Berlin Int. Film Festival: Debut award for Vanaja, the dreams of a poor Indian fisherman's daughter Print E-mail


e-Paper Monday February 19 2007, Page 20


In 2006 the Berlinale introduced a new prize, the Best First Feature Award. Each year now, a three-member international jury will award the best debut film, considering films from the Competition, the Panorama, the Generation or the Forum programmes.
The prize is donated by the Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten (GWFF), a society for safeguarding film and television rights. As of 2007, the donator has doubled the endowment. The prize is now worth 50,000 euros and shared between the producer and the director of the awarded film. The winner will be announced during the official award ceremony in the Berlinale Palast.

Best First Feature Award 2007 

The members of the Jury for the Best First Feature Award,

Judy Counihan, Niki Karimi and Gerhard Meixner,  

bestow the award on: Vanaja by Rajnesh Domalpalli

India, USA, 2006, 111 min

Director: Rajnesh Domalpalli

Cast: Mamatha Bhukya, Urmila Dammannagari, Ramachandriah Marikanti, Krishnamma Gundimalla, Karan Singh

Section: Generation 14plus


 Friday February 23 2007

`Golden Bear hug' at Berlin

Non-resident Telugu's maiden film wins top award at film festival

K.V.S. Madhav

ON A HIGH: Rajnesh Domalpalle receiving the `Golden Bear' award for his film `Vanaja' at the Berlin Film Festival.

HYDERABAD: A non-resident Telugu who shuttles between Hyderabad and New York, Rajnesh Domalpalle, has won the coveted Golden Bear award at the 2007 edition of the Berlin Film Festival for his Telugu film `Vanaja'.

The film about a poor girl's passion for classical dance won the big prize in the Best First Feature Award category. "For any independent film to succeed, a 100 miracles need to happen and we are grateful it happened for us. I was shocked when the award was announced. To be appreciated by connoisseurs of cinema at Berlin was a real high."

The Chennai-born, IIT Chennai alumnus grew up in different districts of Andhra Pradesh thanks to his civil engineer father who worked on various dam sites, before heading for the Big Apple.

He worked in the IT Mecca of Silicon Valley before taking to film studies at Columbia University, New York in 2004. In fact, the script of `Vanaja' was his thesis for the Master's programme.

Love for writing
Rajnesh says his love for writing drew him into films and "writing is the greatest challenge in making a good film."

The film's making was a hard learning curve. It has no trained performers but first timers whom he roped by giving a newspaper ad for household helps!

"Telugu cinema is star-driven and my film needed real people not shampooed heroines in stilettos. The ploy was to have newcomers to make it as real as it can get."

He attributes the film's critical acclaim and completion amidst all odds to a crew that believed in making an independent film was `worth pouring lifeblood into, and a cast that was nervous yet raring to go. This sent us sailing'.

The film sailed far and wide, be it Berlin or Toronto, but not to the land of Telugus. "Making a film in this genre is hard and distribution even tougher. With no takers here, we plan to release it in the US this May and hopefully by the year-end here," says Rajnesh, a trained `Veena' player and Carnatic vocalist.

For now, he is soaking himself in the melody of acclaim his maiden venture has composed the world over awaiting it to reach the commonest of the commoners.