Arts Vanaja vs. Vanaja
posted by October 1 at 11:53 AMon
There was a mistake and two short reviews of Vanaja (mine and Lindy’s) were sent to the film editor, Annie Wagner.
Annie published Lindy’s review:
Fourteen-year-old Vanaja, the fisherman’s daughter, wants desperately to be a dancer—and it looks like she might get her wish, after sassing her way into a job at the rich landlady’s house. But plans are derailed when the landlady’s hot son, Shekar Babu, arrives from America, and youthful flirtation begets grown-up horrors. The sight of bendy, stompy, preternaturally graceful Kuchipudi dancing is worth the price of admission—but it’s Shekar Babu’s beautiful menace (“Sometimes I want to hurt you because… how should I explain? So that I can then protect you”) and Vanaja’s willowy resilience that give the film its heft.
And not my review:
As a work of art, Vanaja’s greatness has nothing to with its story but with the tension that exists between the way it looks and what it is about. Vanaja looks like a Hollywood film, but it’s about an Indian peasant. It looks expensive, but its subject is dirt poor. The amount of the money that went into the cinematography, lighting, and set design does not correspond with the simple life of the villagers, fisherman, and servants. Even the richest person in the film, a woman who teaches the poor girl magnificent dance moves, has a quality of life that does not match the quality of the filmmaking. But the direct conflict between the film’s look (First World) and its story (Third World) generates visual surprises that are more often successful than not. In this film, photographing a poor girl in a chicken coop is a big production.
I will say no more about this matter.