Tales from an eternal gypsy who believes anything can happen

VIFF Review: The World Before Her

This energetic doc follows two young Indian women: a Hindu fundamentalist and a beauty pageant contestant. While each vies for her place in a male-dominated society, both are circumscribed by the very life-paths that claim to liberate them. Director Nisha Pahuja asks: What does the future hold?

I’ve always found the various threads that contribute to the complex and colorful tapestry that makes up Indian culture fascinating. Despite how modern and sophisticated India’s workforce has become, women are still battling for professional equality, whether it’s in India or abroad.

Nisha Pahuja chronicles the stories of two young women with completely opposite ideals, offering audiences a juxtaposed perspective of the modern Indian woman. On one hand, you have women competing for Miss India World. In many western cultures, pageants are looked at as flakey or shallow. Yet in India, this pageant title has the potential to launch some of these women into very successful careers. Most of the contestants interviewed for this film were educated, multilingual, astute, determined young women. Quite the contrast in comparison to many of the ‘pageant girls’ we see in the US and Canada.

On the other end of the spectrum you have a Hindu fundamentalist that confesses she has no interest in marriage or child rearing yet recognizes that this is her duty as a devout Hindu. Protecting the culture and customs of Hindu people — and Mother India — takes precedence over her own dreams and aspirations. What’s particularly disturbing in the film, is the footage of a these young girls proudly expressing their commitment to Hinduism while condemning other religions and committing to “kill anyone who threatens their way of life.”

Perhaps the most painful part of the film was when the mother of Miss India World 2009 shares her story of how she was given an ultimatum the moment her daughter was born. The family had been hoping for a boy, so she was encouraged to kill her own child. Instead, she walked out on her husband, sacrificing everything to save her daughter. This made me realize, more than ever,  how much we take our freedom of choice for granted.

The World Before Her screens again on October 11. Tickets are still available at www.viff.org.

2 Responses to “VIFF Review: The World Before Her”

  1. turbojerko

    Huh? First of all women are frowned upon for wearing shorts or a T-shirt. I wonder how the padgent gets anybody interested. Also look at the resumes on the past few miss USA padgent winers. You will see they are no bimbos. I don’t know if you really know what your talking about..

    • Urban Cowgirl

      Speaking from experience – as I’m Canadian and participated in a pageant when I was 17 – I can tell you they mean something completely different in North America. In India, it’s a chance at a career and freedom. In the US and Canada it’s a sparkly crown and speaking engagements. But you’re right, there are tons of clever pageant girls in the US >> http://youtu.be/lj3iNxZ8Dww thanks for the comment!


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