Vanaja ~ (India, 2006) ~ DVD

kuchipudiRajnesh Domalpalli’s story of a young girl pitted against all odds (poverty and the brutal caste system) is filmed with an all amateur cast, all of whom seem to take to it with an ease and natural flair that sometimes is missed with trained actors. Here, this approach is just what the doctor ordered.Young Vanaja wants to dance and she cleverly makes her way into the household of the landlady of the estate that the lower class is beholden to.

One thing leads to another, and through melodramatic twists and turns we’re with Vanaja all the way. But there’s enough humanism at work here to at least consider the other side of the coin. The system traps everyone within its grasp.

The movie does a credible job exposing India’s caste system, but the real joy of the film was the chance to watch extended Kuchipudi dance sequences. I’ve seen snatches of these traditional dances here and there over time, but have never been able see these extraordinary movements close-up before. Truly mesmerizing. The movie is worth it for these scenes alone.

♦♦♦

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