Archive for August, 2014

Katiyabaaz

Katiyabaaz
Katiyabaaz
Release date: August 22, 2014
Directed by: Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa
Cast: Loha Singh, Ritu Maheshwari and their families, along with many more families from Kanpur.

The irregular supply of electricity through major parts of India, as we know it, is an often tucked under the carpet harsh reality that we choose to turn a blind eye to. We as Indians, even participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has its concerns firmly rooted in ‘the West’ , but no electricity? It’s too common, yo!

Katiyabaaz/Powerless is half-documentary-half-enactment of Loha Singh’s constant tussle with the transformers and phase connections of Kanpur Electricity Board, which is just a metaphor for the entire city’s struggle for power. Ritu Maheshwari is the head of affairs on the other end (KESCO) and she’s out on her own middle path of bringing about a change in the proverbially inefficient system.

Owing to the city’s power deficit, the citizens start acquiring illegal connections with the much needed assistance of katiyas–who make cuts on live wires and provide for power, only it’s illegal. Maheshwari orders for fines on these cuts and thus starts a crackdown on katiyas. Her meetings with her subordinates where she iterates her stand time and again, are shown right from the conference halls. Loha’s nails are filled with dirt, yet they aren’t half as disturbing as the blemishes, burns and abrasions on his fingers show marks of his battles with the flying sparks of electric current.

There’s also a third party involved in the conflict of the system and the revolting masses, it’s that of a local representative of the people, Irfan Solanki. His election campaign and his upfront stance in favor of his people adds an interesting dimension. All three parties are depicted with a sense of balance and there ain’t no preaching done by the mama (directors)

Figures about the deteriorating condition of Kanpur’s infrastructure and its diminishing reputation in terms of its commercial output never run down the city as a whole. On the other hand, the depiction of scary mobs, and incessantly disgruntled locales with no silver lining whatsoever don’t do any favors to the city either. The line between what’s real and what’s not is blurred at moments, perhaps to extract humor and sympathy in a manner which just doesn’t harbor on continuously asking questions to the protagonists, how other documentaries do.

Your concern for Loha’s daredevilry is reflected in a scene where Loha has a bittersweet conversation with his mother. It’s unpredictably contrived, yet it’s absorbing. One piece of trivia tells you that Kanpur is one of world’s top ten dirtiest cities, even then, the photography is vivid and extremely pleasing. Majorly shot on real locations, Maria Trieb lends a very intimate vibe to the film.

Katiyabaaz is majorly informative, somehow it tells you a conventional story as well. Only with no real outright antagonists.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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