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An Insignificant Man review: Documentary on Arvind Kejriwal's rise is insightful, entertaining

Release Date: 11 Sep 2016 / 01hr 36min

Cinestaan Rating

  • Direction:
  • Music:

Keyur Seta

The film by Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla features never-before-seen footage of the inner functionings of the Aam Aadmi Party. 

In India, documentaries are generally considered non-entertaining or, in plain terms, boring. But, documentaries on RD Burman and Sachin Tendulkar — Pancham Unmix and Sachin: A Billion Dreams — proved to the Indian mainstream audience that even documentaries can be entertaining.

Now, we can safely add An Insignificant Man to this list and hope that the era of entertaining documentaries is here to stay. 

But the task of directors Ranka and Shukla wasn't easy as the film is based on politics, a subject that is far from being entertaining.

An Insignificant Man traces the initial journey of the assistant commissioner of Income Tax, turned social activist, turned politician, Arvind Kejriwal, into the world of politics.

After quitting the income tax department, Kejriwal joined Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement, supporting the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

However, after a lot of agitations and struggles, he and a few others from the group, excluding Hazare, decided to enter electoral politics. In 2012, Kejriwal formed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and became its chief.

The film largely focuses on his first acid test in politics, with the Delhi legislative assembly elections of 2013, that culminated with him seated on the chief minister's chair.

An Insignificant Man follows a smart storytelling technique. Maintaining such a fine flow of real events is certainly an achievement.

Moreover, the film does not take recourse to a voice-over or commentary to explain the development of events. The filmmakers have just let the incidents speak for themselves. Thus, for the film's success, neat editing became crucial, and it deserves praise here.

Thankfully, the makers have not gone overboard with the background score, in an attempt to add drama. The music does this task, despite being gentle. 

A substantial amount of footage is devoted to Kejriwal’s former comrade, Yogendra Yadav. After watching the film, your respect for the man, his intelligence and dedication is likely to increase.

Yogendra Yadav

The most interesting factor here is the access to the inside meetings and discussions the filmmakers have got, bringing out something we haven’t seen on any news channel.

Apart from the conversations where all is hunky dory, they have also included heated arguments rising out of Kejriwal’s conflict with other volunteers. Other sequences that stand out include: 

- The party collecting funds from the public literally by passing a bedsheet.

- A Congress worker screaming at Manish Sisodia during a news channel debate. But as soon as the show gets over, he behaves like a close friend and shows affection.

- Kejriwal and Sheila Dixit’s respective entourages passing each other from opposite directions. It looked like a scene right out of a mainstream film. 

- Kejriwal getting nervous during the making a promotional video for the Delhi elections.

- Kumar Vishwas and Kejriwal laughing their lungs out when the former is recording an audio for the elections.

But amidst all of this, it is hard to ignore that the filmmakers have hidden a few negative aspects about Kejriwal. There is just no mention whatsoever about his break-up with Anna Hazare, the torchbearer of the anti-corruption movement. The conflict between the two on the decision of entering politics was a major turning point. Also, there should have been more focus on AAP’s controversial decision of forming the government with the support of Congress even after being sternly against the party. 

The timing of the film's release raises questions over the film's relevance today. A lot has gone against Kejriwal in the last couple of years.

This mostly includes his tiff against Yadav (which led to his ouster from the party), lack of control over his words, falling back on certain promises and, most importantly, AAP’s heavy defeat in the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) elections this year.