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Ruhi Singh is a small town girl with big city dreams. She sets off to Bombay to win the title of Miss India--a launching pad to fame and a surefire way to stand out in a country of 1.2 billion people. Just hours from the Miss India beauty boot camp is another training ground for girls--that of the Durga Vahini, a Hindu nationalist group exclusively for women. Here we meet Prachi Trivedi, a young, fearsome drill sergeant training Indian girls to fight against Western culture, Islam and Christianity by any means necessary including violence. Gliding back and forth between the action of the two camps, the dreams and conflicts of India and young Indian women are laid bare-- the two opposing worlds aren't as far away from each other as they seem. Written by
"The World Before Her" (2012 release from India; 90 min.) is a documentary focusing on two women. As the movie opens, we get to meet Ruhi, a 19 yr. old who is in the final group of 20 young women competing for the title of Miss India 2011. The beauty contest boot camp will run for 30 days leading up to the pageant itself. Next we get to meet Prachi, a 24 yr. old who is a camp leader at Durga Vahini, a Hindu nationalistic training camp for women between the ages of 15 and 23. We also get to know the respective families of these young women.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, kudos to director Nisha Pahuja for bringing us these insights into Indian society, it was an eye-opener for me (I've never been in to India). Second, beware, the documentary contains some disturbing archive footage of Hindu extremists brutally attacking women for the heinous crime of being seen with a man or for being in a bar, or for simply being a woman. There is also some fairly shocking footage of the beauty pageant contestants getting botox injections and skin whitening treatments. Third, one can only imagine the pressure that weighs on girls and women in India. At one point Ruhi's mother describes how disappointed and let down she felt when giving birth and being told it was another girl. We should all be thankful for living in a country like the US where, compared to India, women are treated and live like queens.
I saw this movie at the 2014 International Women's Day festival held by the Cincinnati World Cinema, and the screening was PACKED I am happy to report. "The World Before Her" raises a lot of poignant questions, and is worth checking out, be it in the theater, on DVD or on Amazon Instant Video. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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