Two women with names of their own. A conversation between these women. A conversation that is bereft of the mention of men. Sounds simple, right? Almost too simple, some might say. That’s all the Bechdel Test really is. Your first instinct might be to dismiss it as superficial but the Bechdel Test can actually be an efficient indicator of whether or not a film could be said to truly have a female perspective.
Conceptualized by a graphic artist named Alison Bechdel, the test was first featured back in 1985 in her comic Dykes To Watch Out For. It’s not necessarily about demanding a feminist perspective or encouraging women empowerment. Instead, it can give us an insight into how a film fares when it comes to telling stories about women.
While we did have films like Arth (1982), Damini (1993), and Bhumika (1977) that gave us a realistic female perspective, Bollywood really kicked it into high gear in the past two decades with honest women-centric films. But, despite getting films like Angry Indian Goddesses, The Dirty Picture, and more, films that portray strong female characters still continue to be far out and not nearly enough. The most glaring proof being the fact that a woman-centric film is still celebrated and welcomed like one does a desirable, yet rare occasion.
As the bar is just starting to be set, female representation in films has gained some much-needed momentum. We are expecting to see just that in Love Sonia, which is releasing on 14th September. So, while we wait, here are some releases from the past two decades that did make the cut, according to the Bechdel Test:
Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)
It was given the moniker “South Asian Bridesmaids”. Pan Nalin’s extraordinary storytelling was mirrored by the seven female leads of the film. It was billed as the first-ever gal-pal film of India. Needless to say, there was strong dialogue between women which covered a wide range of topics including, but not exclusively, about men.
Queen does something truly rare that we’ve possibly never seen before in a Bollywood movie. It doesn’t tell the tale of a woman who’s fighting for her love, or looking for her prince charming, or getting revenge after being left at the altar. It is just about a woman trying to come to terms with her own identity. Kangana Ranaut as Rani goes on the ultimate trip, away from everything she knows, to find herself and nobody else.
English Vinglish (2012)
English Vinglish passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. There are plenty of well-executed female roles with their own stories that do not revolve around men. Sridevi, in the lead role, plays a mother who is just looking to fulfill her ambitions and leave behind every inhibition or criticism that society puts on her. It is a movie for moms, daughters, husbands, friends, and even proud teachers.
Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)
A film that explore female desires, you’d think that it’d be difficult for this film to pass the Bechdel test. But it’s pleasantly surprising to see that, despite being all about expressing and fulfilling their sexuality, the women in this film don’t have the need to only discuss the men in their lives. This film manages to highlight female liberation and also the importance of female solidarity.
Lust Stories (2018)
Much like Lipstick Under My Burkha, Lust Stories has female desire and liberation as its focal point and the film addresses it splendidly. It features four extremely different stories about women and their sexuality and manages to serve it to us without adulteration. All four women battle their own demons and overcome their own obstacles. Lust Stories is an unapologetic ode to every woman’s struggle of finding their own way to express their desires in a judgemental society.
To see if Love Sonia manages to give us an honest female perspective and pass the Bechdel Test, read what we thought about the movie here.
*The set featured image has been taken from the comic ‘Dykes To Watch Out For’ by Alison Bechdel.