Veera, a rickshaw driver in the village of Gollapalli finds a professional camera that had been accidentally left by someone in his autorickshaw. Initially, he plans to rent the camera but when he watches a programme on television talking about the fame of indie films, he decides to set out and make a film of his own.
His attempt leads him to take help from a wedding photographer as cinematographer, a random old man as his writer, a barber as his hero, a vegetable vendor as his heroine and a kid as his continuity assistant/assistant director. Veera's journey reminds me a lot of Harishchandrachi Factory and Phalke's efforts to convince people that he is making a film and ensure that they support him and participate in his process. It is interesting to note that their experiences are similar yet unique. In Cinema Bandi, it was so interesting to watch them come up with creative ideas, like using the rickshaw for good lighting or trolley shots or using a cart for elevation. This reminds me of Supermen of Malegaon, a story about how villagers create spoofs of Bollywood and, now with Superman, Hollywood movies in indigenous ways with their limited resources to ensure a source of entertainment to the village in their video parlours. In its trailer, they describe it as going to war without weapons but still winning it because they have a will. In fact, many movies in Africa also are been made in a low-budget and indigenous manner; it's a whole wave over there. Thus, with Cinema Bandi, we see a fresh change.
The reasons people will connect to this movie are many. The message of film says that everyone is a filmmaker at heart. Everyone is connected through cinema. It is good cinema that makes a non-Telugu speaker like me watch the movie and appreciate the creation. Cinema binds us together. However, it is the simplicity and the thoughts that endeared it to me the most. Veera has a great thought process: he thinks that not every villager should migrate to the city because there will be no one to look after the village, and the city depends on the village for agricultural produce. His ambition to change things and bring development in his village is so inspirational. The ambition and drive that he has are what connected me the most to him.
The moralistic ideas that Veera and people from the village hold seem universal. The beliefs that they have seem to be something that we have all had in our minds. All of us constantly remind ourselves that we cannot rely on anybody to solve our problems but ourselves, that hard work pays off and team efforts make tasks easier. In fact, when Veera hits a rough patch, his wife tries to comfort him by saying 'not everything is in our hands'. Haven't we all at some point in our lives used this as a way to let go of our misery? We do notice this common link between all of us through the story itself: when Veera realises that the original owner of camera had put in a lot of efforts to buy it, he decides that he will return it once their film is made. When the owner realises how much effort the villagers had put in to make the film, she decides to edit it, hold a premiere and continue to help them. Humans acknowledge genuine efforts. The common thing between the villagers and the owner of the camera is that they both are valuing it because it can change things for them. However, I think the camera is a symbol of opportunity. Humans are always craving opportunities and they value them the most. This is what makes the film so real and universal.
The film has taken realism to another level because the actors are common-looking people making a film in an actual village. The language is so endearing to listen to. It shows the genuine joy of people, like kids dancing along with the cameraman, or the joy of people learning dance steps, or when the villagers cry and laugh watching the rather simple and even unprofessional movie that Veera and the team made. The cinematography is very well done and the scenic shots were so beautiful. The writing and editing are very crisp. The humour is subtle but very effective. Scenes like the wedding photographer's obsession with the Titanic pose or when they realise that the most important person on set is a child or them starting to dance whenever they expect rain were fun to watch. The ending had me in splits. The music is beautiful and sounds amazing. The acting is refined, impactful and based in realism.
Cinema Bandi is the story of every person who has ever had the ability to dream big and lived with that dream day and night.