Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa had limited budget, a small crew and an absconding leading man when they set out to make ‘Katiyabaaz’, a National-award- winning documentary that explores power-crisis in Kanpur with dollops of humour.
For Fahad it was a homecoming of sorts as he spent his childhood in the city but he found it hard to explain to his family and friends why he wanted to make a documentary on this subject. “So many people including my parents said, ‘What is there to show about power crisis? We have it everyday. Why do you have to go to Kanpur to shoot it? I think we are very used to the problem. But what most people don’t realise is that we are living through the biggest energy crisis that the country has ever faced,” Fahad told PTI in an interview.
Told through two protagonists — Loha Singh, a ‘katiyabaaz’ and Ritu Maheshwari, an IAS officer in Kanpur, the documentary features their battle to outsmart each other while the city of Kanpur reels through its biggest power crisis. It was not all smooth sailing for the director duo as Fahad recalls they were set to shoot with a different ‘katiyabaaz’ who never turned up.
“He decamped at the last moment. The first crew had come from Austria. They were already in town and everybody was waiting to shoot but he was never to be found. Then a family friend introduced us to Loha Singh. They both used to drink together in the ‘desi theka’. Loha is a maverick,” Fahad said.
The film has found a presenter in ‘Lootera’ director Vikramaditya Motwane as it hits theatres on August 22 through Phantom Pictures and Globalistan Films. When asked how Phantom came onboard, Deepti said Motwane loved their film during a special screening in Mumbai and things started moving from there.
“After watching the film, he (Motwane) wrote to us to congratulate and said they would like to help. Fahad later showed the film to Anurag and he also like the film. It was god-send for us because they are a director’s company and understand that for young directors their first project comes with many challenges,” Deepti said.
Fahad has a fondness for the ‘katiyabaaz’ as he feels Loha represents the spirit of small town India. “That was the first time we met him but he is someone who projects himself in a certain manner. He is self-possessed, has a pride in what he does. He really encapsulates the city of Kanpur in a good way. His antics in the film are something else to watch out for,” Fahad said.
Deepti, who is currently doing her masters, says finding Loha was sheer luck. “We were both attracted to the subject instinctively. Loha was love at first sight, if I can put it that way. He has seen the documentary but I think he got bored after only 15 minutes. He wears things very lightly. He does not have this notion of being famous, or stardom,” Deepti said.
The director duo says they got close to the problem in the course of filming the documentary and realised they could not take sides and be judgemental about the situation. “Loha is someone who is making the best of the situation that he has been given so how can you take that away from him. It is his work. It was a process of learning for us also. We could not decide who was the villain or the hero. Who are we to judge,” Deepti added.
Fahad says their dream is to take the film beyond the metro cities and release it into small towns as people from these areas can identify with the problem more.