‘Everyone is a filmmaker at heart’. Cinema Bandi’s themes resonate not only through its captivating characters but also through the group of inexperienced debutante team of cast and crew who made this gem.
Set in the small village of Gollapalli in Karnataka, Cinema Bandi follows Veera (Vikas Vasistha), an honest optimistic auto rickshaw driver who loves his village despite its issues. The village has power outages, hasn’t seen rain in months, Veera himself is in crippling debt, and much like most of the village, barely manages to keep his family afloat.
Things take a turn for him when one night, he finds an expensive camera in the back of his auto rickshaw. He turns to his trusty friend, Gana (Sandeep Varanasi), a supremely confident wedding photographer, in hopes of selling off the camera and settling his debt. Gana is awestruck by the camera and realises its worth. Together they plan to rent it out, instead of selling it.
However, Veera realises that they could make a lot more money by using the professional camera to shoot an actual film.
In their journey to make a movie together, the whole village gets involved; the local barber, Maridesh Babu (Rag Mayur), who fancies himself as a hero, his sharp no nonsense girlfriend and the local vegetable vendor, Manga (Uma YG), an old village elder as the writer who is described as being so famous that nobody knows him, Basha (Pujari Ram Charan), a ten year boy with a sharp eye as the assistant director.
Together Veera along with the entire village of Gollapalli set out to make a film that could change their lives.
Vikas Vasistha plays Veera, the auto rickshaw driver with big dreams . He lives life with a smile on his face despite the hardships he faces. Vikas is charming and likeable as Veera. He is the character through whom the audience watches the Gollapalli village.
Uma YG essays the role of Manga, whom Veera approaches to play the female lead in his film. Manga rebukes anyone and everyone who dares cross her path. She has a tough exterior but has a heart of gold. Uma is excellent as Manga and gives an outstanding comedic performance. Her presence lights up every scene she’s in.
Sandeep Varanasi plays Veera’s friend, Gana. He is a mediocre wedding photographer who takes great pride in his work. Varanasi does a fantastic job portraying Gana and manages to deliver some of the funniest lines in the film.
Sirivennela Yanamandhala plays Veera’s wife, Ganga. Yanamandhala and Vasistha have great chemistry together. Her relationship with Veera is the foundation of the film.
A lot of the extras and minor characters, like the writer of the film that the villagers are shooting, are played by the actual villagers of Gollapalli which brings a certain charm and authenticity to the film.
Cinema Bandi has been produced by Raj and DK, the duo who have made productions like Stree, Go Goa Gone, and Family Man. They expertly backed this film in which most of the cast and crew are newbies, but that does not come off as amateurish. The direction by Praveen Kandregula is precise.
The film primarily uses wide stable and mid handheld shots. The cinematography, framing, direction and editing contribute a lot to the humour in the film.
The dialogue in Cinema Bandi is usually organic and true to character. The characters themselves have been well written. The entire village of Gollapalli has a distinct personality.
The small scale, slice of life problems and much of the characteristics of main characters in the film make it feel like a spiritual successor to the iconic 1948 film, Bicycle Thieves. It has the mundanity of Bicycle Thieves, the heart of Disaster Artist (2017) and the atmosphere of the 2012 National Award winning film, Filmistaan. It also manages to comment on the workings of the film industry with surprising humour and subtlety.
The music in Cinema Bandi, composed by Sirish Satyavolu, is diverse and quite noticeable. The songs suit the scenes well and help bring out a lot of the emotion.
Cinema Bandi starts strong but starts to lose steam midway as the film breaks down into montages that are made of scenes that are loosely connected through the music. The film has far too many montages that drag on.
The dialogue, when comedic, is mostly naturalistic, but when dramatic is too over the top and expository. Cinema Bandi exploits the poverty of the characters far too much. Veera’s noble intentions seem far-fetched and his self righteousness is unnatural.
Cinema Bandi devolves into tropes with over the top music in the second half of the film as Veera goes on about the issues plaguing the village.
In today’s tough times Cinema Bandi provides a much needed respite. It has a terrific premise and endearing characters that make the perfect feel good film to watch right now.