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Old 06-11-2014, 07:28 PM
ashdoc ashdoc is offline
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Default Ashdoc's Bollywood movie review---The world before her

The modern Indian woman---the world is before her....

New career choices have opened up for her....

From being a lowly ticket checker in public transport bus in Bombay to being a CEO of a corporation , she can try to become what she is capable of....

But not all women have got this choice---some are still not allowed to work outside home , while others are not even allowed to show their face which is supposed to be covered...

So a film titled ' The world before her ' should show the contrast between the two Indias isn't it...??

But isn't showing a covered woman's life and contrasting with that of a woman who works in a plush office a little mundane ?? Who is going to watch such a boring movie ??

So the film goes the path of sensationalism---it shows the life of girls who work for a hindu women's fundamentalist organisation and contrasts it with the life of girls who participate in a beauty contest....

Now that is spectacular and fit for making a film---one path has the chance for showing violence or at least the potential for violence , and the other gives the chance for showcasing glamour and women's bodies....

These above two choices are supposed to be the choices for today's Indian women according to the film---either you follow modernity whose ultimate high is become a model sashaying on the ramp , or else ( if you don't follow modernity ) you will become a gun toting militant of a hindu fundamentalist organisation.....

And this is the image of India that has been shown by the film to international audiences , for the film has been extensively showcased in foreign film festivals and presumably lapped by the foreign crowd---Indian women who don't follow modernity become hate spewing terrorists whose goal is violence and mayhem . There is no middle path like doing a job at an office....

Problem is---I had heard and seen plenty of the beauty contest that the film shows ( the Miss India contest ) , but I had never heard of the hindu fundamentalist organisation that the film talks about---an organisation known as the Durga Vahini . The contrast between the Miss India contest ( which is something that is very famous thanks to television ) and Durga Vahini ( which I had never heard of before ) is too much---not because they represent two extreme forms of lifestyle , but because the film's makers were presenting a totally unknown fundamentalist organisation as something equal in popularity to a well known beauty contest....

While Miss India contest influences minds of women all across urban India , Durga Vahini will have to first make itself known before it starts to influence women in rural India....

That is the film's greatest hypocrisy---lying to foreign audiences that Durga Vahini has huge influence over women in India when actually few if any have even heard of it....

And Durga Vahini is supposed to be the ' Hindu taliban '.....

So what weapons is the ' Hindu taliban 'shown to be carrying in the film ?? Some antiquated rifles probably fit only for shooting balloons at the local fair !!

Of course , the difference between the Durga Vahini girls and the Miss India girls is plentifully brought out---the Durga Vahini girls are given lectures asking them to marry as early as possible , are told to maintain their good character , and not to dream of equality with men . They are given training in physical combat , and taught to hate muslims and christians . Their leader has a father who beats his daughter with a hot iron rod if she lies to him , and he does not believe that she should have a mind of her own .

On the other hand , the Miss India contestants wear revealing western clothes and their bodies are taken care off to enhance their beauty . Their lifestyle is glamorous and their behavior oozes sex appeal...
Some of them go on to win laurels in foreign lands and become famous .
Above all ,their parents are proud of their daughters' freedom to choose their paths and are shown to be large hearted and modern .

But is not the contrast between a beauty contestant and a ordinary Indian woman woman who is forced to cover her face more real and correct ?? For forcing women to sit at home covering their face is somewhat more common in India....

How many Indians send their daughters to Durga Vahini camps anyway ?? How many women get military style training to do physical combat ??
The answer to this question is---very few .
At the risk of repeating myself , I will say again---how many Indians have even heard of Durga Vahini ??

Then why does the film raise hell over an obscure group or indeed even give publicity to it ??

The answer to this question is elementary---the Durga Vahini is incapable of doing any harm to the film's makers , and demonising them does not carry any risk .

Since the Durga Vahini is being called ' Hindu taliban ' , it might be interesting to speculate if a film on the real taliban is made . Not only would such a film be banned due to huge protests by the real taliban's co religionists , but the taliban or some other terrorist group can retaliate to cause physical harm to the makers of the film . For the real taliban does not have the museum piece rifles of the Durga Vahini , but has real weapons like AK 47 , RDX filled explosives and hand grenades .

On the other hand , it is so so easy to make a film on the Durga Vahini---little risk of the film being banned , for it is not easy for the co religionists of the Durga Vahini to get their act together....

Their are some funny moments in the film---like the father of the leader of the Durga Vahini seeing the Miss India beauty contestants parade on TV and exclaiming " See these half naked contestants , is this our culture ??!!'' , while himself sitting half naked in front of camera . The audience genuinely laughed at this point....

Of course , the real taliban would have scoffed at the freedom given to the Durga Vahini girls---freedom to wear western clothes and go unveiled and with uncovered hair in public , freedom to ride horses and parade on streets without covering their faces or hair , freedom to see the half naked contestants of Miss India on TV ( wouldn't that pollute their minds ?? ) and comment upon them , freedom to breath the fresh air without the encumbrance of a veil....
Maybe the Durga Vahini girls should be sent to the REAL taliban to get real lessons in fundamentalism , I thought....
For their fundamentalism was the juvenile fundamentalism of beginners....
And for that very reason , I was less afraid of them than I would have been of Mullah Omar and his real taliban....

The film has some saucy real life shots---of Miss India contestants parading in bikinis , something that is done in closed doors , and honestly shows their discomfort at wearing bikinis . And them wearing makeshift veils !!---for at one shoot the judges only want to see and evaluate their legs with the rest of the body covered....

And the film has graphic shots of real life too--of the men's hindu fundamentalist organisation Ram sene attacking women in pubs in Mangalore .

But then why no real life shots of Durga Vahini women indulging in real violence ( not just training ) ?? Probably no such shots are available and the organisation may be just a paper tiger....

As I said , the film reeks of hypocrisy as it equalizes an unknown outfit like Durga Vahini ( even my knowledgeable friends had not heard of it ) with an infamous but widely known terrorist organisation like taliban and contrasts an obscure outfit ( Durga Vahini again ) with the popular Miss India contest .

The film is more of a documentary with interviews of the main protagonists , but those who have a yen for movies made with real life politics in mind will like this film . Particularly emotional is the interview with Miss India winner Pooja Chopra's mother about how she was forced to walk out of her house and raise Pooja alone by her in laws because she had given birth to a female child , and about how she promised her in laws that the female child will become famous one day....

Verdict : If you don't mind your country being shown as a land where women are killed at birth and you don't mind seeing shots of the few lucky girls who survived being thankful before camera that in such a land they were at least given a chance to live , and don't mind the impression created in foreign minds that India has the worst women's rights record of all places ( no , the film makers haven't heard of Saudi Arabia )---then you might even like the film.....
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