afaqs!

Guest Article: Ram Subramanian: On Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal, 'velfies' and more

By Ram Subramanian , Handloom Picture Company, Mumbai | In Digital | March 10, 2015
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Ram Subramanian, founder, Handloom Picture Company, writes about his tryst with politics.

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! It happened. Yes, this is my story.

Ram Subramanian

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 General 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. So, I decided to channel my venting 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:

Ram Subramanian with Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal and Ram Subramanian toasting before election day

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 I too resonated with their righteous crusade.

The months that followed the release of Mute, hundreds reached out to me to say my film touched them, and that they were going to vote in the General Elections 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 biggest viral on Facebook, till date: This is a film titled 'Samvaad'.

It's May 2014 now.

Ram Subramanian takes a selfie the moment the party emerged victorious in Delhi

Election had happened. 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 hadn't won, 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 Mr. Narendra Modi was sworn in as the PM, 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

The profile picture that went viral

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

It bothered me that our leaders (from both nations) wanted us to hate each other. (How come rest-of-Europe is '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 Iqbal bhai: 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 it has the power to redefine democracy across the world by amplifying people's voices.

2. Khadija and I started a page called 'DearNeighbourMovement' 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

Delhi Election was removed out of cold storage again.

I jumped in to volunteer, because I was afraid that AAP losing Delhi would set the cause of 'clean politics' back, by twenty 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 Jan 2015 - Now

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

And my velfie, for the cause of velfies, 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 Election.

I packed my bags and went to Delhi to help Arvind 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 make some day), I watched the election result that created history in Delhi.

After the win, Arvind invited people to the swearing-in with a radio spot and signed off as the collective voice of Delhi.

I realised then, my voice had found its boldness with AAP and 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.
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 Dept. 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...

And, meanwhile, if something bothers me, I know that the person I am today will not just shut up and walk away.

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