Telugu film ‘Vanaja’ housefull at Locarno fest

August 7th, 2011 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

Locarno (Switzerland), Aug 6 (IANS) After travelling to 32 film festivals, Telugu film “Vanaja”, a tale of a 15-year-old girl’s dream of becoming a world class Kuchipudi dancer, was screened here Saturday and went housefull. Director Rajneesh Domapalli says he may soon have it released in theatres in India.

“I made ‘Vanaja’ in 2005 as my master thesis at the Columbia University. My film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and in 2007 it won the best debut award at the Berlin Film Fest. I released the film in theatres in the US and South Africa and I will soon release it in India,” Domapalli told IANS.

Set in rural Andhra Pradesh of the 1960s, the film that explores the chasm that divides classes as a young girl struggles to come of age was screened in the Open Doors section at the ongoing 64th Locarno International Film Festival.

In the film, Vanaja (Mamatha Bhukya), daughter of a low caste fisherman who is struggling to make ends meet, goes to work in the house of the local landlady, Rama Devi (Urmila Dammannagari), in hopes of learning Kuchipudi dance while earning her keep.

How her dreams are left unfulfilled after the arrival of her employer’s son is told in a very subtle but effective manner by the director who says he isn’t trying to give any message through the film.

“I have woven the threads into the story - gender issue, caste system and clash of old and modern. My film also tells what happens when boundaries that should not be crossed are crossed,” said Domapalli who has made it with non-actors whom he handpicked from the middle class families.

“I took people from middle class families. They had acting training for one to two years. The lead didn’t know Kuchipudi dance and she had to learn it from scratch,” said the director who has managed to extract the best from his cast.

All the actors look natural on screen and their performances make it an interesting watch.

The director describes it as a low budget film and added: “For art house film making inroads in India takes going up against commercial establishments and quite a lot of money.”

His next will be “Avani”, but before making the film he will release it as a novel and use the money earned from its sales in the making of the movie.

“‘Avani’s’ screenplay is over and bits of novel have also been written. I am writing another novel on young adult fantasy that uses a 14-year-old as protagonist and is set across three worlds.”

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