Autorickshaw driver Veera is nothing if not an optimist. When his passengers complain about power cuts and scanty water supply, Veera (Vikas Vasistha) says just you wait, it will get better, even as his vehicle clatters over a non-existent road.

A positive state of mind helps Veera dream of earning enough money to pay off his debts and benefit his village. His reckless side makes him decide to become a filmmaker after he finds a movie camera in his auto. After all, anybody can make films, right?

Veera recruits his wedding photographer friend Gana (Sandeep Varanasi) to shoot the no-budget, all-passion project. The plot of Veera’s film is based on the florid prose churned out by an elderly writer who is so famous that nobody really knows him, as Veera observes. The cast includes such local luminaries as the barber and his sharp-tongued girlfriend.

The movie about Veera’s movie often mirrors its anything-goes quality. The Telugu comedy Cinema Bandi has a winning set-up, oodles of heart and snarky humour, which compensate for the unstructured and rambling narrative and simplistic approach.

Directed by Praveen Kandregula and based on a story by Vasanth Maringati, the Netflix release pays tribute to the inspirational power of cinema, but doesn’t make the mistake of suggesting that Veera is Gollapally village’s Satyajit Ray.

Cinema Bandi (2021).

Instead, Cinema Bandi, which loosely means “Cinema Vehicle’’ and also refers to the mobile units that announce upcoming films in villages, celebrates the can-do spirit of enthusiastic amateurs. Operating purely on instinct and forced to improvise because of their incompetence, these unlikely filmmakers somehow manage to deliver the goods, just like the movie about their efforts.

Sometimes resembling Faiza Ahmed Khan’s documentary Supermen of Malegaon, about the Maharashtrian textile town’s homegrown film industry, and at other times echoing the caustic flavour of Raam Reddy’s Thithi, Cinema Bandi trundles along on the strength of sheer goodwill and charming performances.

The standout characters include the perpetually grouchy Gana, who has all the makings of a prima donna cinematographer, and the preening barber Maridesh (Rag Mayur). Maridesh’s scary girlfriend Manga, played beautifully by Uma YG, deserves a separate film about the tomato seller who is actually a thespian in the making.

Rag Mayur and Uma YG in Cinema Bandi. Courtesy D2R/Netflix.