“Everyone’s a filmmaker at heart,” is the message of Cinema Bandi, Netflix‘s latest Telugu offering, which is a heartwarming love letter to filmmaking. By the end of its breezy 100-minute runtime, the film is successful in reiterating that cinema, like any art form, belongs to everyone.
Set in a nondescript village near the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border, the film begins with Veera, an autorickshaw driver, fortuitously getting hold of a high-end camera. Though the initial thought is to sell the camera and make a quick buck, Veera eventually decides to make a movie, inspired by stories of low-budget indie films making big money at the box-office.
Though the villagers, quintessential Telugus, are movie buffs who watch Mahesh Babu movies multiple times at the theatre and mimic their on-screen heroes in real life, they could not be any further away from the process of filmmaking itself. But that does not deter Veera, who when mocked instantly quips, “Why, can’t auto drivers make films?”
The local wedding photographer is Veera’s cinematographer, an elderly gentleman his ‘writer’, the barber, his hero, and the vegetable-seller, his heroine. Learning from their mistakes, where the characters hilariously end up dressed in different sets of clothes for the same scene, Veera’s team avails of the services of a young boy as well, who acts as the continuity supervisor. It takes some time, but eventually the entire village gets on board. The dream is to transform their village – new roads, uninterrupted power supply, etc. – through the success of their film.
Innovative techniques also come up, like using a cart for a tracking shot, and climbing on top of a coconut tree for an aerial shot. When a professional asks whether they have planned their shots, the cinematographer just replies, “I’ll show you my creativity.”
Though it is very clear that what the villagers are making is not technically-sound cinema, their creation begins taking the shape of a hyper-local community film that they can connect with. Their film is shot in real locations, the characters speak the local dialect, and the filmmakers even prune the script to do away with the poetic ‘sun and breeze’ portions, which they feel are unnecessary.
However, their film is not completely detached from the actual movies they watch. It still carries elements of the usual Telugu ‘masala’ film. For instance, while filming a scene, the leading lady herself goes head-on with goons and thrashes them, completely forgetting that she has to wait for the hero to rescue her.
When the film actually gets made, it is credited as a Gollapally village production. Though the film would have easily been laughed off as ‘cringe’ by those with elitist attitudes, the smiling faces with eyes glued to the screen suggest that what the villagers have is much more – their own slice of cinema.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.