Katiyabaaz  – A Brilliant Documentary exploring Power Theft in UP
Uttar Pradesh, the most populated state of the country, has been a perennial emblem of the country’s poor and unfortunate. Be it the communal tension that has always prefixed the state’s deplorable financial situation, or the maligned political glitterati that has failed to deliver – the state of Uttar Pradesh has borne more negative reflections as part of the republic than any other state. Katiyabaaz, a documentary exploring the raging issue of power theft in the state, is not just an eye-opener but a welcome change in the field of Indian documentary filmmaking.
UP’s plight can best be summed by the fact that the state has always found itself doing better against Bihar – the upper brick inside a hopeless abyss. Katiyabaaz is an unflinching, uncompromising look at the power crisis of Kanpur – the 5th largest city in terms of area in the country. The chief protagonists, the personal lives of whom are the twin fulcrums over which the film is balanced, are reflective of the opposing sides of a pathetic situation. Loha Singh – aptly named – is the artsy machinist who goes around the city forging illegal connections. At the other end of the spectrum is Ritu Maheshwari, the IAS officer, put in charge of the crisis.
As a film, and most importantly as a documentary, Katiyabaaz investigates without running the risk of preaching. It explores both sides of a pitiable situation and reveals facts which are nervous anecdotes on the conditions – conditions that a vast majority of the country still faces. It is as shocking as it is true. The camera follows Loha Singh and Ritu Maheshwari as two opposite images on either side of the same mirror. Loha Singh – fiery and free at heart, and at times comically removed from the travails of the people around him. Ritu Maheshwari – the stern hand of authority. A mighty sword wielding, stoic character who sees the world through the eye of her ideals.
Directors Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa present an honest portrayal – true to the spirit of investigative documentaries – that snoops around with an impersonal eye and most importantly, dissects with much needed neutrality. It is easy for documentaries to go into a one-sided narrative. What Kakkar and Mustafa succeed in is to ensure the footage is documentative and fundamentally investigative – not suggestive in any way.
Considering the documentary filmmaking scene holistically, Katiyabaaz – awarded the Best Investigative Film at the 61st National Film Awards – will hopefully start a much-needed trend. And oh yes, there is the absolutely wit-charming supporting music by Indian Ocean to go along in a film that can get tense and terse within its hard-hitting context. Next in line in 2015 is perhaps one of the most anticipated documentaries ever to come out of India – Proposition for a Revolution.
A word here for Phantom Films – the production house owned by Anurag Kashyap – whose willingness to encourage bright young talent is what we owe our gratitude to, for such ground-breaking films. It can only be hoped that the seed grows.
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