[VoxSpace Selects] Review Of Netflix’s Cinema Bandi: An Acutely Well Observed Tribute To Cinema

Cinema Bandi – The Movies Being Machine That Generate Empathy

As I was watching Cinema Bandi, there was this quote from the great Roger Ebert that constantly popped into my head. He said, “The movies are like a machine that generates empathy”. I strongly believe in this sentiment and do believe that the people making this film feel the same way too. It is not only the act of watching a film and relating to the characters or story beats, but the very act of making a film needs people to work as a unit, together. It is the only art form that seems truly collaborative and communal in a way and this film portrays that idea in more ways than one as we will discuss further.

A Series Of Beautifully Orchestrated Co-Incidences…

Set in a village called Gollapally somewhere near the Andhra-Karnataka border, Cinema Bandi tells the story of an optimistic auto-driver, Veera Babu (Vikas Vasistha), and his tryst with cinema. One day after a busy day of work, Veera Babu finds a mysterious bag in the back of his auto with an expensive camera in it. Not knowing what to do with it, he gets advice from his trusty friend Ganapathi, a local photographer who does not seem very good at his job. Due to a series of epiphanies, Veera Babu comes to the conclusion that he wants to make a film and in the process become a millionaire. How this simple auto-driver goes against all odds to make his magnum Opus, with the help of the eclectic group of characters he calls a crew forms the rest of this whimsical heart-warming fairy tale of a film.

The Script Makes The Film…

 The script written by Vasanth Maringanti is perfectly understated but extremely relatable and recognizable. The characters are beautifully detailed with their own unique little quirks like the very loud but empathetic vegetable seller turned actress called Manga or the put-upon writer who is just an old man who never talks throughout the film and many more characters that I do not want to spoil here. One of my favorite touches to the film was the dialect they use. The characters talk a version of Telugu heavily influenced by Kannada, which is native to that area. This adds a certain quirky nature to the film and elevates the comedy to new heights.

A Collaboration That Fires On All Cylinders…

As I was talking about earlier, about how cinema is a truly collaborative art form. This film is a perfect example of that. The director Praveen Kandregula elevates this script by treating it with the sensitivity and grace that it demands. The cinematography by Apoorva Shaligram and Sagar Yvv feels very serene with a lot of handheld camerawork and natural lighting. The editing by Ravi Teja Girijala and Dharmendra Kakarala is extremely crisp and never misses a beat. The music by Sirish Satyavolu is absolutely pitch-perfect including a couple of earworms that I will be humming for the foreseeable future.

The debutant director manages to get all of his crew and cast to create a mood and tone that is extremely grounded yet magical and wonderous at times. The film effortlessly shifts from comedy to drama, while keeping the tone consistent and not jarring. He also manages to effortlessly weave in themes like community, love for cinema, pop culture’s effect on people, etc., while still telling an engrossing and emotional story. At a breezy 100 minutes, the film really flies by, leaving us wanting for more.

Casting Is Half The Job Done…

I read in an interview where the director was describing how casting is half the job done. This seems to be proven right by the results. Vikas Vasistha imbues Veera Babu with the perfect mix of nativity and emotional intelligence that makes his character very relatable. The rest of the cast is filled with relatively new actors who deliver some of the best performances in Telugu cinema I have seen in recent times. Especially, Uma Yaluvalli Gopalappa who plays the fiery Manga, and Sandeep Varanasi who plays Ganapathi really stand out.

If you like films like The Disaster Artist or Ed Wood that talk about the various virtues of cinema and the obsession that it can create for the people engulfed by its passion, this is an absolute must-watch for you. This is a very acutely observed mosaic of extremely human characters that come together as a community through cinema, what else do you need to lift your spirits in these trying times. I would like to conclude by thanking Raj & DK for producing this gem of a film and giving it the visibility that it deserves. Cinema Bandi is available to stream on NetFlix. 

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