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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmaker #29: Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar Shine a Light on India’s Social Issues in ‘Powerless’

Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmaker #29: Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar Shine a Light on India's Social Issues in 'Powerless'

Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar describe themselves as part time filmmakers and part time historians. The pair come from smalls towns with little access to electricity and therefore are personally connected to the story they share in their film, “Powerless.” They spent two and half years on the project amassing 250 hours of filming in 45
degrees Celsius heat and controlling crowds of over 300 people every time their
cameras came out.

What it’s about: A cop and robber tale about power shortage set in Kanpur, India – the
story unfurls in a summer of crisis, tracing a conflict as complex as
the web of wires over the city.

What else should audiences know?: “There are several great films about social issues in India, but they
travel between foreign broadcast and festivals and niche audiences at
home, and rarely get seen in the places where they have the potential to
engender change. We want to change that. Someone once described the film as the Bollywood documentary. We don’t
much care for the Bollywood tag, but we think that speaks of the time we
spent on making the film feel like a movie for audiences back home. It
has great music by Amit Kilam and Rahul Ram of the band Indian Ocean and
the brilliant Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum. It’s been put together by the best
technical talent in the Indian industry, who have poured so much soul
into it. “

On the challenges: “The next most difficult thing was to get the electricity company to
trust us and work with us. Afraid of what we may be up to filming the
legendarily byzantine Indian officialdom, we were often accused of
peddling poverty-porn and airing the nations dirty laundry, while we
were trying to do justice to both sides of the story. It took a long
while to build mutual trust, but eventually we’ve managed to give you a
glimpse of the bureaucracy like never before, and to do justice to their
perspective. And then there were the chaotic and calamitous streets of Kanpur; a
central character who is actually a maniac (and a friend)… 250 words are
simply not enough! Thankfully we got the right support at crucial times and were able to chug along.”

What they hope audiences will walk away with: “We want them to take the ride and step off at one hour twenty minutes,
only to carry the film in their conversations to cafes, kitchens,
classrooms, drawing rooms, all over the world.  This is a film about a global challenge – energy poverty. While we were
at the Sundance Labs last fall, the power-cuts in lower Manhattan were
all over the news. Now take that and make it a year round phenomenon, as
common as your morning alarm. Oftentimes electricity is not simply a
matter of flicking a switch, and we’d like to start that conversation…”

Films that inspired them: “Tough to say but if we are to pick one film it would be Battle for
Algiers because of how the story of conflict in a city is narrated from
opposing perspectives. In general we wanted a dual approach that brings
together the fly-on-wall style of Fredrick Wiseman with a heavily
involved character-based approach.  And Loha models himself on the angry-young-man that Amitabh Bachchan
portrayed in his early films, which are the only films he watches, so I
guess some of that found reflection in the film.”

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.

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