Bechdel Test On Movies of Recent Times

Representation of women is still an topic for discussion. Many institution are still on the way to give women her much needed representation. Living in a patriarchal atmosphere and fighting for the deserved rights is an challenging task for women. Wherever we go, the position which is meant for us is only achieved after a lot of struggle. Indian Parliament recently passed a bill for women representation in Lok Sabha assembly and State assembly. The bill conveys that one third of seat should be reserved for women in both assemblies. Even though the bill has its flaws, but its still an appreciative move. Likewise many systems in our society needs to change the ratio of women and man representation.

The fictional works are considered as the reflection of the society. Especially movies which shows most of the societal aspects. But in movies also women representation is less. Most of the movies are made with a male hero figures. We have seen such celebration of male characters in recent times. Like Arjun Reddy of Sandeep Reddy, where the movie actually celebrated the aggressive and dominant nature of man. And that movie gained commercial success also. While the movies represented by women characters are less viewed. It is in this scenario Bechdel Test comes as the measuring tool to check the women representation in fiction.

Bechdel Test first appeared in a 1985 comic book “Dykes to Watch Out For” authored by cartoonist Alison Bechdel. It is also called as Bechdel Wallace test or Movie Measure.

For measuring the representation of women in fictions such as Movies, Tv shows, Novels etc. there are three rules that should be passed according to the Bechdel Test. They are :
1. The Movie or show must contain at least two women characters in it.
2. These characters must talk to each other.
3. Their discussion must be about something other than man.

If a movie is taken for bechdel test, then it should pass all these rules. Many movies which are popular and commercially successful failed in bechdel test. “The Avengers” (2012), “Lord of the rings” Trilogy (2001-2003), “Gravity”, “Arrival” etc. are some movies which failed in the Bechdel test. Movies that passed the test include the Oscar award winner “Parasite” (2019) and “CODA” (2021), “Frozen” (2013), “Wonder Women” ( 2017), “American Pie 2” (2001), “Twilight” (2008) etc. and the very famous “Titanic” also passed the bechdel test.

Let’s apply Bechdel Test on two Indian Cinema’s :
1. Charlie (2015)
2. Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)


Malayalam movie “Charlie” directed by Martin Prakat with Dulquer Salman and Parvathi Thiruvoth as the lead is an movie which differs from other movies that released at that time. Also still maintains its freshness all because of the quality content. The story of the movie is unveiled through the character Tessa which is played by Parvathi. The mystical element in the story makes it more beautiful. Also the character of Tessa is someone who inspired many girls.

Charlie, with its progressive story telling passes the bechdel test with few scenes. Even though the scenes have least duration.
Scene-1 The starting scene where Tessa and her grandmother having some sweet conversation after her mother went outside angrily. Her grandmother can seen saying tessa that “My child is simply cool”.
Scene-2 The shot which is continued from the previous conversation of grandmother and tessa. Her Molly comes there asking tessa to get ready for Margamkali.
Scene-3 The scene after tessa escaped from her mother’s home and reached at her friends flat. Her mother calls her and asks where she is while tessa replies that she went to beauty parlour.
Scene-4 The first meeting of tessa and kani where tessa can be seen saying that she came there to know rest of the story.
Scene-5 The scene where Kani asks Tessa to get ready in morning as she is planning to take her somewhere.

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The plots of Charlie evolves through the character Tessa. It is through her that we get to know about the mysterious character of Charlie. The most conversation of her are with a man or is about Charlie.

Gangubai Kathiawadi

The second movie Gangubai Kathiawadi, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and played by Alia Bhatt is one of the movie which is hugely discussed for its content and making. The majestic frame of Sanjay Leela Bhansali enchanted the audience eyes. The movie with the length of two and half hours contains lots of scene which encompasses the rules of Bechdel test.

Scene -1 One of the starting scenes of Gangubai Kathiawadi where they shows the brothel of Rashmi Bai has a shot with a women and Rashmi bai having conversation regarding a 14 year old girl who is locked in a room for three days. The women in the brothel can be seen asking Rashmibai to find a solution as the girl was crying from continuous torture. Rashmibai can be seen asking her that “what should I do”. The women replies her that call Gangubai for solution.

Scene-2 When Gangubai came to meet the girl, Rashmi welcomes her to the brothel. They had an talk on their business.

Scene-3 Gangubai after telling her story to the young girl, gives her two option to choose. She gave the girl two chocolates and asks her to choose only one. If the girl chooses yellow packet, then she should stay at the brothel. And if the girl chooses the black one, then she will die. The girl chooses the black one which was a shock for Gangu.

Scene -4 The scene where Rashmi bai asks Gangubai whether the girl chooses to stay here and Gangubai replies that the girl is going back to her home and offers Rashmi that she will give 10000 rupees for her loss.

Scene-5 Gangubai is asking her neighbour Rajjo if she has eaten the laddoo that was sent by her. Gangubai says she will make more laddoos for Najma tomorrow for her school. But in reply, Rajjo said, What’s the point in taking her to school when she is living in a brothel? Hearing her reply, Gangubai gets offended.

Scene-6 A scene on the terrace where Gangubai is doing skipping rope exercise and Kamli came there to show her the poster for election campaign. Gangubai while talking asks Kamli to join her in exercise. And Sanjay Leela Bhansali shot that scene so beautifully that it showed a glimpse of their lost younger self.

Scene-7 In another scene, Nimmi a member of Gangu’s brothel came to her saying that she is leaving to her home town with the hope that her mother had forgiven her for the mistakes. Gangubai says her that if she is not welcomed in her home then she can come back, there are many here to pay last rites for you as Nimmi is having Tuberculosis.

Scene-8 It is an most emotional scene of Gangubai Kathiawadi where the best friend of Gangu, Kamli is on deathbed. Gangu laid besides kamli and both look at each other while crying for her fate.

Gangubai is an strongest character of Bollywood cinema. And it really is progressive in nature. Bechdel test is flawed because some films pass the test but still have misogynistic contents and stereotypes regarding women. In Gangubai Kathiawadi, there are lots of scenarios that are strongest in its content but fails in Bechdel test. Gangu’s conversation with Rahim Lala and Razia have that strongest elements of story telling in a women’s perspective.


About the Author

Rubeena Mashood

Pursuing Post Graduation in Journalism and Media Studies after completing MA in Philosophy. Currently Unlearning and learning many things. read more...

2 Posts | 204 Views

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