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Cinema Bandi When R K Narayan Meets Vittorio De Sica



Cinema  Bandi(Telugu, Netflix)

Produced  by Raj –DK; Directed  by  Praveen Kandregula

Rating: ****

After I  finished  smiling and sobbing over this amazing  work of  pure  genius, I wanted  to  ask debutante  director  Praveen Kandregula.. Tumne filmmaking kahan se  ‘Sica’? 

Indeed there is  the artless charm  of Vittorio de Sica’s  Bicycle  Thieves  in the  way the characters seem unaware of  the world outside their  modest means. Look at Cinema Bandi as a long (really loooong)  delayed sequel to Bicycle Thieves, as far away from  it original habitat as humanly possible, from Italy to  idlee, so to speak.

This is debutant director Praveen Kandregula’s  ‘Camera Thieves’ , the  quasi-sequel to  Bicycle Thieves.As  far as  simple, lucid, warm,funny,  tender and gentle as  screenplays go, this one is  just what the Covid doctors prescribed. It  will induce all the aforementioned  feelings in you,  and then some more. 

More than  Vittorio de Sica, this is   the world of R K Narayan’s Malgudi Days where  every  one  of every age is inured am  frozen  in infinite  innocence.  There is  not a mean bone  in  any inhabitant  of the  soporific village of   Gollopalli, not even that tall long-haired  guy who tries initially  to be mean and scheming with our  camera-stealing  heroes who want to make their own film. But meanness is  not  in  the  DNA of this  wonderful ode of  innocence.

 So  let me introduce you  to Veera and Gana,  honest righteous hardworking  auto-driver and a photographer in a village where  the  most interesting  meeting point is a run-down kerchief-sized  barbar’s shop run by a pasty-faced young man who wants to be Mahesh Babu(played by Rag Mayur)  . He has already christened  himself  Maridesh Babu. And he is Veera and Gana’s  leading man.

Heroine is  a bit problematic. Veera and Gana  first settle on  a young school girl Divya(Trishara)   . But she lets them  down our burgeoning filmmakers in ways that I don’t want to reveal. She is replaced midway by a feisty vegetable-seller Manga played by  Uma Yaluvalli Gopalappa in  a role that any right-thinking actress(that eliminates nearly everyone in Bollywood) would give  her left arm to  play.Manga is  so entertaining  there could be a  film just about her.

 Or about the auto-driver Veera’s quietly supportive  wife(played  by Sirivennela Yanamandhala), At first she baulks at her husband’s wild  scheme to use  a sophisticated camera  left behind in his auto , to make  a film. Gradually she supports him, unconditionally, wordlessly.

Nearly every  character, big or small, changes by the end  of the film. So do we  the audience. When was the time we saw a film so stripped  of artifice and  posturing, so  simple heartfelt and  disarming?  The writing is sharp and  clear,  the  direction by  the debut Praveen Kandregula makes no  detours into  humbug .The narrative  cares deeply for these  unassuming diligent characters.

Stripped  of  fakery Cinema Bandi is a back-to-basics  film that will steal your heart and then melt it. It is  a unique experience  so charming and  personable, you want these people to come back in your lives again.A word about the performances—every newcomer from the two leads(Vikas Vasishta  and  Sandeep Varanasi) to the  little   curly haired  boy Basha(Ram Charan)  who teaches our amateur  filmmaker  a thing or two about continuity, is  a superstar.

 Take  a  bow, team Cinema Bandi. Hope to see  you very soon again.

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