The World Before Her

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The World Before Her
Release date: June 6, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Nisha Pahuja
Cast: Prachi Trivedi, Ruhi Singh, Pooja Chopra, Ankita Shorey, Marc Robinson

In two juxtaposing small towns of Jaipur and Aurangabad, two contradicting mindsets reside. Both of them are against the grain of the usual ones in their respective localities. The first is that of Durga Vahini‘s resident member, Prachi Trivedi’s anti-marriage, pro Hindutva, a  24 year old woman from Aurangabad. The other is of a beauty pageant aspirant from Jaipur, 19 year old Ruhi Singh. The two ladies, aren’t the only central interviewees in this documentary though.

Raised by a somewhat encouraging yet strong-willed set of parents, both these ladies grow up to have their own dreams to fulfill in their own worlds. Their worlds may be different, but they aren’t mutually exclusive from each other. And the ironic connection at each step is what forms for entertaining dark humor and thought-provoking sensitive questions. Prachi doesn’t like ‘weak’ girls, so much that she would bash their heads if she could. She also admits that the authority that she has makes her feel empowered and she likes people to fear her. The same taskmistress finds a mellow and softer attitude at her patriarchal house. You can see her become the proverbial ‘daddy’s little girl’ with the look in her eyes when her priest father talks about her future.

Ruhi’s parents believe that their daughter will not be able to live up to the lifestyle that she wants to in Jaipur. They send her to Mumbai to participate in the Miss India contest. Soon parallels keep emerging between the painful, yet pretty grilling practice sessions of the vanity fare and the tough love mixed with some healthy dose of brainwashing at the severely right wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad‘s Durga Vahini camp. Along the narrative, more young women are introduced. At the camp in Aurangabad, there is Chinmayee, a fourteen year old girl with a sweet voice and a naive mind with her own small story, then there’s Ankita Shorey at the pageant with her own rebellious tale.

Nisha Pahuja keeps filling in the blanks with shocking and amazing points of dichotomy between the two systems and keeps exploring the apparent hardened outward manifestation of the ladies under the gaze of the camera. There are vulnerable moments of each of these women, and a conscious attempt to put up a stoic front. These are real people, and I am sure you wouldn’t want your insecurities to paint you in a bad light. Technically, the transitions are substantial and the barely there background score strings together the entire screenplay through its various back and forths. Pahuja doesn’t stop with her questions and her insights never get vague or bring a sense of commonality.

The World Before Her doesn’t preach, it rather tries providing facts. It shows the disparities between the two worlds, and the similarities. It doesn’t wield an outright black over the right wing ideology and not a pure white over the ‘westernized’ concepts of beauty. Neither of them is holier than the other, and yet it’s about the women in these systems and what they find their life’s purpose in. The questions stay consistently foraying, but the answers fill the bones with enormous amounts of flesh.

My rating: No rating. (Mandatory viewing)

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