Vanaja

The highfalutin inspiration for Rajnesh Domalpalli's Columbia thesis project was a child's scream from Sophie's Choice, but what began as a rudimentary portrayal of parent-child separation took on sociological import as the director zeroed in on the harsh realities of India's caste system. Pity so little of this heft registers past the graceless fog of the movie's stilted thesping, overreaching directorial ambition, and unintentional comic pacing. Spunky young Vanaja (Mamatha Bhukya) ingratiates herself into the home of a local landlady, Rama Devi (Urmila Dammannagari), in the hopes of learning traditional Kuchipudi dance. Soon enough, Rama Devi's son rapes and impregnates the 14-year-old Vanaja, but the story's professed seriousness is squandered once the girl's face is framed for the umpteenth time next to a man's insinuating crotch. More or less superfluous, Bhukya's impeccable dancing skills at least offer a reprieve from the story's amateur show of social inquiry.

 
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