In chat with the documentarians who’ve collected 400 hours of footage from the AAP Journey- a story that needs to be told whatever the outcome from the 16th of May
When the Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly Elections in December 2013, it took everyone by surprise. Whichever shade of the spectrum from ‘Saffron‘ to ‘Green‘ your personal political leanings were, there was no denying that this was an unprecedented triumph of organization and planning.
No other Political Party in our lifetime has announced its arrival on the national stage with quite such an impact. Here they were, promising to transform the way the country was run, attracting the kinds of candidates we knew from our colleges and schools (The Head Boys, The Rhodes Scholars, the mid-level corporate honchos); and running a resoundingly ‘clean’ campaign.
Over the last five months of a highly fractitious campaign cycle, with layers and then layers of spin, a lot of the initial sheen has worn off. But there remains the promise of change, and a hope that in another Election or so, we may finally have the kind of Government we want and deserve.
When Khusboo Ranka- one of the scriptwriters for Ship of Theseus- and Vinay Shukla- director of the awardwinning short-film Bureaucracy Sonata- first began following AAP with a camera, they didn’t have a script in mind. They just wanted to chronicle a moment in time. Over the next one year they collected 400 hours worth of unseen footage about the Party from close quarters. They are currently in the process of editing it into what promises to be a fascinating story.
At My Big Red Bag, we are especially excited about this project because so much of the country’s political process has been shrouded in a Black Box kind of secrecy, and with their final product, we hope to learn more about some of the nuts and bolts that go into building an Election Campaign.
If you want to enable the process of taking this film to as many people as possible then visit their website www.prop4rev.com and pledge your support.
MBRB spoke to them about their filming process earlier this week to find out more. Read On!
When you first started filming the AAP, did you have any inkling that it would become the kind of force that it did? What was your original aim behind filming their journey?
This is difficult to answer. I suppose the anti-corruption movement had already captured the nation’s imagination. Our realization about AAP becoming a significant player in the Delhi Elections came in flashes. We would see the support they were getting on ground, but we would come home and discover that they were completely invisible from the media narrative. So we would question the larger impact of AAP. We didn’t really gauge their popularity until they won 28 seats in Delhi.
That’s how we arrived upon the title- “Proposition for a Revolution”.
A revolution is a grand idea; it is a churning. A proposition, on the other hand, is the banal act of putting things to paper, crunching the numbers. We think the contrast between the two, the visceral and the cerebral; truly encompasses the scope of our film.
What kind of access did you have? How? How many hours of footage did you have in total to work with? Which members of the AAP were you able to connect with?
We shot for just over a year, and have over 400 hours of footage. We are still in the process of editing. We arrived at the time when they had just done a Press Conference against Mukesh Ambani. Nobody was really covering them and everybody was really uncertain about their future. We approached them and they welcomed the idea, committed as they are to the cause of transparency. We shot with everybody from the party – from the top brass to the grass root worker.
Did your own views about the AAP change a bit during the process of filmmaking?
The AAP is a quick learner. They adapt very quickly to their surroundings and circumstances and that’s what makes them the force they are right now. It was interesting to see them grow in this breathless fashion over the course of the year that we were with them. Their unpredictability gives them a certain edge over the players. Though it made our own lives very difficult because we didn’t know what they would do next. And that remains the case till today.
What have you both personally learned over the course of the filming of AAP journey?
Both of us had very little idea of politics when we started this film. Our families shielded us away from electoral politics and strongly discouraged any direct intervention on our part. So electoral politics, for us, has functioned behind a deep shroud of secrecy and we started this film with the curiosity to know more. Filming the AAP over the course of the year was a learning curve for us as well. It was for the first time that we were witnessing how an election takes place at the grass root level.
Do you think that the Delhi experiment in some ways diluted the very potent message of AAP. What-in your opinion- should AAP do to counter that?
Well we have tried asking Delhi residents about the AAP’s tenure in Delhi and we get all sorts of responses. There is some unhappiness about the way the government fell but people are also lauding their efforts.
When Arvind Kejriwal would go to the people at the beginning of the campaign in 2012, he would be listening to very specific concerns of the people. “My tap is not working”; “My land is being encroached upon”, things like that. We realised that people needed someone to listen to them, and that in itself was a lot. When we hear the word politics it evokes something that is grand, change which is large-scale, scams that are colossal. But the political need of these people was very banal, very small.
We believe that the AAP, or any other political party, will be fine as long as they listen to people and address local concerns.
For Khusbhoo specifically, why do you think that women are often made marginal in India’s political discourse? What can some of us women with resources do to change that?
I think women are marginalized in several spaces, the political is just one of them. The reason is simple to me. Groups that have traditionally held power will do everything possible to hold on to that. Why would somebody give up privilege and control willingly, no matter how unjust the order of society.
It is the same kind of dynamic at play in patriarchal societies where rape, violence, discrimination against women is legitimised through ideas of propriety.
The only way out if this is to challenge, dissent and make ourselves heard in every way possible. It is important to speak up and to show solidarity when someone speaks up. This is what happened following the rape protests; everybody spoke up to say it is NOT OK. Only then did the government find it urgent enough to enact stronger laws at parity with international rape laws.
What would you say is the objective of this documentary? Do you think of it more as a piece of oral history chronicling a movement or as a political statement of sorts?
We would like to further the dialogue around politics through the medium of cinema. There is an increasing participation of young people in our political discourse and we think our film is an addition to that.
Over a period of time, electoral politics has become rather opaque for the layman. We feel this documentary can bring back some of the immediacy that’s required for a more direct participation. The crowdfunding campaign has already demonstrated that there are people out there who would like to watch documentaries like ours. Some people are pledging money towards our campaign, some are pledging their skills while many are simply sharing it amongst their friends and reaffirming our belief in this project.
I would think its both a oral history insofar as it is a story that has the potential to hold value even in the future and it is a political statement in the sense that it is a deliberate look at politics.
Have you screened this documentary somewhere? What has the reaction been in those cases?
We haven’t screened the documentary yet since it’s not complete. However, during the process of the shoot, we have continuously shared footage with friends from all ages and backgrounds and the footage has always triggered a debate amongst the people. People are taken aback by the immediacy of our material. The discussions are always fascinating because, contrary to popular perception, people do have an idea of what’s going on and are very passionate about day-to-day issues and concerns. Hopefully, the film will take that kind of dialogue forward.
Finally, what’s next for the two of you, where do you from here?
There is a long way to go before we start thinking about what’s next. We are right now crowdfunding for this project. We hope to raise a minimum amount to help us stay afloat. We would like to release this film and show it to as many Indians as possible and you know how hard it is to do that with a documentary. A lot of people have come forward so far to express their solidarity with the project – people have offered money, skills and resources. Others have come forward and asked us some very hard questions which have forced us to rethink and revaluate. These are exciting times for us. But we need to get this film out asap and that’s going to be a battle, considering the kind of limited resources we have.