If there's one director duo in India who have consistently pushed the envelope, it has to be Raj & DK. They've written, directed and produced original stories since their entry into the world of cinema in 2010. From a riveting drama like Shor in the City and the wonderfully bizarre zombie comedy Go Goa Gone, to the unanimously loved web series The Family Man, we can always rely on them for rolling out prodigious content.
Their latest offering, as producers, is the Telugu dramedy Cinema Bandi, a story of Veerababu (Vikas Vasishta), an autorickshaw driver who finds a professional and expensive camera in his auto. Veera, an amiable and ambitious chap, decides to reach out to a friend and small-time wedding photographer, Gana (Sandeep Varanasi), for assistance and plans to sell/rent the camera. However, things take a sharp turn when he comes across a TV programme about cost-effective indie films. After this he becomes adamant about making a film and thus begins Cinema Bandi.
Written and directed by Praveen Kandregula, Cinema Bandi is an ode to filmmaking and a celebration of cinema. The film smartly touches on themes of irony, haves versus have nots, and aspirations. What also works in the film's favour is the peppy background score composed by Satyavolu Sirish, which instantly transports you to the little nooks and crannies of this tiny village in Andhra.
Much like the rest of the country, the residents of Gollapalli village too are obsessed with cinema. At one point, a character gets fixated on finalising his screen name even before beginning the shoot, while another person finds it hard to decide if he should go with a hairstyle like Allu Arjun or Ram Charan.
Another aspect that stands out is the female characters. Cinema Bandi gives us fierce and meticulously crafted women. We get a wife trying to pitch in money for her husband's dream, a badass vegetable seller who calls out people's bullshit, and a young woman actively seeking something personal that she has lost.
It is one of the few instances of a movie where practically every cast member is spot-on and praiseworthy. From their mannerisms to their dialect, every emotion portrayed feels natural and rooted. Moreover, there are some exceedingly alluring shots of the village with young boys playing together, women carrying water on their heads in groups, and men carrying cattle that make the world feel lived in and corporeal. Cinematographer Apoorva Shaligram and editor Girijala Raviteja have a stronghold on their craft that is evident from the way they choose to hold and structure certain shots.
While the gags do get repetitive halfway through the movie, there is enough meat in Cinema Bandi to keep you hooked. The carefully timed screenplay is packed with humour and has been crafted beautifully. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the theatres in the last act of this finely polished feature. From the big tub of popcorn to the intimate experience of laughing with everyone at the same precise moment, there's absolutely nothing like a community theatre experience.
Cinema Bandi is an endearing piece of work that you shouldn't miss. It's a potent film that deserves all the praise and appreciation it's receiving and is a testament to the fact that storytelling is what makes us smile during tough times and keeps us going. You'll surely fall in love with the beauty of tale-telling and the art of filmmaking all over again.
For all the world's a stage and all of us are filmmakers…at heart.