Some people are cynical progressives. They support equality and transparency in government but they simply don’t think it’s possible. There’s a resignation in the inevitable corruption and money-passing that happens within government. An Insignificant Man joins the ranks of documentaries, including Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next, that reveals that the ideals we strive for is more than possible and, in fact, already exists.
The promises made by this ‘insignificant man’, Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the AAP party in Delhi, India, were considered impossible. He told those that struggled to afford water that they’d receive 700 litres of water for free, if he was elected. Electricity prices trebled in the years since it was privatised in 2002 and Kejriwal promised to half the cost to the customer, if elected. He was elected and a leader of an opposing party still mocked his claims.
But he ensured it happened; Kejriwal and his party managed to make these “impossible” hopes a reality. Originally titled ‘Proposition for a Revolution’, An Insignificant Man documents Kejriwal’s rise to power and provides hope for those who seek a better future.
As the western world has become corrupted by capitalism in the last few decades, India had corruption in its own democratic system. Arvind Kejriwal, among this flawed society, quit his day job and became an activist. The police were “like the mafia” and Kejriwal focused his attention on an anti-corruption bill. Politicians were aggressively against it and he decided to get into politics himself. His manifesto was about bringing “decision-making to the public”. But he’s a shrewd man, proven when dismissing a request to support a charity by saying “leave charity to the rich”. His chances are shockingly slim but his voice is heard loud and clear. In one instance, he goes on hunger strike for 15 days, amplifying his deep community ties. Bit by bit, support is gathered and Election Day throws a result no one anticipated.
The Aam Aadmi Party (literally meaning Common Man’s Party) were taking on the powerful establishment parties, Congress and BJP in the Delhi Legislative Assembly election in 2013. Newspapers splash “Kejriwal is not even on our rader” on front pages while Sheila Dikshit, the leader of Congress, dismisses AAP as a lost cause and a wasted vote. Behind the scenes, Congress and BJP realise their influence. There is the ‘sting’ operation, as a member of AAD allegedly takes “black money”, proving they’re just as corrupt as everyone else. Santosh, a passionate leader of Kejriwal’s cause since 2001, is murdered causing turmoil among the leaders while fuelling support in Delhi. There is something deeply inspiring when hearing an influential, political man tell his team that “a corrupt person cannot enter parliament!”.
Directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla take on the hard truths too. Internal fights and the consequence of a leading member of the party, proves this wasn’t an easy road for anyone involved. But it is a modern fight, visualised by Twitter on screen and a thumping soundtrack, brewing in the background. It scores the film with a revolutionary undertone, almost as if the stampede of change is storming this way.
Parallels can be drawn with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn but Kejriwal is on a constant momentum. An Insignificant Man tells us of change against the odds, with a simple broom to symbolise Kejriwal sweeping away the hypocrisies of the political system, inspiring thousands. Delhi had to contend with bribery and harassment from the police, but still, the turnout was unprecedented. “I’m an insignificant man”, says Kejriwal, but his integrity and commitment to give his life is what leads a revolution.
This was part of the London Film Festival 2016 coverage for Culturefly