The critically acclaimed documentary ‘An Insignificant Man’ caught the Indian polity off guard and presented an unbiased account of the largest anti-corruption protests that took place across the country and the formation of Aam Aadmi Party. After acquiring a packed screening at various film festivals along with several awards, Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla’s documentary has now hit the Indian theaters and is going fully packed despite having limited shows based on the hosted screenings.
Khushboo and Vinay shared their journey of making a documentary with an objective and unbiased approach about a political party which is still residing in power in this exclusive interview with Knocksense.
Knocksense: When did you guys decide to make a documentary on Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party?
Khushboo: This was at the end of 2012 we were coming out of another film called Ship of Theseus and we were just itching to make a film. Considering that we didn’t have any major resources or financial backing we decided to make a documentary on the most interesting story happening around us at that time. And it was during this time when Aam Aadmi Party emerged from the anti corruption protests.
Knocksense: You had around 400 hours of footage after filming the whole documentary. How much time the documentary took for the overall filming?
Vinay: We shot for a year and half. We landed up shooting 400 hours of footage but we spent hundreds of hours in waiting. It’s been a really long journey.
Knocksense: So this documentary is till 2013 elections?
Vinay: Yeah, actually we tried to focus on the journey about the rise of Aam Aadmi Party and its rebels in the massive protests till forming a party and standing in the elections. We were not interested in the story that unfolded aftermath when they won 28 seats in Delhi Vidhan Sabha. From then there political journey took off.
Knocksense: Vinay, you must have edited this documentary recently and while editing it you must have realized that the supporters who once glorified this party and stood along with it have gradually shifted their sides and are now openly criticizing it. How have you guys made it sure that the documentary does not get a biased point of view?
Vinay: If you will watch the documentary you will see that we have kept a very objective, unbiased and neutral approach towards the film. We continuously tried that instead of glorifying an individual’s life, we tried to highlight the issues for which AAP took a stand like how will it break the centralization of the ruling party and adopt transparency in the system and how it will bring the required funding. These were our focus points on which the documentary should revolve around.
Knocksense: So according to you the film does not conclude on anyone’s righteousness.
Khushboo: Actually, the documentary is not made in a structure where it concludes something.
Knocksense: So for one and a half year you guys obviously didn’t had the money to shoot this. How were you people sustaining as film makers and as a team?
Khushboo: Initially when we guys moved from Mumbai to Delhi we stayed with friends. We stayed with a friend in Mukherjee Nagar at that time who was preparing for IAS and for the first three months we didn’t have a house of our own. Finally when we realized that okay this is the film we think we should make because the story is turning out to be very interesting. We then started applying for a few grants and we ended up getting this one grant called the IDFA fund which is one of the most prestigious funds for documentary filmmaking. It is very competitive and it is extremely hard to give. After that we also did a crowd funding campaign because we somewhere believed that this is the kind of cinema that would get people’s support. We started with a modest demand of about $20,000 and ended up raising a $1,20,000. After that we also got the Sundance fund, the Busan fund and several other funds which are again highly competitive and prestigious. This somehow motivated us and made us sure about the quality of the film.
Knocksense: What was Anand Gandhi’s role in the process of this documentary making?
Vinay: Anand Gandhi has been our friend and we have always worked on each other’s project for over ten years. Khushboo and Anand co-directed a short fim called Continuum. They also co-wrote ‘Ship of Theseus’ in which I worked as an actor. So it’s a very natural extension for us to work on each other’s film. Anand was helpful in getting the access to all the resources at the right time during the production plan. To be honest, nobody but him could have supported a film like this. Most people in this country are scared of making any sort of commitment to a political film. Anand has been our rock solid support from the beginning.
Knocksense: Tell us about the experience you have been getting at the various film festivals? What kind of response did you guys get?
Vinay: it’s been fantastic because wherever the film has played, people have loved it. For example, we played the film in Spain and it had a houseful screening and after the film people told us that whatever that is going on in our country, the same thing is happening here. It has been very enlightening for me to hear everything from these people about their political party and the kind of mass protests that are happening there. This directly informs us about the global churning that we are facing right now. How people around the world are going through similar democratic churning.
Knocksense: How is the response in Indian theatres?
Vinay: It has been very overwhelming. For now the film is released in Lucknow in the second week. The film has even expanded to more theatres in the first week itself on the weekdays in the evening in cities like Bengaluru and Dehradoon.
Knocksense: Was it a difficult task to run the documentary in the Indian theatres because there are still very limited shows?
Vinay: Of course it’s a challenge to release a film like this in India for various reasons but I am so happy that the audience has responded to it positively. Right now we are in Bengaluru and there is a houseful screening going on right now. Its looking good.
Knocksense: Did you expect this response or you expected it to perform even better?
Vinay: Initially we expected that yes we will have a large audience for our film but our expectation have been surpassed by the size of audience it has got. The film went into its second week and probably it will go in its third week also.
Knocksense: Can you tell us the cities where you will start the screening from next week?
Vinay: It has started in Lucknow. Apart from this it will be screened in Dehradoon, Hyderabad and Kolkata. We have also put the list of cities on our Facebook page.
Knocksense: How has been the response from the Insignificant man himself and from AAP?
Vinay: We made Arvind watch the film two months after the premiere. He had a very neutral response towards the film. He said that yeah it’s interesting. Neither Kejriwal nor the Aam Aadmi Party supported or promoted the film in any way in the last week because somewhere deep down the film criticizes them so that kind of becomes awkward for them. We have done our job and from the beginning we tried to make neutral and objective film. AAP not supporting the film in any way is a kind of certificate for us.
Knocksense: How is the response in Delhi?
Khushboo: Delhi has the best response. We expanded the most in Delhi. We started with three shows and now there are about seven shows going on right now so it has been incredible in Delhi as well.
Knocksense: So Khushboo and Vinay what’s your next project? What can we look forward to?
Khushboo: I am writing a fiction film which is too early to talk about.
Vinay: I am currently working on a couple of projects but right now we don’t have anything concrete to talk about.