But news that the film won the festival's award for best documentary came as a shock.
"I had no idea," says Pahuja, in town to support the film at Hot Docs.
"I went to the awards presentation by myself. When they announced that I'd won, I jumped up and started hugging people in the audience who I didn't even know."
It's likely just the first of many props she'll be getting for her exceptional movie about two new and extreme identities for women in India: beauty pageant contestant and soldier in the Hindu fundamentalist militia.
Neither of these options is exactly appealing, and Pahuja knows it. One sequence at the Miss India pageant, in which the women's legs are judged while their heads are covered, was very dark, she said. And she almost had to stop shooting after one of the young fundamentalists assured her she was ready to kill Christians and Muslims.
But, she says, don't let these situations stereotype India.
"I know that people will watch the film and have strong reactions toward the men and the country. But it's important to look at this oppression of women in the context of struggle, which is universal. All of us have had to struggle."
And there are extremes in nations all over the world. In fact, Pahuja's most enlightening screening took place at the women's prison on Rikers Island in New York.
"One woman stood up and said, ‘You could have made this movie about any country.'"
This film, nevertheless, is definitely about India. "Yes, it's important that this is the reality. But it's a country that's evolving.
"Women are getting educated, supporting their families. There are artists, doctors, engineers, journalists, and there's a strong women's voice in India. All of that said, that contingent is snall and so is the number of women who have access to those resources.
Feminists are fighting to have 33 per cent of the seats in government represented by women. "Things will change. They always do."
The World Before Her screens May 2, 7 pm, at Isabel Bader; May 5, 9:30 pm, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox; May 6, 11 am, at Isabel Bader. See review and times here.