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The World Before Her


Through dramatic vérité 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 Miss India beauty pageant crown and the forces that oppose them. Hindu fundamentalists view pageants as immoral and a symbol of the rapid Westernization of India; protests are common. 

As the contestants move through beauty boot camp, filmmaker Nisha 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. 

Moving between 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.


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The Filmmakers

Nisha Pahuja Director & Producer

Nisha Pahuja is Academy Award and Emmy-nominated filmmaker based in Toronto. Her latest film, To Kill a Tiger, had its world premiere at TIFF where it won the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film. Since then, it’s won 27 awards including Best Documentary Feature, Palm Springs International Film Festival and three Canadian Screen awards. The film grew out of a long career of addressing various human rights issues, notably violence against women in India. In 2015, she won the Amnesty International media award for Canadian journalism after making a short film about the Delhi bus gang rape for Global News. Pahuja’s other past credits include the multi-award-winning The World Before Her (2012 Best Documentary Feature, Jury Award Winner, Tribeca Film Festival; Best Canadian Documentary, Hot Docs; TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten; Best Documentary nominee, Canadian Screen Awards, the series Diamond Road (2008 Gemini Award for Best Documentary Series) and Bollywood Bound (2002 Gemini Award nominee).

Festivals & Awards

Tribeca Film Festival


Winner - Best Documentary Feature

Hot Docs International Film Festival


Winner - Best Canadian Feature

Winner - Top 10 Audience Favorite

Toronto International Film Festival


Canada's Top Ten 

Traverse City Film Festival


Winner - Best Foreign Film

News & Documentary Emmy


Nominee - Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story - Long Form


Beautiful and poignant.”

-Filmmaker Magazine

Nisha Pahuja’s documentary turns out to be a thought-provoking film that examines women’s limited choices in a patriarchal country reeling from the contradictions of rapid modernization.”

-The Globe and Mail

Pahuja's talent for juxtaposition is uncommon … THE WORLD BEFORE HER is one of the best documentaries on femininity and culture in years.”

-Sound on Sight

In Nisha Pahuja’s brilliant study of women’s choices in modern India, two vastly different movements claim to promote female empowerment…. Don't miss it.”

-NOW Magazine

Extreme choices and attitudes confronting women in India are laid bare in Nisha Pahuja’s quietly shocking film.”

-Toronto Star