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    The beauty myth
    This week, Nisha Pahuja’s well-travelled documentary film, The World Before Her, releases in India. The India-born Canadian filmmaker juxtaposes the diverse worlds of aspiring Miss India contestants and a militant Hindu nationalist camp with the Durga Vahini, through two diametrically different types of training camps. The film, which won the Best Documentary Award at the Tribeca Film Festival (2012), has won numerous other awards since. The principal Hindu character, Prachi Trivedi, is fascinating for her steadfast and almost brainwashed beliefs in the VHP and its doctrines. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ambitious Ruhi Singh from Jaipur who has her eyes set on winning the crown. Personally, I found the character of Ankita, who had studied in a Buddhist school in Ladakh but then rebelled by entering the vanity business, most fascinating. There is also a small interview with former Miss India Pooja Chopra and her mother. But overall, the film didn’t tell me anything new. The idea of the juxtaposition was interesting and Pahuja’s access to behind-the-scenes of the pageant and its boot camp were fascinating, but the Durga Vahini camp came across as very one-dimensional and the film left me unmoved this way or that.

    Ready to flaunt it
    Akshay Kumar steps into Vijay’s shoes in the Bollywood remake of Thuppakki. A R Murugadoss takes the helm to direct Holiday-A Soldier is Never Off Duty. Sonakshi Sinha slips on some boxing gloves to play opposite Kumar. What one might not see in Holiday is Sinha’s new svelte frame. As mentioned in this column before, she has been on a strict new fitness regime, which has helped her shave off many inches. Once known as a “voluptuous beauty”, Sinha is enjoying being described as “slim” and “statuesque”. Here’s a girl who claims that size does not matter to her. So what made her get on to the treadmill and pump those weights? It seems she felt her on-screen look was getting repetitive. A change in her appearance, she felt, would translate to a change of look in films. And once she made up her mind to do this, her “body just followed”, she says. “I love my new self,” she adds. The added benefit is that she can now experiment with many more fashion options. “A lot more wardrobe options have opened up and the areas I tried to camouflage earlier
    are now the ones I can flaunt,” she says, candidly.

    Lights shine for Bhatts
    The Bhatts — Mahesh, Mukesh and Vishesh — are delighted that Citylights, their small film with big aspirations has been declared a hit. Directed by Hansal Mehta, who recently won a National Award for Shahid, Citylights stars Rajkummar Rao as a Rajasthani villager who leaves behind a debt-ridden life and moves to Mumbai with his family. What follows is a sad and dramatic story. Rao has universally been praised for his performance and his ability to absorb a character completely. And while the chemistry between Rao and his on-screen wife, played by off-screen girlfriend Patralekhaa, is convincing enough, it’s his scenes with Manav Kaul — his senior at work, mentor and eventual nemesis — that’s truly gripping. The film was declared profitable after the first weekend, much to the relief of the Bhatts. But along with the success, the producers have had to deal with jibes about making a legitimate and credited remake as opposed to their previous reputation for blatantly ‘borrowing’ from international films. This accusation is currently being leveled at their nephew Mohit Suri whose film Ek Villain is said to be a lift of Korean film I Saw The Devil.

    -Udita Jhunjhunwala

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