About the Film

A cat-and-mouse game of electricity theft unfolds in Kanpur, India, a city that once prided itself as “the Manchester of the East” for its many factories, but now many of its three million people cannot afford their power bills. Desperate times call for desperate measures and that means outlaw electricians like Loha Singh risk life and limb to connect the disconnected. MORE

Loha seems to have the magic talent to decipher and handle the tangled sea of live wires but this is dangerous business involving potentially explosive transformers.

He has to literally hold his breath at times to protect himself from electrocution. A hero to many locals but a scourge to the power company, is Loha a modern day Robin Hood, or is he making matters worse by taking the law — and power — into his own hands?

To Loha and many other frustrated locals, the real enemy is Ritu Maheshwari, the first female chief of the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (KESCO). But she sees herself as on a mission to eliminate powerlessness. Electricity theft accounts for nearly 30 percent of all losses to KESCO, aggravating the crisis, and she has constituted a new task force to tackle the problem.

In Powerless, we see the power company’s attempts to disconnect the countless illegal connections that Loha and others like him have installed. And in truth, they agree on at least one thing: both point out that it isn’t just the poor, but also the rich who steal electricity. “How much can the government subsidize?" she asks.

With the hot Indian summer settling in and temperatures reaching 113 degrees, the electricity problem takes on crisis proportions, with dire implications on the citizen’s lives and livelihoods. Tensions mount as more and more of the city suffers through prolonged outages, as more people and businesses sit in darkness, while KESCO line workers fear for their physical safety due to the angry mobs surrounding them.

One business owner says just having 24 straight hours of electricity, something we take for granted in the USA, would make his business flourish. Powerless provides no easy answers, but is a tense portrayal of a once-thriving city on the brink of chaos.


The Filmmakers

Fahad Mustafa, Director/Producer

Headshot of Powerless filmmaker Farhad Mustafa.Fahad Mustafa was born in Kanpur, grew up in the Middle East, and has lived, studied, and worked in India, Europe, and North America. Fahad has previously worked as a freelance writer on energy and development issues in India. Mustafa’s first feature-length documentary was FC Chechnya. He lives in New Delhi, India.

Deepti Kakkar, Director/Producer

Headshot of Powerless filmmaker Deepti Kakkar.Deepti Kakkar has worked in the field of social development and sustainable livelihood in India and Vienna. She has previously directed a film on microfinance in India, and worked on story development and as production manager on FC Chechnya. Kakkar lives in Ghaziabad, India. LESS

Film Credits

A Film by
Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa

Story and Concept
Fahad Mustafa

Produced by
Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa

Cinematography by
Amith Surendran
Maria Trieb-Eliaz
Fahad Mustafa

Edited by
Maria Trieb-Eliaz
Namrata Rao

Music by
Amit Kilam and Rahul Ram
Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum

Assistant Director
Jamal “Faizy” Mustafa

Production Manager
Ahsan Iqbal

Associate Producer
Leopold Koegler

Sound Recording
Vishakha Bokil
K. Sivadas
Rajendra Prasad
Ashwin Dhuri

Sound Design
Kunal Sharma
Allwyn Rego

Additional Cinematography by
Anchit Thukral

Production Assistant
Abdullah Ali

Editors’ Assistants
Deepak Mahajan
Nitesh Bhatia
Alexander Rausch

Background Score
Gingger Shankar

Recording Engineers
Aamir Shaikh
Shahid Hasan
Sayan Chakroborty

Supervising Sound Editor
Faisal Majeed
Sushant Amin

Sound Mixing Engineer
Sinoy Joseph

Foley Sound
Just Foley

ADR Studio
Orangsham Sound Studio

Egon Johann Vencour

DI Colorist
Makarand Surte

DI Line Producer
Faiz Syed

VFX Supervisor
Rajeev Rajasekharan

VFX Line Producer
Shilpan Vyas Tinu

Motion Graphics
Nilesh R. Dubey

Matte Painting
Chandrakant Shenoy

Archival / News Footage Provided by
Living Media India Ltd.
Asian News International (ANI)


Composed and Performed by Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam
Lyrics by Varun Grover

“Ghayal Hirania”
Composed and Performed by Fareeduddin Ayaz Qawwal
Backup Vocals by Moiz Uddin Haydar, Gayoor Ahmad Al Hasani

Special Thanks
Asjad Ahmad
Ann-Marie Aiello
Pinar Dagdevir
Noam Eliaz
Neda Fareen
Markus Gatschnegg
Sujoy Ghosh
Carmen Gruber
Christoph Heinzel
Soni Iqbal
Deep Kalra
Karan Kalra and Supriya Rai
Nanhi Khala
Sunil Kalra
Anjoo and Rajesh Kakkar
Samant Veer Kakkar
The Kögler Family
Miriam Chandy Menacherry
Mica Middleman
Jean Carlos Pelicano
Nicholas Trieb and Itziar Arbesu
Shivam Vij
Alexander “Ziggy” White
And to the people of Kanpur

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Funding Provided by
Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund
Chicken and Egg Pictures
IDFA Bertha Fund
Göteborg International Film Festival Fund
Asian Cinema Fund
Erasmus Mundus Global Studies Program, University of Vienna
Erasmus Mundus Students and Alumni Association
The Alter-Cine Foundation
Ögussa GmbH

Powerless is a co-production of Globalistan Films Private Limited and ITVS International

This program was produced by Globalistan Films Private Limited, which is solely responsible for its content

© 2013 Globalistan Films Private Limited
All Rights Reserved

What, if any, repercussions are there when people try to take things into their own hands? What are some of the problems you'd like to solve in your own community? What would you do if you only had electricity for a certain number of hours a day? What technologies are you most dependent upon?
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What, if any, repercussions are there when people try to take things into their own hands? What are some of the problems you'd like to solve in your own community? What would you do if you only had electricity for a certain number of hours a day? What technologies are you most dependent upon?