The World Before Her, Indian Documentary film review, Johnson Thomas, Rating: * * * 1/2

The World Before Her(Hindi/English/Documentary) Rating: *  *  * ½ India is a contradiction, where ideas and thoughts both ancient and modern proliferate side-by-side. The representatives though are also emblematic of the inherent duality between conditioning and beliefs. This duality is best represented by the women of this country. Juxtaposing the Durga Vahini against the Miss India brigade, two strident ideologies belonging to opposing streams of thought. This illuminating documentary brings out the contradictions and bigotry inherent in both ideologies.
     
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 Documentary film review
Johnson Thomas
Raising Questions About conflicting Ideals
Film: The World Before Her
Director: Nisha Pahuja
Rating: *  *  * ½


India is a contradiction, where ideas and thoughts both ancient and modern proliferate side-by-side. The representatives of these conflicting ideologies are also emblematic of the inherent duality between conditioning and beliefs. As director  Nisha Pahuja ordains, this duality is best represented by the women of this country. In her documentary aptly monikered ‘The World before Her’ she juxtaposes the Durga Vahini against the Miss India brigade, two divergent ideologies belonging to opposing streams of thought which appear to come together in the complex, conflicting identities of the respective representatives of these belief systems.  In fact this illuminating documentary brings out the contradictions and bigotry inherent in both ideologies as also the sameness.

    
The narrative draws parallels between the Miss India beauty pageant and a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls run by the womens wing of the VHP, illuminating the opportunities for women in contemporary India. Both are fascinating worlds framed without prejudice. In one, Ruhi Singh is a small-town girl competing in Bombay to win the Miss India pageant—where one sees girls vying for the crown vocalizing their ideas of charity for a better India. On the other side,  Prachi Trivedi is a young, militant leader at a camp for girls run by the Durga Vahini- Here she preaches violent resistance to Western culture, Christianity, and Islam. The startling contrasts, the unsteady belief systems, the provocative nature of these divergent realities are all brought out without premeditated thought. Miss India Pooja Chopra’s confession of being a near victim of female infanticide, adds to the power of this documentary that allows the viewer full freedom in drawing his or her own inferences from what transpires on screen.

  
Prachi, an instructor, has long been nurtured in religion-stoked dogma and it was inevitable relly. Her father being a VHP functionary and mother among the leaders of the Durga Vahini. Ruhi, comes from a small town, has middle class parents and is given all the love and nurturing to pursue her own dreams. The parallel stories follow a linear, logical structure while taking us through the journey of the two diverse camps as the women in the centre gear up for the final crown. Both camps have disturbing warts which show up in the  telling. And in the end comes the realization that both Prachi and Ruchi are more alike than they are different. Both have individual pre-ordained goals and both are fighting to find a voice for their unfulfilled dreams. Pahuja manages to get some startling confessions from her subjects. Her editor David Kazala manages to  piece the parallel stories together superbly, while shaping a narrative that builds gradually into revelations that make you sit up and take notice. The distance maintained, allows for quiye rumination instead of militant reaction. It’s a chilling yet illuminating journey through mindsets and belief systems caught in a transition phase that warps all meaning!

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