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Vanaja

Vanaja (2007)

tomatometer

79

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Critic Reviews: 14
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.

audience

83

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 1,778

My Rating

Movie Info

With the haunting adolescent drama Vanaja, Indian writer-director Rajnesh Domalpalli rewrites the oft-told tale of a young girl's journey into womanhood, by filtering its parameters through an indigenous Indian cultural lens and the concept of the caste system. The picture's title character is a fifteen-year-old girl living and coming of age in a seaside village in India. Vanaja's heart longs to enter the household of Rama Devi, under whose tutelage she can master the South Indian narrative

Mar 28, 2008

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All Critics (30) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (5) | DVD (2)

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.

October 5, 2007 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Vanaja is a timeless story of dignity maintained against all odds.

September 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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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.

September 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

September 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

September 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

September 14, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

October 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

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.

May 31, 2008 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze
NewsBlaze

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.

May 28, 2008 Full Review Source: rec.arts.movies.reviews
rec.arts.movies.reviews

[The film] shows, through Bhukya's heartbreaking performance, the difficulties faced by those trying to bust through the layers of class oppression.

November 30, 2007
Salt Lake Tribune

A large chunk of the film's success rests on the shoulders of its young star, Mamatha Bhukya.

October 4, 2007 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Blandly executed social drama of caste and social power.

September 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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.

September 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

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.

September 17, 2007 Full Review Source: Cinematical
Cinematical

[Domalpalli] adds to the glory of contemporary Indian cinema, indeed all cinema, with the humanity of his vision, healthily unbridled sensuality and fluid technique.

September 4, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

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.

August 31, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

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.
December 12, 2010
itsjustme2004

Super Reviewer

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!
October 29, 2010
iLeo
Leo L

Super Reviewer

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