is an award-winning Telugu film director
. His first directorial venture, Vanaja
, won several international awards including the Best First Feature
award at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival
Rajnesh Domalpalli, was born in Chennai
, Tamil Nadu
, and graduated with a Bachelors and Masters degree in electrical engineering
in 1984 and 1986 respectively. His family has moved to Hyderabad
, the capital of Andhra Pradesh
in South India
, where his parents live in retirement. During his Bachelors degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
, he used to write short stories, and one of the, The Dowry
, was twice selected for broadcast by BBC World Service
while he was in graduate school
. During schooling, he was introduced to south Indian classical music
, on the veena
, and followed this up with several years of training on the vocals
. He studied veena during his schooling at the IIT
from the wife of one of his Professors.
Foray into films
While he was working as a software engineer
in the Silicon Valley
, he decided to pursue filmmaking
in 2001, and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts
degree from Columbia University
in 2006. Without any prior experience in Arts, he was concerned that he would not be granted admission to the University, so he took pre-requisite courses ranging from art history
to design to acting to voice study.
The story of Vanaja was Domalpalli's project submission in his first semester at Columbia University in the Fall of 2001. The story was inspired by a child's scream at being separated from her mother in the film, Sophie's Choice. Over the next three semesters, however, it veered away from his original intent about mother-child separation, towards a study of what Domalpalli later described as, "elements of class distinction and conflict that continue to infuse our society and culture even today." He also said that the film was about "fading institutions of folk art, old buildings that are collapsing, things which we should be protecting - that are a part of our heritage." Referring to preservation of Indian culture and heritage, he said that he took the film to be an opportunity to emphasize the Indian folk arts.
Vanaja went on to win 24 international awards at major film festivals including the Best First Feature award at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival.. In 2008, it was also nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards: for Best First Feature and Best Cinematography.