After doing the fest rounds, Nisha Pahuja’s critically acclaimed documentary, ‘The World Before Her’ is all set to release on May 16th, 2014. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is presenting it and PVR Directors Rare is releasing the film. Moving between the worlds of a Durga Vahini training camp and the beauty boot camp of the Miss India Pageant, the film is a powerful story that could not have come at a better time. Some of us managed to watch the film earlier and we have put it in MFC’s Must Watch recco list. Click here to read our recco post on the film.
We are posting two clips from the film – one from the film, and one that did not make the cut. We also got Nisha to write on these two clips.
1. Pooja’s story
Director’s Note – I remember when Pooja told me the story of almost being killed at birth for being a girl..that moment became a turning point for me in terms of the focus of the film. I knew it had to be about the struggles that so many Indian women continue to face. It also changed the way I looked at Miss India–suddenly it was no longer passe or just simply derogatory..it was so much more complex. I had to ask myself “Given the Indian context, can I disregard my Western prejudices and see a beauty pageant as “empowering.” It’s something I still grapple with..
2. Tulsi’s story
Director’s Note – When I began the research in 2008, I was determined to find a young woman from a village who harboured dreams of becoming a Miss India. Somehow I did. Meet Tulsi – achingly lovely..a symbol of “aspiring India.” Tulsi’s story was incredible, she comes from a village in UP that got electricity in 2009, and that only intermittently. Her grandfather was a freedom fighter and and there was a temple that had been built in his honour. Tulsi’s mother did not want to get married but was forced to. So in an act of defiance on her wedding night she chopped off all her hair and began to dress like a man. Somehow she was accepted. She decided she would allow her daughter to do as she wished. When Tulsi told her parents she wanted to move to Bombay and pursue her Miss India dream, they sent her off with the money they had been saving for her dowry. The Miss India team never responded to her application or her pics and when I last saw her in 2010 she was having a hard time and it seemed clear to me that she was being exploited, but didn’t want to talk about it in too much detail. I still get the odd email from her but she never responds when I write her back. I had always wondered how her grandfather, who had fought for India’s freedom would feel about Tulsi’s dream of winning a beauty pageant. Was this the freedom he was prepared to die for?
The makers of the film are also running a kickstarter campaign with the goal of taking the film to a wider audience – schools, colleges, public screenings. Click here to read about their plan and do contribute if you want to support the initiative. The aim is to raise US$ 50,000 out of which they have already got $ 41,000. Now they have just a week left to achieve the target. So if you feel for it, do contribute generously. The film needs your support.