Filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s documentary, The World Before Her, has won rave reviews internationally but releasing it in India has been extremely difficult. However, Pahuja has now received support from several celebs, including the likes of Anurag Kashyap, Shimit Amin, Deepa Mehta, Lisa Ray and Nandita Das.
Camp Leader Prachi addresses a group of girls and (below) a backstage scene from the film
“It’s not easy to release a documentary in India because it is often perceived as the ‘poor cousin’ of feature films. To add to it, no one seems to have had the courage to support a film with potentially controversial content. That is why the support of the film fraternity — Anurag Kashyap, Shimit Amin, Deepa Mehta, Lisa Ray and Nandita Das — has been so critical. This is a film about India and for India; it should be shown here,” says Pahuja.
The World Before Her tells two stories: one of girls competing in a beauty pageant and another of women taking part in Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Durga Vahini camps. Pahuja admits that she is worried about the film running to trouble. She says, “But I need to point out that my film takes a balanced view and many VHP members have liked it. It is important for us to understand that self-appointed ‘guardians of culture’ can’t stifle the truth by hiding people from it.”
Her documentary is now being released by PVR on April 25 in six cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Pahuja adds that she has already managed to raise around 40 per cent of the funds needed. Apart from its theatrical release, the film will also be screened in villages, schools and colleges.
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who is presenting the film, says, “I love this film; it’s so powerful and says so much about what is going on today. We are not giving women enough choices in this country. We limit their freedom and ask them to play roles we have laid out for them. The women in this film go to such extreme lengths for freedom and this is what makes it a disturbing story. But at the same time, it’s an eye-opener.”