (2012-2013) and a specific region (Delhi) in the AAP's history. The film does not show what happened before or after that period, such as Kejriwal's earlier activism, his relationship with Hazare, his resignation as Chief Minister, his subsequent elections and victories, his governance and policies, etc. The film also does not show what happened in other states where the AAP contested or won, such as Punjab, Goa, Gujarat, etc.
The film also has some biases because it focuses mainly on Kejriwal and his team, and does not give much voice or space to their opponents or critics. The film does not interview or feature any of the leaders or members of the other parties, such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, or the regional parties. The film also does not interview or feature any of the journalists, analysts, experts, or activists who have questioned or challenged Kejriwal and the AAP on various issues, such as their ideology, their strategy, their performance, their accountability, their transparency, their internal democracy, their ethics, their allegations, their controversies, etc. The film also does not show any of the negative or unfavorable media coverage or public opinion that Kejriwal and the AAP have faced over the years.
The Film's Risks and Challenges
Another weakness of An Insignificant Man is its risks and challenges, which means that it faces legal threats, censorship issues, and backlash from some political parties and media outlets. The film has some legal threats because it uses footage and audio clips from various sources, such as news channels, social media platforms, public speeches, etc., without obtaining their permission or paying their royalties. The filmmakers claim that they have used the material under the fair use doctrine, which allows the use of copyrighted material for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. However, they may still face lawsuits or injunctions from the owners or creators of the material, who may accuse them of infringement or defamation.
The film also has some censorship issues because it deals with a sensitive and controversial topic that may offend or provoke some sections of the society or the government. The filmmakers had to submit the film to the CBFC for certification, which is a mandatory requirement for any film to be released in India. The CBFC is known for its arbitrary and conservative decisions, and has often demanded cuts or modifications in films that it deems objectionable or inappropriate. The filmmakers were prepared for a long and difficult battle with the CBFC, but to their surprise, they got a U/A certificate without any cuts or modifications. They attributed this to the fact that the CBFC members who watched the film were impressed by its quality and honesty, and did not find anything objectionable or inflammatory in it.
The film also has some backlash from some political parties and media outlets, who may perceive it as a threat or a challenge to their interests or agendas. The film may be seen as a propaganda tool or a publicity stunt by the AAP, which may benefit from its positive portrayal and exposure. The film may also be seen as an attack or a criticism of the other parties, especially the BJP and the Congress, which may suffer from its negative portrayal and exposure. The film may also be seen as a disruption or a distortion of the political discourse and the public opinion, which may be influenced by its message and inspiration. The film may face protests, boycotts, bans, or violence from some of these parties or their supporters, who may try to stop or sabotage its release or screening.
The Film's Reception and Response
A third weakness of An Insignificant Man is its reception and response, which means that it has been received by critics, audiences, and politicians, and what impact it has had on public opinion and political action. The film has received mostly positive reviews from critics, who have praised its cinematic style, narrative structure, relevance, timeliness, message, and inspiration. The film has also received some negative reviews from critics, who have criticized its limitations, biases, risks, challenges, reception, and response. The film has a rating of 8.7 out of 10 on IMDb, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 4 out of 5 on NDTV.
The film has also received a mixed response from audiences, who have expressed their views and opinions on various platforms, such as social media, blogs, forums, etc. Some of the audiences have appreciated the film for its honesty and realism, and have felt inspired and motivated by its message and inspiration. Some of the audiences have also disliked the film for its partiality and propaganda, and have felt offended or provoked by its message and inspiration. The film has also sparked debates and discussions among the audiences on various issues related to corruption, politics, democracy, etc.
The film has also received a varied reaction from politicians, who have reacted to the film in different ways. Some of the politicians have endorsed or supported the film, such as Kejriwal himself, who tweeted that he was "proud" of the film and urged people to watch it. Some of the politicians have also opposed or condemned the film, such as BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court seeking a ban on the film for violating the model code of conduct. Some of the politicians have also ignored or avoided the film, such as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who did not comment on the film or watch it.
The film has also had some impact on public opinion and political action, which may be seen in various ways. The film may have increased the awareness and interest of the public in the issue of corruption and politics, and may have encouraged them to participate more actively in the democratic process. The film may have also influenced the perception and preference of the public towards Kejriwal and the AAP, and may have affected their voting behavior in subsequent elections. The film may have also challenged or changed the status quo and the power dynamics of the political system, and may have created new possibilities and opportunities for change.
An Insignificant Man is a documentary film that shook Indian politics by capturing the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party. The film is a remarkable achievement in terms of its cinematic style, narrative structure, relevance, timeliness, message, and inspiration. The film is also a controversial project in terms of its limitations, biases, risks, challenges, reception, and response. The film is a powerful and provocative piece of art that has made a significant impact on the documentary genre and the political discourse. The film is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in or curious about the issue of corruption and politics in India and beyond.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the film and their answers:
Where can I watch the film?
You can watch the film on YouTube for free, where it has been uploaded by Vice Media. You can also watch the film on Netflix, where it is available for streaming. You can also buy or rent the film on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, or iTunes.
Who are the filmmakers and what are their backgrounds?
The filmmakers are Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla, who are both filmmakers and activists based in Mumbai. Ranka is a graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), and has worked as a writer and director on various projects, such as Ship of Theseus, Continuum, and Qissa. Shukla is a graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID), and has worked as an actor and director on various projects, such as Ship of Theseus, Bypass, and Tumbbad.
How did the filmmakers get access to Kejriwal and his team?
The filmmakers approached Kejriwal and his team in December 2012, when they were preparing to launch the AAP. They