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Bollywood, Bechdel and Blockbusters: A Look Back At The Year That Was

Can shiny male abs turn a movie into a feminist treatise? We find out!

We look at the 10 Biggest and Baddest movies of 2013 to assess how they treated their women. (Spoiler: Not so well!)

By now most of us would have heard of the Bechdel test- one of the many ways to judge a movie’s feminist credentials. To meet the Bechdel test a movie (1) has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. We look at Bollywood’s Top 10 grossing movies from 2013 to see exactly how many female-friendly movies our dream-factory churned out for us.

1. Dhoom 3

Bechdel Test: Fail

On The Brighter Side: It scores a perfect 10 on the Aamir Khan Movie Scale- in which every scene must have another character talking about the Aamir Khan character with awe and wonder. No wonder poor Abhishek Bachchan looked grumpy through the entire pre-release rigmarole.

2. Chennai Express

Bechdel Test: Fail

On The Brighter Side: ShahRukh Khan may have made the right amount of noise and ensured Deepika got top billing over him in the credits, but let nobody forget that the movie was ultimately about the “power of the common man” who can basically win over any woman he wants with a dimpled cheek and a pair of outstretched arms.

3. Krrish 3

Bechdel Test: Fail (There was one conversations between Priyanka and Kangana, we think,  but it was almost entirely about how fabulous Hrithik’s hair looked in the movie)

On The Brighter Side: Priyanka was the chief bread winner while Hrithik Roshan ran his side business in superherogiri. And by all accounts, Kaya/Kangana was the one bright spot of this damp squib. Pity then that she had to sacrifice that spark so that the male superhero could survive for another turgid instalment. Forget Krrish 4, Kaya 2 anyone?

4. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Bechdel Test: Pass/Sort Of?? The gradual development of a nice warm friendship between Aditi (Kalki) and Naina (Deepika Padukone) was one of the unexpected pleasures of this movie. It’s a pity though that Naina spent her bestest friend’s wedding mooning over a clearly-doomed romance (did any one else have a problem with how the movie ended?), rather than in celebrating what’s really important- the growing up of your gal pals.

On the Brighter Side: Naina had a job y’all!! She was happy and contented and well settled without a man in her life also. And Aditi was allowed to choose the life she wanted without judgment. The only f*** ups in this story (even though they were ultimately forgiven for it), were the men.

5. Goliyon ki Ras Leela- Ram Leela

Bechdel Test: Pass. Deepika Padukone and Supriya Pathak have a couple of conversations about family and honour and parenthood. Not all of them are about Ram’s shiny abs.

On the Brighter Side: Tattad Tattad objectified a game Ranveer Singh in the way that most films do their women (we aren’t complaining). Leela was allowed to be an equal part in the grand doomed affair, and Supriya Pathak had a memorable turn as a fiery matriarch that almost seemed to be channeling a Donna Corleone vibe.

6. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Bechdel Test: Fail. Not only did the women only exist as distractions or motivations for the saintly male protagonist, a casual dalliance with a wanton phoren women ended up ruining his chances to win an important medal (because, you know, women!)!

On The Brighter Side: Such is the nature of biopics (or Aamir Khan movies). You are only ever expected to follow the protagonist through every single frame of his journey, and every one else (be it sister, distraction or love-of-life) merely acts as a channel to spotlight a particular facet of this journey. Besides, the movie was so long and over-indulgent as is that if two female characters paused for a conversation people would just leave for their umpteenth ciggie break!

7. Grand Masti

Bechdel Test: Fail (We can confidently say that without having seen the movie. If any readers -through first-hand experience- know other wise, please leave an ‘anonymous’ comment and let us know where we are wrong)

On The Brighter Side: Uhmmm… Aftab Shivdasani can finally pay for his hair plugs?

8. Race 2

Bechdel Test: Fail

On The Brighter Side: Uhmmm… Saif Ali Khan can pay for Kareena’s Gstaad vacations?

9. Aashiqui 2

Bechdel Test: Fail

On The Brighter Side: No cinematic trope annoys us more than that of the all-sacrificing lover who kills himself to ‘release’ the woman! Give her some agency folks! What do you think living the rest of the life under the shadow of your grand gesture will be like? You are not freeing her, but burdening her once again with your all-consuming desire to remain the topic of conversation before and after death. Maybe the sixteen year old My Big Red Bag (we were more My Big Red Jhola at that point of time) would have swooned over the ‘love story’ but the thirty-something Red Bagger thinks that the girl had a lucky escape!

10. Special 26

Bechdel Test: Fail

On The Brighter Side:  Special 26 was possibly the most overrated movie of 2013. Do you remember how in the late 90s/early 2000s Raveena Tandon suddenly did a couple of movies in dowdy dresses/minimal make up and people started assuming she was a serious actress? We suspect this is exactly what happened to Akshay Kumar with this movie. For a more ‘feminist’ Akki flim may we suggest Tashan in which the heroine is not only a significant cog in the script-wheel but also gets to vanquish the smarmy villain(MBRB favourite Bhaiyya Ji!!!) with her own hands in the last reel?

Movies don’t need to meet the Bechdel test to be interesting or even female-friendly, they just need to do justice to all the characters- be they male or female (One of the Red Bag’s All Time Favourites 12 Angry Men has NO women at all). And to be fair, Hollywood is just as guilty of ignoring it’s fabulous women as it’s Mumbaiyya bhai logs.  All we ask is for the filmi folk to not forget the (nearly) 50% of it’s viewing populace and make movies that tell their stories just as much as they do the story of the horny eighteen year old who will probably download it on Pirate Bay anyway!

Photo Credit: Meanest Indian via Compfight cc

1 Comment on Bollywood, Bechdel and Blockbusters: A Look Back At The Year That Was

  1. Interesting :) Donot have many sites on the becthdel test for bollywood ..

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