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Friday, August 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 72.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Vanaja: Dance little sister
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In Vanaja, a 14-year-old girl (Mamatha Bhukya) tries to maneuver through India's caste system, only to discover that it's a maze with no exits. The daughter of an alcoholic widower, Vanaja gets herself attached to a prominent household, where she trains in the classic art of Kuchipudi dance while tending to the chickens. And she's a scrappy kid, ready to exploit every angle that opportunity sends her way. But when the young lord of the manor (Karan Singh) returns home, she soon learns just how limited her options are. Directed by Rajnesh Domalpalli as part of his master's thesis in Columbia University's film department, Vanaja is surprisingly well done, especially given its use of nonprofessional actors. And it somehow manages to hold out the hope that, with her dream of being a great dancer intact, Vanaja still has a few moves left in her.

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