No other country in the world knows the effect of cinema on the mindset of the people as does ours, and Bollywood has had its fair share of controversies about various social issues. Whether you read the latest Bollywood movie updates, or are abreast with most of the happenings in the industry, it is obvious that Bollywood has seeped into the crevices of our minds.
From the movies themselves to celebrity news, everything seems to have an impact on the psyche of the audience. One such issue is that of women in cinema, the screen time they share, and their prevalence either as a proper character, a mere plot device, or even worse, eye candy. A famous ‘litmus test’ was devised by Allison Bechdel, known as the Bechdel-Wallace test, first appearing in her comic in 1985.
This test attempts to operationally define women’s representation in a movie by checking whether they fulfil three simple criteria. The film has to have at least two female characters in it, who are named. These two women must have a conversation at some point in the movie. Lastly, the two women must talk about something other than men.
When the films in Bollywood were analysed, a surprising fact was unveiled. It may surprise most to know that women-centric movies such as Veere Di Wedding, Hichki, and even Padman failed this test. Meanwhile, some others such as Badhai Ho, Padmavat, Raazi and Race 3 manage to pass the test.
The reason for this may be the fact that despite having several strong female characters, such as in Veere Di Wedding, all the conversations were linked to their relationships with the men around them. Some movies with the central character as a strong female fail to provide a supporting female character who holds enough importance to have a conversation with the lead.
Some others though, manage to scrape through the test simply because the women were used as nothing more than a plot device, or had a conversation about something irrelevant or unrelated to anything else in the movie. Sometimes, even the conversation turns out to be misogynistic or stereotypical in nature.
This points out the limitations in the test itself in identifying proper representation of women and raises a question against its validity. Nevertheless, the test remains a surface level test that does bring forward appalling truths about our industry.
The reason this test deserves attention and evaluation is simply because most people are unaware or take it for granted that gender stereotypes go beyond costumes and overlap into everything- conversations, actions and character traits.
This seemingly small idea can have an impact on who young girls look up to as their role models, and can have a huge impact on their ideals, world views and thoughts about the world.