An American cartoonist, Alison Bechdel, came up with an interesting idea in her comic strip ‘Dykes to watch out for’ in 1985. Bechdel’s strip ran from 1983 to 2008 and is the longest running and most successful queer comic strip to date. This particular episode is called The Rule, and it lays down three basic rules that every film should adhere to: 1. Have at least two female characters who 2. Talk to each other 3. About something other than a man. This later came to be known as the Bechdel Test in cinema, and it was used to determine gender bias and proper gender representation in the media.
It is not as simple as it sounds – some of the most successful films fail the Bechdel Test. We decided to pick five Bollywood films that actually pass the test. Given the inherent chauvinism and misogyny in our films, this was no easy task – but here are the winners:
Film: Rang de Basanti
The film fulfills all three criteria. The two prominent female characters are Sue McKinley (Alice Patten), the British documentary film-maker and Sonia (Soha Ali Khan), her friend, whose fiancé dies in the MiG-21 plane crash. The two of them have quite a few scenes together in which they discuss life, revolution and most importantly, documentary film-making.
Film: Chak De! India
This was an easy pick. The film is one of those rare gems that make feminists proud. With just one male character and multiple, well-etched female roles (with solid back stories), Chak De! India is a Bechdel gold winner.
Film: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Surprised? Well, we were too. Still, this is one of those few Deepika Padukone films which does not treat her only as eye candy. Her character, Naina, is well-written, grows up to have a steady career and does not whimper for a man (minus the unfortunate, run-of-the-mill ending). Aditi (Kalki Koechlin), the other female character, is quite a tomboyish brat and decides to marry someone she loves (rather than the good looking male supporting lead). They have quite a few scenes together where they talk about life and love – nothing to do with men. What a relief.
Film: Dedh Ishqiya
Last year’s surprise hit with a surprise climax, Dedh Ishqiya won us over with the subtle and *wink wink* treatment of the leading lady’s love affair with her loyal maiden. Both the characters were well-written and had meaty roles in the film. We absolutely adored how unimportant they made the men feel in the second half. Madhuri Dixit and Huma Qureshi delivered powerhouse performances, and they had conversations about killing men, but we’re not sure that counts towards Bechdel test points.
Film: Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania
This film almost makes it to the list because of one scene in which Alia Bhatt’s character discusses her wedding attire with her BFF over Skype. Well, we’ll accept that as cute girl talk, even though she was absolutely obsessed with the guy she was about to marry. On the other hand, the film makes quite a statement with its last scene, in which the girl strikes a SRK pose to propose marriage to the boy. Now, that we approve of.