Vanaja is fifteen, beautiful and far too impulsive for her own good. In a seaside village in India's Andhra Pradesh state, trouble will find a girl like this and Vanaja meets trouble halfway. Ambitious to a fault, Vanaja talks her way into the household of Mrs. Rama Devi, the landlady who rules over the entire village. Rama Devi is a past master of kuchipudi, a South Indian narrative dance usually reserved for highcaste Brahmins. Despite her social position, Vanaja is desperate to learn. She insinuates herself into the mistress's favor, but is undone when Shekhar returns to the household. He is the mistress's son, and reckless when it comes to women. He takes advantage of Vanaja, leaving her pregnant. But Rama Devi is grooming her son for political office and will not abide a child born out of wedlock to a low-caste village girl. … More
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Critic Reviews for Vanaja
Bhukya delivers an entrancing and natural performance, deftly balancing both the wide-eyed childishness of a young girl with the dawning awareness of life's darker possibilities.
Vanaja is a timeless story of dignity maintained against all odds.
This is heart-wrenching Indian drama in the vein of Deepa Mehta's recent Water, again dealing with a young girl trying to find her self-worth in the midst of a repressive caste system and physical abuse.
It's not easy to make a very sad movie that doesn't make you want to jump out a window when it's over. Vanaja pulls this off.
Vanaja, a beautiful and heart-touching film from India, represents a miracle of casting. Every role, including the challenging central role of a low-caste 14-year-old girl, is cast perfectly and played flawlessly.
Rajnesh Domalpalli made this poignant 2006 drama as his thesis film for a master's degree at Columbia University, yet its technique and development of character and theme are far more accomplished than those of most student films.
A wondrous piece of filmmaking and a sensitive, engaging movie from a first-time filmmaker working on a shoestring budget with a cast of nonactors.
There's loads of atmosphere and charm to this tale, but little that seems compelling or heartfelt to the drama, which in contrast feels sketchy and contrived, without a clear sense of character beyond conceptualized stick figures.
Stunning portrait of caste oppression in South India, as well as the struggle of a young woman from the lower caste's to elevate herself through dance.
[The film] shows, through Bhukya's heartbreaking performance, the difficulties faced by those trying to bust through the layers of class oppression.
A large chunk of the film's success rests on the shoulders of its young star, Mamatha Bhukya.
Written and directed by Rajnesh Domalpalli as his graduate thesis at Columbia University, Vanaja is an engaging and shocking look at class, gender roles and sexuality in rural India.
I wish that I could also highlight the film as the best thesis film I saw in 2007, but with Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep re-released earlier this year, Vanaja unfortunately has to settle for second place.
[Domalpalli] adds to the glory of contemporary Indian cinema, indeed all cinema, with the humanity of his vision, healthily unbridled sensuality and fluid technique.
Simultaneously resigned, frustrated, cautiously hopeful, angry and ravishingly beautiful, this story of an impoverished country girl who tries to better herself through Indian classical dance is a stunning debut for writer-director Rajnesh Domalpalli.
Audience Reviews for Vanaja
Many Bollywood films are obsessed with material dreams, often depicting how a lower caste/class girl can find romance and fortune within the security of the lighter-skinned wealthy castes. This superb production undoes such a stereotype. Material ambitions can only prove devastating to a dark-skinned 15 year-old adolescent who wishes to exceed her fate, although all long within her soul there remains, as well, a sense of grace. Vanaja is directed with restraint by Rajnesh Domalpalli. It is an illuminating Hindi film and a credit to the fine arts program at Columbia University, which sponsored this project.More
A heartrending story plot that centralizes on a young fifteen year old girl who dreams of becoming a dancer someday. In order to provide, and pay her father's debt, Vanaja works in the home of Rama Devi. It is there that she helps with the household chores, and takes dancing lessons. Soon after, Rama Devi's son Shekhar returns. Headstrong and outspoken, Vanaja suffers a horrific deal that ultimately changes her life.
Mamatha Bhukya, Urmila Dammannagari, Karan Singh, and Ramachandriah Marikanti stars. Worthy!
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