'Insignificant Man' sparks significant buzz in Toronto
Directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla's "An Insignificant Man", a riveting documentary about the people's movement that culminated in Arvind Kejriwal's newfangled party wresting a brute majority in the Delhi Assembly in 2015, is making significant global inroads on the back of a mounting buzz.
Toronto: Directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla's "An Insignificant Man", a riveting documentary about the people's movement that culminated in Arvind Kejriwal's newfangled party wresting a brute majority in the Delhi Assembly in 2015, is making significant global inroads on the back of a mounting buzz.
Following its world premiere at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival, the 100-minute cinematic account of a key moment in Indian electoral history is slated to travel to festivals in London, Busan, Sao Paolo and Warsaw, besides the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
For most people, who have seen the film and have taken to social media to articulate their opinions, its appeal lies in the way that it plays out like a political thriller in which the key players confront dramatic ups and downs.
"The film has struck a chord because it captures the energy and complexity of an Indian election," says debutante Ranka who, with Shukla, also a first-timer, spent a year and a half recording the rallies, meetings and war room pow-wows of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the months leading up to its first electoral battle in 2014.
"The film chronicles a moment in India's contemporary political history in a manner that no Indian film has ever done," says Anand Gandhi, producer of "An Insignificant Man".
He adds, "The idea is to trigger an informed conversation on the alternatives available to those that are fighting the status quo. We were not interested in taking sides or pushing any particular line of political thinking."
Both Ranka and Shukla, too, assert that "An Insignificant Man" is as neutral as any film can be.
"People of different nationalities who have seen the film here have related at the personal level with something or the other in the film. The issues that the film raises have universal resonance," says Shukla.
"Our approach was completely that of a fly on the wall.
We filmed as unobtrusively as possible. When we started out, we had no idea where AAP would go. So every day of the shoot yielded surprises," says Ranka.
"This," she adds, "is an observational documentary that has no political agenda apart from highlighting the power that anti-establishment forces can acquire when they have focused and energetic leadership."
The crowd-funded "An Insignificant Man" received the support of the Sundance Institute, Hot Docs and the Bertha Britdoc Journalism Fund.
"The fund for the film was nearly six times the amount that we needed for the production. It found spontaneous support from the people," she says.
"An Insignificant Man" makes liberal use of news telecast footage as an important device. "The news footage offers the contrarian perspective on what the narrative around the AAP movement. It provides a commentary on what is happening," Khusboo adds.
To the criticism that the film stops with the 2014 Delhi elections (which delivered a hung Assembly) and, therefore, might appear dated to some, "Most of our audience understand that this is an ongoing story and that this film not the last word," says Shukla.
While admitting that the might encounter difficulties in finding takers in India owning to its political underpinning, Gandhi says, "We will explore every avenue available to us to ensure that An Insignificant Man reaches its audience in the country."
"Social media is a barometer of the popular response. Even AAP sceptics have not been alienated and almost everybody wants to participate in the conservation," the producer says.
"I am not a supporter of this party or that. But I am a strong supporter of the cause of openness, freedom of expression and democracy," adds Gandhi who was in Toronto in 2012 for the premiere of his feature directorial debut, "Ship of Theseus".