Reviews

Katiyabaaz: Current affairs

Katiyabaaz movie poster   | Photo Credit: 23dmcKatiyabaaz

A tragicomic take on the power crises in Kanpur, Katiyabaaz connects us to the everyday reality of mofussil India where people equate electrical energy with divine power. Directors Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar capture it in one poignant scene where a woman invokes the god of light to bestow her with electricity. Her predicament makes you laugh and cry at the same time. It is this refreshing tone that makes a seemingly dreary subject relevant and entertaining.

Mustafa and Kakkar have managed to touch upon different sides of the issue without being judgmental. There are two power centres in their story. Loha Singh, an expert katiyabaaz, the guy who illegally taps into the city’s power cables through a set of loose wires, feels he is a vigilante who puts his life at risk in stealing power from the rich and distributing it to the poor.



KATIYABAAZ

Genre: Documentary
Directors: Fahad Mustafa, Deepti Kakkar
Bottomline: The good, bad and ugly side of power politics in Kanpur that reflects the dark underbelly of shining India.


He shows his scars and shares his technique like a warrior and when somebody calls him a thief he snaps back with colourful abuses. Loha is a subversive character that could lend a dramatic spark to any form of writing. As we realise that he is eulogised in his immediate neighbourhood, his nonchalance no longer remains a laughing matter.

His antithesis is Ritu Maheshwari, the calm head of Kanpur Electricity Supply Company. She feels that consumers must pay for the electricity they are using so that the State can generate more of it. When 30 per cent of the electricity that is generated is lost to power theft and non-payment of bills, the rich versus poor argument doesn’t hold. She is up against vested political interests who want to use the situation to fuel their vote bank politics. She is not for a knee-jerk reaction but her push is construed as a shove by the rotten system.

Cinematographers Maria Trieb-Eliaz and Amit Surendran help us immerse into the surroundings. The maze of wires and simmering transformers generate an emotional upheaval, heightened by Rahul Ram’s vocals.

The directors have shown patience with the subjects. They seem to have forgotten the presence of camera around them and the result is electric. Editor Namrata Rao combs through the footage to create a narrative arc that remains remarkably smooth for a documentary.

Some of the scenarios have been staged to put the point across. Like a peep into the inside world of both Loha and Ritu, a space beyond their public image. The device is not new in the documentary format but some of the outcomes, particularly Loha Singh’s rant, appear contrived after a point. However, it doesn’t take away from the ingenuity of the plot and the honesty of the treatment.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 6:49:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/katiyabaaz-film-review/article6341967.ece

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