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The tragic beauty of "Vanaja"

Posted at 6:42 PM on March 20, 2008 by Euan Kerr

"Vanaja" which opens at the Parkway in Minneapolis this weekend is visually stunning and kind of hard on the heart too.

The story of a lower caste girl living in rural India, captures the way dusty poverty and opulent wealth live cheek by jowl in that part of the world, and how your birth can set your path for the rest of your life.

In a bid to improve her lot, and that of her father Vanaja begs for a job with the local matriarch known as 'the landlady.' The older woman agrees in part because Vanaja is a talented Kuchipudi dancer, who reminds the landlady of her own skills as a girl. Unfortunately Vanaja also attracts the attention of the landlady's adult son with tragic consequences.

"Vanaja," made as an MFA project, was nominated for best first film and best cinematography at this years Spirit Awards. It's an unsentimental film, but has moments of breathtaking beauty, particularly when Mamatha Bhukya dances.

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