Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and Half stars)
Star cast: Loha Singh
Director/s: Fahad Mustafa, Deepti Kakkar
When the folksy voice of Rahul Ram introduces the city of Kanpur to you, there is a certain beauty in the picture. It isn’t the familiar kind of beauty that globalized metros flaunt; it is the rustic, earthen love that touches deep. Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa’s film hits all the right notes despite its non conclusive one. The beauty of the film is its sensitivity towards the issue at hand. Coming from someone who has braved load shedding issues for many years in Ranchi, the story’s plight is a very relatable one.
To survive the power shortage in an industrial town like Kanpur, the film presents Loha Singh as an elite, because he is the power fixer for all. He is the Katiyabaaz who fixes wires all over Kanpur and walks with the swagger that conveys he rules the city. Quite certainly he does, the Kanpur market and small time industries swear by his name. He is the Messiah in a city that survives on power theft and he is the thief in question.
The film’s tone is commendable because at no point is Loha shown through a mosaic of righteousness. He is presented as is – the power supplier to people’s homes without official connections. But Fahad and Deepti’s heart lies with this hero. And whose wouldn’t, after all, he is the jaanbaaz who puts his life in danger and fixes the power shortage of the city in no time.
The film invests a considerable amount of time on Ritu Maheshwari, the bureaucrat put incharge of Kanpur Electricity Supply who battles volatile politicians and attempt at changing her department with able mentoring but the illegal katiya system is so ingrained in the fabric of Kanpur’s thinking that it’s hard to seek the right path out for them. Maheshwari battles lackadaisical approach of her team, the people of Kanpur and politicians all with well meaning intention at heart. At one cue, she says that for a bureaucrat it is easy to merely sign papers but to sit up and change a reluctant system is a war to wage.
Despite the film’s story being a thin plot which offers no conclusive solution to the problem at hand, it paints a glorified picture of Loha Singh. The film is exceedingly well shot, kept tight and flows lucidly. Even if the problems playing might seem alien to you, the film draws your attention and engages you with its intelligent workings. Given that Deepti and Fahad have spent a good deal of time working on the film, the scale on which they were able to mount the film was spectacular. The violent shots of angry mobs were all possible because of the same.
But in the end, life comes a full circle for everyone. The politicians get re-elected. The bureaucrats are transferred and try their luck to change another system at another place. But Loha still walks with the same swagger, finding solace in drunken rantings, failing to explain to his mother that he doesn’t understand anything except electricity. His next day will always be about putting his life in danger so Kanpur doesn’t lose its light. I don’t think there could have been a better way to put on celluloid Quintessential small town India – vibrant, bustling with energy and walking on the tightrope between hope and despair.
Katiyabaaz releases on 22nd August, 2014.
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