On days when you feel low and everything seems blue, Cinema Bandi is a fascinating, feel good Telugu Comedy/Drama film that will instantly make you smile. Produced by the director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K, and directed by Praveen Kandregula, the film was recently released on Netflix.
Veerababu (played by Vikas Vasistha), the protagonist, is an auto rickshaw driver in a modest village. One day, he finds a very expensive camera accidentally left behind at the backseat of his auto by Sindhu (played by Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy), one of his passengers. It is for the first time that Veerababu encounters such a big, sophisticated camera in his life. He immediately calls his friend Ganapathi (played by Sandeep Varanasi), a wedding photographer to find out if the camera can be sold. Ganapathi is also not very familiar with a camera as expensive as this. Confused, the duo decide to rent the camera and earn consistent money instead. On the same day, Veerababu watches a television program on Indie filmmakers and how they earn a lot of money through films that operate on very small budgets. This makes him want to monetise the opportunity and he decides to shoot a film using this expensive camera.
Film making: A journey of shared dreams
As Veerababu begins his journey to make his own film with the help of his friend Ganapathi and the other villagers, he highlights many issues that are usually ignored or left out. The simplistic approach of Cinema Bandi in the way it executes even the most mundane scenes with attention to detail, makes the viewing experience extremely comforting. At one point in the film Veerababu says, “If everybody is going to migrate to cities, then who will stay back in the village to make things better?” Through his journey to make the film, Veerababu dreams about many things. He aspires to pay off the loan on his auto from the proceeds of the film. Along with his personal pursuit, he also dreams of bringing better facilities like water supply and electricity to his village.
The fact that he dreams and that his dreams are not just for himself is what makes Cinema Bandi endearing and warm. Veerababu is affirmative and determined, despite his limited resources.
Throughout the film, as Veerababu and Ganapathi are engrossed in aspects related to the story and camera, they forget to focus on other aspects like costumes and art. All of this is noticed by a small boy who watches them shoot everyday and attempts to constantly remind them of their mistakes despite being shooed away by the duo. Later on, when they realise their lapse of judgment, they appoint the boy to help them out. Cinema Bandi thus becomes a commentary on how film making as a process is that of collaboration and sharing dreams. It also breaks conventional ideas that are ageist and condescending. They are minimal, and make their point with a subtle honesty and a sense of protest.
Women in the film: The many layers of gender privilege
Cinema Bandi highlights that creativity is an innate calling, which cannot be limited by social status. But it also shows how gender privilege works as a restraining factor in expressing creativity. It feels obvious that the villagers without prior experience may not be able to make a great film in one go, but they all give it a shot. They start off with a script that an old man from the village gives them, a typical love story. There are no barriers so far because men enjoy the privilege to explore themselves. In the course of finding the lead heroine, they face quite a few roadblocks. They manage to narrow down on a school going girl Divya (played by Trishara), but her family does not approve of her acting in a film. She initially decides to abide by the mandates of her family because she does not want to come off as a girl who is disrespected in the village for her defiance of the elders of her house. But later on, she sneaks out to be a part of the film. Wrapped in situational humour, this part of the story brings out the patriarchal resistance to women expressing themselves through a medium like cinema.
Divya is soon replaced by Manga (played by Uma YG) out of necessity. Manga is a stark contrast to Divya. She earns her living by selling vegetables in the village market. She is strong, assertive, and extremely independent. When some villagers make fun of her during the course of the shooting, she shuts them off by soliciting support and criticizing them for their judgment. This also highlights how a woman’s agency strengthens when she is financially self reliant.
All through the film, the women are seen to be subverting social norms in their own ways. No two female characters are alike in the spectrum of the film, and that makes the story layered with all the conflicts and nuances of being women who belong to a rural landscape.
Cinema Bandi is an honestly narrated tale of dreams, hardships and barriers. It captures the kinds of hurdles people face to keep their lives and aspirations together. Sindhu, the character who leaves behind the camera in Veerababu’s auto bought it for herself from the savings of five years of her work. Though she is angry about her camera being used by him, eventually, she also pitches in because of the common realisation that everyone is just trying to materialise their dream.
The journeys may be different, but the end goal is always to do things we want to, in our own ways. This is the running narrative of the film and it ties it all together in a way that leaves the viewer smiling.
Featured Image Source: Indian Express