Thiruvananthapuram

‘Powerless’ lights up fete

A still from 'Powerless'

A still from 'Powerless'  

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Power cuts and power thefts provide fodder for a gripping tale.

A documentary on power cuts in a north Indian city? ‘A yawn fest’ would most probably be the initial reaction to such a suggestion. Wait till you watch ‘Katiyabaaz’ (Powerless), an 80-minute film directed by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa, on the grim power situation in Kanpur, where 18-hour power cuts are the norm.

The documentary which was screened as part of the 7th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) on Saturday comes here after garnering accolades at the Berlin and Busan film festivals. The film tells a gripping story of unending power cuts and power thefts through two protagonists — chief of the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (KESCO) Ritu Maheshwari and ‘electricity thief’ Loha Singh.

The camera pans across the old city of Kanpur, marked by a tangled expanse of power lines, which signifies all that is wrong with power distribution here. Loha Singh is revered in these parts, a kind of Robin Hood who brings power to the poor households who cannot afford it, helps to run small industries in the time of power cuts and even enables water supply to a whole ‘mohalla’ during Ramzan.

A culture

He achieves it all by tapping into the thick supply wires. It becomes a culture here, with children and elders using a simple wire to steal electricity when darkness falls. Loha Singh justifies it all with his candour and gift of the gab. At the other end, Ritu Maheshwari is trying to revive KESCO which is burdened by power breakdowns.

She is portrayed as well-intentioned, taking tough measures on erring customers, trying to improve the service and even giving pep talks to her colleagues. We also get to see her with her family, away from the pressures of politicians and the ire of the customers. There are no demons here, only two people trying to better the situations they were caught in.

After a light-hearted first half, the tension mounts, heightening in situations of riots. It all looks like a warning call for the near future, probably even this year which is already facing a drought. The focus here is on making it cinematic and hitting us hard. Adding to the drama is the background score by Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam of ‘Indian Ocean’. The film closes when the peon writes Ritu Maheshwari’s name on the board inside her office listing the past chiefs of KESCO, pointing to her shifting from the post, having failed in what she set out to achieve. Meanwhile, Loha Singh continues with his Robin Hood act. ‘Powerless’ is powerful documentary filmmaking and certainly ranks among the best from the country.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 10:05:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/powerless-lights-up-fete/article6230699.ece

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