Movie Review: Powerless (Katiyabaaz)

This Reality TV style docu feature attempts to humanize the power crisis in Kanpur, representative of small-town India

Joshua Thomas October 25, 2022
  • Direction
  • Cinematography
  • Music


This documentary covers the power crisis in the city of Kanpur. The main protagonist is a Katiyabaaz (Katiya being an electrical wire) Loha Singh, a self-styled Robin Hood who makes illegal connections to power lines, stealing electricity and providing it to small businesses and poor households.

The film seems less a documentary as much as some form of social issue Reality TV, with a soundtrack by Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam (Indian Ocean) interspersed with epic shots of Singh (who’s laughter rings dramatically through parts of the film) in an attempt to give the subject matter some mainstream appeal.

The film essentially covers two sides of the power crisis. On one hand are the electricity suppliers KESCO (Kanpur Electricity Supply Company Limited) headed by Ritu, a woman intent on getting the consumer to pay their bills by sending out KESCO employees to collect and intimidate defaulters door-to-door. She is also intent on reforming the organization inasmuch as it makes it easier for consumers to pay their bills. She does this by updating the payment infrastructure, introducing it through ATMs and call centre services. We briefly get a glimpse of her family life as well, in a vague attempt to give her depth.

On the other side we see the consumers, the small businesses and the poor people who rely on the Katiyabaaz to give them that small luxury which so many of us take for granted. We see how the community is incredibly appreciative of the Katiyabaaz and how frustrated they are with KESCO and the power cuts they have to deal with on a regular basis. All this peppered with the antics and opinions of Singh.

Overall, the film presents a slight picture of the power crisis in the city. The film has flourishes of humour flavoured with the aforementioned reality-TV drama approach to the central issue. With enough subject matter that would merit a film under an hour, the film-makers have chosen to drag out its subject to 90 minutes by staging scenes to also give it some mainstream appeal. I can only hope that it is worth giving the issue more attention.



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