Lights! Camera! Action!

Netflix’s Cinema Bandi is an endearing tale of an auto driver embarking on a movie-making journey

What does one need to make a movie? For starters, a renowned or acclaimed writer who can churn out a story – and not just any story, one which will be written keeping in mind the ‘success formula,’ the audience it is being catered to and so on.

Then comes a production house or producer who will finance/bankroll the project. A good actor, more so a star who can preferably deliver both a commercial and a critically acclaimed performance. A cast and crew. And last but not the least, a filmmaker and a camera.

Well, this is often the precedence with which the movie-making process in big film industries, like Bollywood, takes place. As they say, “content is king” – and thus a good story is what everyone seems to chase these days. And then what matters is the producer and the cast. Often, the filmmaker is merely a medium to make the movie, and his camera – the means.

But if we look at the basics – a camera and a director is enough to create a film. In short, the only thing one needs to make a film is a camera, the filmmaker and – indomitable passion, to make a movie.

Such a simplistic thought has been given voice by debutant director Praveen Kandregula, in his Telugu comedy drama, Cinema Bandi. It is an honest attempt to capture the innocence with which an autorickshaw driver Veera (Vikas Vasistha) embarks on a cinematic journey, a world with which he is not familiar with in the least.

After Veera, who resides in a remote village named Gollapally, gets hold of an expensive movie-making or shooting camera at the back seat of his auto, his life changes. We are soon frequented with his deplorable living conditions, with wife and one daughter – and a loan for his auto hovering over his head. Thus, the first thought that crosses his mind after finding the camera, is instinctively to churn out money out of it – either by renting or selling it off.

A still from Cinema Bandi

But instead, he aspires to hit a jackpot by making a movie, and dreams of making millions if the film becomes a superhit. Here, his best buddy Ganapathi (Sandeep Varanasi), a professional wedding photographer, fuels his dream further. He informs Veera that such cameras are used to shoot films for “Mahesh Babu and Prabhas.”

The duo, thereafter, embark on their filmmaking process. As amateurs, they falter at every stage. But what’s endearing to see is that they never give up. No matter the challenges – be it financial or otherwise – they steer clear of every obstacle and continue shooting the film.

As we witness these amateur humble villagers take up unique ways to make their vision a reality, a series of gags ensue. They chase people on streets to look for their “hero” and “heroine.” They use bullock carts to get that perfect “trolley shot” and what not.

They struggle to make ends meet while the film’s shoot progresses. The challenges they face are real, and more so because they are just a bunch of innocent villagers with no idea of the complexities that goes in the making of a movie.

Yet, what’s heartening to see is how even initially when some villagers did create a ruckus as the film’s shoot began – eventually they all come ahead to help the duo. It’s  like one big family, helping each other out and coming together to make one person’s dream come true.

As the film progresses, we – the audience – can sense the impending danger that lurks as the camera’s owner keeps searching for her possession. But what happens in the end, shall not be disclosed and one needs to see the film to find out.

The cast – be it the protagonist or the supporting actors – everyone has acted well, and it seems like they have blended perfectly with the environment the film offers. What’s also impressive is how the filmmaker has made use of the real villagers in many scenes – thereby giving the film the much-needed edge.

Cinema Bandi has an engaging narrative and it keeps us intrigued till the very end. Also, apart from depicting the naivety of the villagers, it also focuses on the challenges they face – be it electricity, roads or water. The cinematography of the film also manages to hit the right notes.

As the tagline of the film says, “everyone is a filmmaker…at heart,” one can definitely agree with these words after watching the film. Moreover, given the tough times we are in – such a heartwarming tale, depicting innocent vulnerability and unwavering spirit is indeed worth a watch.

(Cinema Bandi is streaming on Netflix)

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