The World Before Her

Is being a woman in the new India about beauty or war?

Directed by Nisha Pahuja

Two young women follow completely divergent paths in the new, modernising India. One wants to become Miss India, the other is a fierce Hindu Nationalist prepared to kill and die for her beliefs

Through dramatic verite action and unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, The World Before Her sweeps back the curtain to reveal the intimate stories of young women determined to win the crown and the forces that oppose them. Hindu fundamentalists view pageants and their “international” beauty standards as immoral and a symbol of the rapid Westernisation of India; protests are common.

Yet amid pageant dazzle and heated rhetoric, filmmaker Nisha Pahuja ensures the faces and voices of India’s young women remain front stage centre.

As the contestants move through beauty boot camp, Pahuja travels to another corner of India to visit an annual camp for young girls run by the Durgha Vahini, the women’s wing of the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn what it means to be good Hindu women and how to fight against Islam, Christianity and Western influences by any means necessary. The Indian government says these camps promote terrorism and is trying to ban them. Until now, they have never been filmed.

Moving between the transformative action at both camps and the characters’ private lives, The World Before Her creates a lively, provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment. These young women may represent opposing extremes but in their hearts they share a common dream: to help shape the future of India as she meets the world before her.


The World Before Her screened at London’s Frontline club on Tuesday 2 April 2013, and included a Q&A with the director.


RivetingNew York Times

A well-wrought thought-provoking documentary, a compelling portrayal of two highly motivated groups of women BBC News

A riveting, thoughtful profile Tribeca Film Festival

A definite must-watch Huffington Post

Beautiful and poignant Filmmaker Magazine

Vibrant, incisive, penetrating and supremely entertaining – all of this makes for one Lollapalooza of a movie! Greg Klymkiw

Shocking and eye opening Padma Lakshmi

Watch director Nisha Pahuja on BBC News

More press


Winner Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca Film Festival 2012
Winner World Jury Grand Prize for Best Foreign Film, Traverse City Film Festival 2012
Winner Best Documentary, Bryon Bay Film Festival 2013
Winner Best Feature, 0110 Digital Festival 2013