A far cry from Bollywood’s theatrics and reminiscent of master Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Vanaja heralds the rise of a fresh new talent in Indian filmmaking, Rajnesh Domalpalli. A poor teenaged girl, Vanaja (played by the graceful and expressive Mamatha Bhukya, only 14 when the film was made) apprentices herself to a local wealthy landlady to learn the intricate Kuchipudi style of Indian classical dance, but soon finds herself stranded in a catastrophic predicament. Awash in vivid colors, heartfelt performances, and beautiful dancing, this remarkable first feature was shot on location in India’s Andhra Pradesh region using only local actors.