Cinema Bandi When R K Narayan Meets Vittorio De Sica
Cinema Bandi(Telugu, Netflix)
Produced by Raj –DK; Directed by Praveen Kandregula
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.