The film focuses on two inhabitants of the city of Kanpur, India, both representing different sides of the system. One is Loha, a man who is well known throughout the city, giving electricity to those who cannot afford it. The other is Rita, the woman in charge of the city’s power grid, KESCO, who must try to track down all of the illegal electricity usage in the city while listening to the citizen’s complaints. Soon sparks fly between the people and the electricity company when electricity demand exceeds supply and chaos ensues which results in the failure of the power grid and loss of power for a few days.
Although the film follows the story of one man, the viewer gets a look into the lives of many in the city of Kanpur and the hardships they face each day. The city of Kanpur is not only overpopulated but overwhelmed with tangles and tangles of electrical wires. The aerial footage of the city is just amazing, especially in one particularly memorable scene where the lights go out all over the city and the viewer sees different parts of the landscape, losing power one by one.
Director Fahad Mustafa who was born in Kanpur, does a brilliant job depicting the reality for the people of his hometown. Coming back years later and the situation remains unchanged. This powerful documentary film gives the audience a look into a place no one really knows or sees, except in the news when the city lost power for more than a day. It’s a story not just about the electricity problem, but about the political reality of the situation, and how millions in India and billions worldwide are forced to live everyday. Powerless is an extraordinary documentary feature that is definitely worth watching even if there is yet to be a happy ending for the inhabitants of Kanpur.