Free Press Journal

Filmmakers Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla on making significant points with An Insignificant Man


Filmmakers Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla speak to NIKITA WADHAWAN about their documentary on Arvind Kejriwal, maintaining objectivity and more…

Over the period of a year, debutant directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have embedded themselves with one of the most controversial political party, the Aam Admi Party. Helmed by Arvind Kejriwal, the party has broken the monotony of two major political parties, after more than 50 years of independence. The documentary ‘An Insignificant Man’ tries to show the people the working and the challenges of a new formed political party in a diverse country like India. Excerpts from the interview:

Why did you want to make a documentary on Arvind Kejriwal?

Vinay: When we started back in 2012, Arvind and his team were just starting out. They had just announced that they will be forming a political party, after their anti-corruption movement. When we went to Delhi, we realised that there were a lot of interesting things happing with them, at the same time we were also interested in what other political parties doing. But other parties didn’t want to give us access, so our choice of Arvind was also because of a compulsion.

What do aim to showcase with this documentary?

V: The story of outsiders coming into politics in not necessarily the story of AAP and how they won. Try and see this as a political party and what the challenges that they are up against. There was lot of conflict regarding the 70 candidates that they were supposed to field for the elections, we will show you on what is the basis it was decided and who has the power to decide, the volunteers or Arvind. This is a timeless problem and which effects all the parties all around the world.

Arvind was someone who started out accusing PM Narendra Modi of being a megalomaniac but over-time it seems that he is the one who is very power hungry…

V: There were a lot of opinions around him when we started, but we wanted to step aside all that and see how democracy functions. We didn’t want to show his personal habit but the working of democracy.

Khushboo: While people think Arvind is a megalomaniac many people think that even Modi is a megalomaniac. So the problem is that there are few words just floating around but there are no deeper conversation.

How have your tried to maintain neutrality in a political documentary based on just one party?

K: You need to contextualise it in the time frame of when shot the film. We shot it at a time when they were a new party that won in their inaugural year. You may hate them but won’t you like to know how all this happens. You may feel that we are showing him in the positive light, someone else may feel that we are showing populism, we have just shot various events and are leaving it in the audiences mind to decide how they feel about it.

But you have shot them at the time when everything was going very well for them. The main problems started after two years of winning the elections. Don’t you think that people want to know what happened during their scandals?

K: We didn’t have the budget to shoot through-out their tenure. There was no one was supporting us. It is a very difficult for independent filmmakers who have no big studios supporting us. By the time we finished shooting, not only were we physically exhausted but even our bank balance was nil.

R: Moreover, what you are asking is the requirement for news. We were mapping their journey from being activist to politicians. We just wanted to see that ki ye possible hai kya? If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it happen? We have tried to make a film that is timeless and not valid only for a short duration.

What would you want to say to people who say that this film is being funded by Kejriwal?

K: If we had to take money from him then why would be apply for funds from Sundance and Bristol film festivals, they are very prestigious funding bodies who pick six films from thousands entries. And our film has been funded by them and this proves our film has its integrity.

How much trouble did Pahalaj Nihalani give you?

R: A lot. He was adamant that we get NOC from all the politicians named in the documentary. Then he said that after you get NOC you need to beep the names of Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party members in the film. If you don’t criticise politicians in a democracy then you may as well become an autocracy. We couldn’t have a constrictive discussion with anyone. That was very challenging but we got a lot of support and got a historic verdict from FCAT (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal), all this was very reaffirming. We were grateful for all the support but it was very gruelling time.