Vanaja is a 2006 Telugu-language drama film written and directed by Rajnesh Domalpalli on a story that constituted his Master of Fine Arts thesis at Columbia University. The film was made on a shoestring budget using a cast of non-professional first-timers for two and a half months.


Vanaja is the 15-year-old daughter of Somayya, a poor, low caste fisherman from rural Andhra Pradesh. Somayya struggles to support his family due to dwindling catches at sea and mounting debts. One day, Vanaja and her teenage friend Lacchi watch a theatrical performance by a former Kuchipudi (a native classical Indian dance form) great, Rama Devi. The sequence of events lead to a soothsayer predicting to Vanaja that she will be a great dancer. With permission from her father, she goes to work in the house of the local landlady Rama Devi with the hope of learning Kuchipudi. While she is employed as a farmhand, she is entrusted with tending the chickens. When she gets caught playfully chasing them, she lies to conceal her pranks. Her vivaciousness and spunk soon catch the landlady's eye. To keep her out of trouble, Rama Devi soon promotes her to a kitchen underhand where she meets Rama Devi's cook, the old, crusty, and extremely loyal Radhamma.