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Vanaja is fifteen, beautiful and far too impulsive for her own good. In a seaside village in India's Andhra Pradesh state, trouble will find a girl like this and Vanaja meets trouble halfway. Ambitious to a fault, Vanaja talks her way into the household of Mrs. Rama Devi, the landlady who rules over the entire village.
Rama Devi is a past master of kuchipudi, a South Indian narrative dance usually reserved for highcaste Brahmins. Despite her social position, Vanaja is desperate to learn. She insinuates herself into the mistress's favor, but is undone when Shekhar returns to the household. He is the mistress's son, and reckless when it comes to women.
He takes advantage of Vanaja, leaving her pregnant. But Rama Devi is grooming her son for political office and will not abide a child born out of wedlock to a low-caste village girl.