The World Before Her

“Extreme choices and attitudes confronting women in India are laid bare in Nisha Pahuja’s quietly shocking film, the Best Canadian Feature winner at Hot Docs 2012.
“On the one hand, there’s the extremely popular Miss India contest, which overnight can turn a dirt-poor girl into a superstar in this nation of one billion people. But just a handful of hopefuls get to try out, as we see in a beauty boot camp for 20 girls where sexism and degradation are commonplace and Botox and skin-bleaching are recommended. On the other hand, there are the fashion-averse teachers of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Hindu fundamentalism. They have their own boot camp indoctrination sessions designed to make women subservient to men, and also to preach hatred against Muslims and Christians. Both camps believe they’re creating the women of a new India, the world’s biggest democracy.
“India-born Torontonian Pahuja vividly illustrates her thematic dichotomy through portraits of two teenage girls from vastly different places and lives in India. Ruhi Singh is more than willing to put herself in the hands of unfeeling makeover artists if it improves her chances of becoming Miss India. Prachi Trivedi is Singh’s polar opposite, a Hindu fundamentalist who works and teaches at the Durga Vahini woman’s camp, where young girls are taught the discipline of martial arts and rifle handling and the indoctrination of protecting “Mother India” against Muslim and Christian influences.
“Pahuja is reportedly the first filmmaker allowed to film the Durga Vahini camp and its teachings. Pahuja never judges. She doesn’t need to, since her camera reveals all.”

- Toronto Star

The World Before Her

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