‘An Insignificant Man’ Review: The Untold Story Of What It Took For Kejriwal To Win Delhi

Posted by Arunima Gururani in Culture-Vulture, Politics
November 15, 2017

“An Insignificant Man” is a 95-minute long non-fiction political thriller that chronicles the making of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Screened at over 50 international film festivals, the film gathered a lot of attention. And after putting up a fight against State censorship, “An Insignificant Man” will finally release on November 17.

But why are we talking about this film?

Arvind Kejriwal (whether you like him or not) cannot be ignored. Sheila Dixit tried to during the Delhi elections and we all know where it landed the Congress party. “An Insignificant Man” not only follows Kejriwal, but also gives us a peek into what goes on behind the closed doors of the Aam Aadmi Party office.

While much drama surrounds Arvind Kejriwal and his style of politics, we can’t deny the film’s significance in today’s times. With an exceptional access and a well-rounded structure, “An Insignificant Man” is a documentary that tells the AAP’s story like a feature film.

One must acknowledge the efforts of the directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla who magnificently stitched the enormous amount of footage into what the film is today – an important aspect of history. Why do I say that it’s important? I say so because probably no other political party would ever give this kind of access to the media. The film was a long-term investment and while watching it, you can feel the past few years fly past you in 95 minutes. You can feel it through the speeches Kejriwal makes, the dharnas and the controversies that have surrounded this political party that bases itself on idealism.

Just like a feature film, this too has its lighter moments and quirks. There’s Kejriwal’s mother asking him if he’ll be home late (just like most of our mothers) and politicians from the BJP and Congress shaking hands with each other post a television interview and giving Kejriwal ‘tips’ to become a true politician. In instances more than one, you’ll also find Arnab’s loud voice trying to trample on the hopes and dreams of the Aam Aadmi Party like Gulliver attempting to stand tall in Lilliput. There is footage of how different parties campaigned for the Delhi elections, showing us the spectacle that Indian politics truly becomes when it’s time to vote. However, I must say that it is these quirks that were cleverly placed which makes the film feel a lot lighter than it could have been.

Besides the quirks, there was the documentation of the time when Santosh Koli died, who was an integral member of the party and someone who Kejriwal treated like a sister. Her presence in the film may not have been long enough, but was just enough for one to relive the frustration that was felt at the time of her death before the elections in 2013. With situations like this and rising conflict within the party, the film was successful in portraying Arvind Kejriwal’s character and emotions in those times which built the pressure in the film.

We all know that the AAP had a stunning debut in 2013 and won a landslide victory in 2015. However, the film is able to build up the pressure even though we know the final result. I believe this goes to show the effort put in by the people involved in the making of the film to still make it interesting despite all that we know and have lived through.

But another interesting thing this film does is showing a mirror to the media. With the voice of every journalist that played in the film, I could see the kind of journalism happening. Whatever happened to being objective? Most of the footage used showed a mirror to what we call journalism today – which seems to just include screaming voices giving biased opinions, being completely oblivious of the power the media has to shape public opinion. It’s as if you’re out there to bully the new kid on the block!

“An Insignificant Man” did give me an insight into Kejriwal’s politics and showed me where he comes from. But at the same time, it showed me what it’s like to be new to the game and how messy and difficult politics can become. The significance of the film lies in the significance of a man who left a comfortable life to be caught up in this society’s spectacle. And while society is capable of creating a spectacle out of almost anything, politics (both our own personal politics and the politics around us) turns out to be our favourite one.

Should you watch this film?

Of course! A film like this probably won’t be made again. And, it’s a good film to watch, especially for people who seem to have been carried away by propagandist journalism and hate the man without knowing where he and his politics come from. I’m not saying that the AAP isn’t flawed. It definitely is, in many ways that most parties are. But at the same time, if we could make the man whose speeches talk proudly of the time he used to sell tea our Prime Minister, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take a look at what “An Insignificant Man” has in store for you.