Would you risk your life to flip a switch?
Shariq, a 22-year-old electrician living in Kanpur, is renowned for his prowess in stealing electricity. In the face of day-long power-cuts, he runs illegal connections from one neighborhood to another so that homes, factories and businesses are not left in the dark. Meanwhile, the city administration is renewing its efforts to clamp down on power-theft, which costs them millions of rupees in losses each year. Powerless sheds light on the opposing corners of this political ring, from an electrical Robin Hood to the myopic utility company.
“I was born in Chamanganj, Kanpur. My parents left the neighbourhood to seek a future elsewhere. I have therefore had the privilege of living, studying and working in other parts of the world.
My memories of Kanpur are predominantly of long, uncomfortable, water-°©‐less summers, spent without electricity. As a child I remember relatives facing unemployment due to the closure of the nationalized mills in Kanpur. I remember how in the following years, the power situation worsened. Livelihoods were at stake, and there were always stories about relatives and friends of the family, losing their incomes and businesses.
In many ways Loha Singh is a reflection of the city’s past. The only livelihood that he has available to him is stealing electricity, a highly dangerous, life threatening task. Yet he does it with a panache and grit that is vey Kanpuria.
Upon returning to Kanpur many years later I found that the situation remains largely unchanged. A city and it’s people look back with bitter nostalgia and a sense of loss towards its glorious past and uncertain future.
This is a story not only about electricity, but a political reality that millions in India and billions worldwide live with”
“In many ways the story that compelled Fahad to film in Kanpur, is a story of most small towns in the country. Having lived all my life in another industrial town – Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, I am no stranger to day-°©‐long power cuts and to how they govern peoples’ lives.
Ritu’s reformist instinct and struggle to bring change to the city is pitted against Loha’s wit and ingenuity; the one a thief, the other a cop. ∂However, ultimately they’re both fighting for a common cause – to light up lives.
In many ways Kanpur is at a frontline of globalization, and is a microcosm that showcases the infrastructure problems that India faces today. Kanpur is as much as a character in this film as it’s main protagonists.”