The World Before Her
Alas, good intentions do not a first-rate documentary make. Despite solid cinematography, this examination of the options available to young Indian women comes off as shallow cinematic sociology.
Documentarian Nisha Pahuja tries to encapsulate the future of young women in her native India by comparing and contrasting an intensive month-long training period for the 20 finalists for the annual Miss India pageant with a recurring “training camp” for followers of a militant right-wing Hindu sect. Striking young women in the first group learn how to swivel their hips on a fashion runway, maintain eye contact when answering judges’ questions and build on what appears to be significant knowledge of makeup. Members of the second group practice calisthenics, learn how to use guns and listen to hours of thinly disguised hate messages about Muslim and Christians. Not surprisingly, the beauty queens emerge as precisely what they so strenuously insist they don’t want to be-beautiful airheads. Participants in the Hindu program are instructed to rejoice in their culture’s traditions - - which include lots of subservience and plenty of children…</p>
It’s not that the director makes these points badly-it’s just that they’re so obvious (and driven home so repeatedly) interest in them evaporates long before the movie’s relatively short (90 minute) running time.
The Verdict? A fleeting glimpse into the obvious.
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