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 dance of <I>kuchipudi</I> - a ritual practiced by temple dancers and prostitutes. Rama Devi accepts Vanaja as a protege, but trouble brews when the matron's son, Shekhar (Karan Singh), enters the home and casts his eyes on the new pupil - trouble that threatens to rob Vanaja of her new position within Rama Devi's house and her honor in the eyes of the village, while forever stealing her innocence.
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