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Cinema Bandi Review: Of the Village, By the Village, For the Village

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The auto rickshaw is a great leveller. The opening credits of Cinema Bandi, directed by debutante Praveen Kandregula and written by Vasanth Maringanti, feature auto driver Veera (Vikas Vasistha) and the various passengers his vehicle ferries around the village and town. Someone is sleeping, some city yuppies are enthralled, someone is having lunch while riding (we see only the emptying box) and the villagers lug around all sort of items in his auto. They talk about the lack of electricity in the village, the draught and the villagers gradually moving to towns and cities leaving their old lives behind.

If the auto rickshaw can be a great leveller – carrying passengers across class and caste – so can be cinema and the love for it. Someone talks about watching the new popular star film for the fourth time and is worried about getting a ticket. One day Veera finds a bag in his auto as he parks it in front of his home and finds an expensive camera inside. He has only one friend to call – the village wedding photographer Ganapathi (Sandeep Varanasi) who will probably know how much the thing is worth. He does. He says the part extending out above the lens is used to wipe the sweat off the hands after taking one shot too many.

Cinema Bandi doesn’t expect you to laugh at the villagers’ innocence and neither does it patronise them. It tries to lend them some dignity instead, as people with dreams and aspirations. Veera’s idea is to make an independent film (he sees rushes of Pelli Choopulu and Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya on TV) with the camera and earn some money out of it. By the village and for the village. There is some exposition but there are also moments where a modest cinema crew of three – Veera the producer/director, Ganapathi the cinematographer and an old man, writer, relegated as the only member without a voice – is doing pre-production and casting. A woman they approach says she must go all the way to the town – 15 kms – at 2 am to get vegetables to sell in the village. As Veera and his wife argue about the idea, his wife drops a ladle in anger, which her daughter then picks up and taps at the camera battery that is charging – the only plug point at their home. There are no toys, but one must make do.

Cinema Bandi puts into perspective something we do online – look at badly produced and made films on YouTube by amateurs and make them an eternal laughingstock on the internet. If the film Veera is making ever finds its way on to such a platform, that’s how it would go down. But the film tries to tell us that these are real people with real love for the movies, they sincerely believe in the film they are making and that making this amateur film might just turn out to be fortunate for them and be the bridge to change – like the electricity, roads and water supply for the village. It asks us to cut them some slack, they are learning on the job – Veera realising the efforts of a producer and a production executive or how they figure out some of the shots in the film within the film are some of the standout moments. It becomes the democratic and collaborative process it should be, and today we’d probably see it only in this form.

Cinema Bandi is also an independent film. It doesn’t have great cinematic flourishes, the acting is passable, but it wants you to buy into the idea of Veera’s madcap idea. After a point, even his wife buys into it and starts working as a daily wage earner while he is making his film. Once you do that, everything falls into place – even the inherent goodness of the villagers is easy to see. And the most relatable aspect is of course cinema – not for nothing do they name their female lead Swarna Manjari – an NTR film with the eponymous role played by Anjali Devi. The original owner of the camera, the dichotomy of someone like her wanting to capture the village atmosphere in her film might be forced into the film but, hey, why not be self-reflexive while at it?

*****

The Cinema Bandi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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