Suresh was out running and I was watching the telugu movie Vanaja last sunday. I don’t understand Telugu very well but still ended watching it as it reminded me of Doordarshan regional movies, taking me down memory lane. On sundays,we used to religiously get ready , finishing lunch by 1:00PM, just in time to watch the news for deaf people( no, I am not deaf !:-) followed by the afternoon regional art movie, set in a dark backdrop and trying to understand with reference to the context.Be it Assamese, Bengali, Malayalam or Gujarati, we understood the movie without subtitles or rather we inferred what we wanted.. More about this in another blog.
Without getting distracted,let me talk about the movie Vanaja. It is a story of a beautiful 15 year old girl,Vanaja who is born into a low caste and joins as a servant in a rich household. She is a very perky,pretty,strong,resourceful and courageus girl. The mistress of the house likes her puckishness and hires her.Vanaja wants to learn dancing and achieves it by beating her mistress in a board game ,making her teach Vanaja both singing and dancing.Enters the son from USA who ill-treats Vanaja ,sexually assaulting her. Vanaja has nowhere to go , with a drunkard as a father .Also,her will to learn dancing makes her stay back. On learning about the assaults when Vanaja becomes pregnant,the mistress is torn between her love for her son and her affection towards her prodigy.In the end, Vanaja gives away her son to the father and leaves the village , believing the promises from the mistress to let her meet her child once he is grownup.Interestingly, the screen play is unusally frank in dealing with the sexual tension between Vanaja& Shekar(the son) and between Vanaja and the local postman.It is definitely not your regular love story and shows Vanaja as a strong-willed girl who fights against all odds.Having said that,the movie does not exactly end on a positive note either.
I was watching CNN the other day, watching Bristol Palin( Tina Fey’s daughter..Oops! Well, you know who I am talking about;-) talking about teenage pregnancies. For those who don’t know,she is Sarah Palin’s 19-year old daughter who gave birth to her son 4 months back.She has been chosen as the teen ambassador for Candie’s foundation to help against teenage pregnancies. America supposedly has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the industrialized world. Bristol talked about sex abstinence, saying that is the best way to avoid pregnancy. The teenage mothers in US get into it knowingly, atleast most of them.In India, our society doesn’t let us talk about this openly and this got me thinking. There could be so many Vanajas who are forced into sex and who keep quiet. They may not exactly end up in pregnancies but they are all subdued. If Vanaja had the choice of sex abstinence at such a tender age of 14, she would have definitely taken it and might have become a great dancer too.It is a big IF.