May 2014 and India is in the midst of general elections. The buzz on social media has been unprecedented, and CNN called it India’s first elections on social media.
One of the earliest adapters of social media has been the Aam Adami Party, AAP, (translated as common man party) that has found support amongst many of the educated middle class. After Congress and the BJP, the two biggest political parties, it is AAP that has hogged the limelight and airwaves in the last six months.
The journey of this new political party has been extraordinary in many ways. It came into existence from the popular India Against Corruption movement in November 2012. Their first electoral victory was the 2013 New Delhi Assembly Elections. AAP emerged as the second largest party and ruled the state for 49 days. It now is participating in the 2014 general elections.
Following the transformation of AAP into a most talked about political force have been two young filmmakers, Khusboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla. Both were associates with filmmaker Anand Gandhi who made the critically acclaimed Ship of Theseus. Khushboo and Vinay’s documentary, Proposition for a Revolution, has been in production since 2012.They have recently launched a crowd funding initiative to take the film towards completion.
What attracted them to this subject was the transition of a peoples’ movement into a political party. According to Vinay, they did not know what they were getting into when they started documenting the emerging party in late 2012. “We were following the party on an impulse. We were curious. Slowly, it became evident that the story playing out in Delhi was much bigger than what we had initially anticipated. We couldn’t hire professionals since we couldn’t afford them so all of us learnt to use the camera and sound equipment.”
Documentaries on peoples’ movement and protests have been popular in the last couple of year. The Square, about the Egyptian Revolution was nominee for the Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars in 2014.Fault Lines was about the Occupy Wall Street Protests, and there have been numerous films that have documented the Arab Spring. The catch about documenting peoples’ movements for filmmakers is always the same, one doesn’t know how things will pan out .The filmmakers of The Square had to edit their film twice as the events on the ground changed so drastically.
Khushboo says “This is one of the challenges that documentary filmmakers always face – the question of when does your film end? We shot with the party for just over a year from Nov 2012 to Dec 2013. By the end of 2013 we knew we had a very strong film about the evolution of a nascent political party in India. We had an “election film”.” Vinay adds, “While our film has value as an articulation of contemporary concerns, it is also a time capsule of a shared experience. The AAP is a shape-shifting beast. It will continue to surprise and upset with equal ease. But we have a story that is not just about the AAP. It is about looking inwards into our systems, how ‘politics’ is done, who is doing it. The act of looking back can also simultaneously be an act of looking at the future.”
The shoot of the film that took them more than a year has had its own trans-formative effect on the young filmmakers. They have relocated to another city, been in the midst of hostile crowds, escaped from media stampedes. Khusboo admits that being thrust into the heart of “doing politics” took a while to get oriented to. “I remember the first AAP rally we attended, it was a sensory overload. We couldn’t make sense of what to capture, where to place our lens.”
The filmmakers started filming without a production plan in place, out of passion and curiosity. But as the film got bigger they pitched and won the IDFA Bertha grant in mid 2013 to make a feature length film. They tried approaching Indian investors but they refused to compromise on their editorial independence. Vinay says, “Our film is a documentary set in contemporary politics and investors didn’t find that as an interesting proposition. Those who were interested in investing wanted to know if we are supporting AAP or are against it. We didn’t want to take money from people who had these concerns because it would compromise our position.”
The filmmakers have been happy with the response to their crowd funding campaign.They managed to raise 50 per cent of their goal in less than 10 days.According to Khushboo, “On one hand we wanted to use crowd funding to raise money, but on the other we also wanted it to be a community owned film. This would ensure that when the film releases, it is seen widely and the contributors become ambassadors and owners of the film in an organic way.”
India has a huge domestic market for feature films. It is wonderful to see documentaries too getting increased visibility and filmmakers employing the same techniques for fund raising as their international counterparts. Wishing the Proposition for a Revolution team good luck towards completion.