How Ram Subramanian changed AAP and how AAP changed him

The brain behind AAP's innovative #VelfieforKejriwal campaign recollects his eventful journey with the party.

 |  6-minute read |   04-03-2015
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14 months back, had someone told me that I am going to end up in Delhi to help a bunch of politicians, I would have laughed my b***s off.

It happened. Yes, this is my story.

End 2013:

My life was perfect. Everything was good. I was one of those blokes who didn't give a candy about elections. I was living in a system I had trust issues with, so I had never voted (before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections). Any talk about politics, political party or politicians made me politely exit the conversation and head to the closest bar. Like I mentioned: Everything was good.

Then something happened, something snapped in me when I read about the infamous Nirbhaya case. Before I could say "not my problem" I found myself clicking "join" on a call-to-protest initiative on Facebook. I went for it, to exhaust my lungs and my frustration along with thousands of Mumbaikars on the streets. But screaming didn't help. SoI decided to channel my anger though the tools I am good with.

I spoke through a film called "Mute", which I had created by distilling my frustration, my flaws, to arrive at a clear and positive solution.

End January 2014:

"Mute" had gone viral quickly; tons of people were sharing it and spreading the word. Aam Aadmi Party shared it too on its Facebook page, which made me happy. I had a soft corner for the party as their righteous crusade resonated with me.

The months that followed the release of "Mute", hundreds reached out to me to say my film touched them and they were going to vote in the general election that was coming up.

Vishal Dadlani, musician and a vocal AAP supporter, had come over to my home with a common friend, one evening. After an extremely brief conversation about hair styling products we started talking about the state of our country, politics and AAP. He was worried about their election campaign because the party didn't have enough funds to advertise.

I had an idea so I outlined the flow-of-thought for it. Vishal ensured it happened and the idea became one of AAP's most viral videos on Facebook, till date. This is a film titled "Samvaad". 

It's May 2014

The elections were over. BJP had won. My trust issues with the system rang my doorbell with a charming smile and a majority baggage. I wasn't surprised that AAP didn't win, but I was disappointed nevertheless.

I felt the need to tell our new leadership that times are different now. We, as regular people, can see what is wrong with the system and our leaders should fix it if they want to stay in the "business of politics".

So, just before Narendra Modi was sworn in as the prime minister, I released the sequel to "Mute". This time I was the collective voice of our country. This time I was "Unmute".

"Unmute" went viral too. One million Indians watched it but as expected, the PM did not respond to my e-greeting. I guess he was busy travelling, making suits, etc.

November 2014

Few months had gone by and I wanted to do something else. I decided to help fix the India-Pakistan dispute.

It bothered me that our leaders (from both nations) wanted us to hate each other. (How come Britain and France are "friends" with two-time-war-enemy Germany today, while we are still fighting instead of fixing issues?)

So I put a vague name and address on an envelope and spoke through a video-letter titled "Pause".

The letter found its address and I found my Iqbalbhai: A 16-year-old girl from Pakistan, Khadija Akhtar. She replied to "Pause" with her self-made video letter (which went viral too).

Two things happened as a result of "Pause":

1) Velfies (short for video-selfies) became a phenomenon and showed that they have the power to redefine democracy across the world by amplifying people's voice.

And

2) Khadija and I started a page called Dear Neighbour Movement on Facebook (40k people from both India and Pakistan have signed up and are exchanging peace-velfies even today).

Things were calm, life was smooth. Until end 2014

The Delhi election was brought out of cold storage again.  

I jumped in to volunteer because I was afraid that AAP losing Delhi would send the cause of "clean politics" back by 20 years in India.  

Also, AAP winning in Delhi will make them the choker-leash that needs to be around the neck of the right-controlled majority government.

I met Arvind Kejriwal at his home in Delhi and outlined my plan to initiate #VelfieForKejriwal and other ideas to achieve few strategic requirements.

From January 2015 till now

Koninica's  #VelfieforKejriwal was released which helped in shifting the mood in Delhi: from "bhagoda" to women's protection (it went viral on Facebook and WhatsApp).

And my velfie was released before Obama's visit to India. I had to put my face on camera, despite my discomfort, because I was asking people to do the same.

By Republic Day, I decided to openly support AAP for the Delhi elections.  

I packed my bags and went to Delhi to help Arvind Kejriwal and his team in whatever way I could, using my tools to help the cause.

Two highly charged weeks later (much of it is fodder for a political drama which I intend to write and direct some day), I watched the election result that created history in Delhi. After the win, Arvind Kejriwal invited people to the swearing-in with a radio spot and signed off as the collective voice of Delhi.

I realised then, that my voice had found its boldness with the AAP and the AAP had found a sharper articulation of itself, with me.

It has been three weeks since the Delhi victory and I haven't been able to detach myself. I am still emotionally involved with AAP's crusade for a great nation so I have initiated the AAP Innovation Department (I don't think any other political party in the world has one). AAP-Innovation Department will find solutions to problems using art, creativity and technology for the cause, for Delhi, for India, for the greater good of humanity.  

Time will tell how that pans out. But right now I feel it's a progressive idea that is worth chasing.

And meanwhile, if something bothers me, I know I will not just shut up and walk away.

Writer

Ram Subramanian Ram Subramanian @dioramus

Writer. Director. Art-ivist.

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