Does The Dirty Picture pass the Bechdel Test?

Posted: December 8, 2011 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, etc
Tags: , , ,

The Dirty Picture is one of the most talked about films of the year. Though it got mixed response from critics, the box office numbers are producers’ delight. Interestingly, there are two women who are credited for the film. Vidya Balan and Ekta Kapoor – one who shed all inhibitions for the role and the other who decided to back the film.

As some of us were discussing the film, we wondered if The Dirty Picture pass the well-known Bechdel Test. It’s a litmus test for female presence in movies, tv and other pop culture stuff. In order to pass the Bechdel Test, you have to find out the answer to these three questions.

1. Are there two or more women characters with names?

2. Do the women characters talk to each other?

3. And do the women talk to each other about something other than a man?

Click on the play button to check out the video and you will be surprised to know that most Hollywood films don’t pass the test.

To quote from the official page, The Bechdel Test is a simple way to gauge the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are. It was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. It is astonishing the number of popular movies that can’t pass this simple test. It demonstrates how little women’s complex and interesting lives are underrepresented or non existent in the film industry.

We are bit confused if The Dirty Picture passes the test or not. Silk and Ammaji talk but Ammaji doesn’t have a name, right? Do leave your comments in the comment box.  But most importantly, how many bollywood films of 2011 can pass the Bechdel test? Let’s try.

  1. @Rohwit says:

    Damn! Ab dekhna padega ye film🙂

  2. rajasen says:

    It does pass the test. Not because of Ammaji but because of Silk’s interactions with Neela, the editor: which have nothing to do with any man. (Neither does her brief interaction with the other dancer, Shakila, actually.)

    • ladytramp says:

      Silk’s interactions with Neela are minimal and mostly Neela passing some sort of comment or giving advice to her. They definitely do not talk like equals sharing a camaraderie. Silk is shown as larger than life, with hardly any “real” conversations or friends – either male or female. The film does not pass the Bechdel test in my opinion!

  3. moifightclub says:

    @Rajasen – Naila’s interaction was all about men, no? or in context to the men in her life. Shakila, yes. But such a brief interaction that it’s difficult to remember.

  4. kkk says:

    Never heard of this test but thank you for educating me!

    As far as the movie goes, had no intention of watching it. I admire Vidya for having had the guts to shed inhibitions for her work – not with an ulterior motive of money or fame but with all the seriousness and sincerity that is a mark of any good professional- this comes across even in the trailers.

    Ekta of course is smart and shrewd. Lets leave it at that. I cannot really forgive her for the substandard TV series that she has fed the sub-continent with in the past few decades and the manner in which she has polluted our tastes.

    Onwards to Silk Smitha. Telugu women are very sensuous, undoubtedly, so can we please stop saying South Cinema and South Indian actress and South this and that.If at all any language gets mentioned then it is Tamil! She was from Andhra Pradesh and am I mighty proud of that fact! Why? Because she was a force to reckon with, because she had the guts, because she was brave. Not because she could heave her breasts and buttocks, which she did very well sans doubt.

    Finally to the film itself. Who needs to watch it to know it was an half arsed attempt at being a biopic, the silly sufi songs (before you burn my effigy, not saying sufi songs are silly, but these particular sufi songs which are silly) which in no way gel with anything ‘South’, the irreverent manner in which a long dead unhappy soul has been dealt with….so many clues that this film didn’t deserve my time or attention.

    A woman commits suicide because of what she went through, she fought a system but in the end she could be strong no more, she could not meet one man who had the balls to be her equal, she voluntarily gives up the fight. Those of you who have seen this film, does this pathos come through or the film was too busy trying to be sexy and retro?

    Nowhere in all the Tweets or FB posts of the ubiquitous ‘reviews’ that proliferate the net in the name of critiquing have I seen any respect for Smitha gaaru (why is it that NTR is addressed as gaaru and not her?) as a human being. It is about either a Vidya who has ‘delivered’, or an Ekta who is a ‘game-changer’ or that self-congratulatory: ‘Indian audience is ready for mature cinema’…(*guffaws*).

    First, Indian audience is far from ready (think READY). Second, ‘mature cinema’, this?

    As for the test you talk about:

    When a film has women talking or doing something that NO MAN is interested in,
    When the women don’t have to shake heavy boobs or have omlettes fried on their bellies,
    When a dark oily haired bespectacled female can converse for three hours with her buck-toothed best friend on screen and THIS is eagerly lapped up by a predominantly pubescent male audience,

    Come then and talk to me.

  5. Smita says:

    But what if it’s a story of a woman who does not have any reliable female support- who plays the role of a man eater so competently to keep her image alive and throbbing that most women are going to stay away and the rest end up as competitors in an exploitative industry?

    Maybe her isolation is highlighted because she doesn’t have exactly that camaraderie – we are hopeful that the lady editor will become one such support but she doesn’t- even Silk is hopeful that she will, but Neela’s professional agenda takes over. SO there, she doesn’t have a single soul to talk to or go to in a crisis.

    Perhaps it is to emphasize such isolation itself that we don’t see it.

    But it’s a great point and I do wonder how it would have looked without having to stereotype most women around Silk.

  6. Fatema says:

    Why should it? It was a movie about a woman whose life (and death) revolved around the very premise the test opposes. What else would you have the movie do, except be less ‘massy’ in its approach…?

    Having said that, no it doesn’t. And you don’t need the test to answer that. Its there for everyone to see that its made from a strictly male perspective and for a strictly male audience. I, however, do not have a problem with that simply because for all its emphasis on oomph it never tantalises or uses Silk’s story to provide second-hand titillation. Something Mme Ekta won’t think twice abt doing. And it’s not only Balan’s contribution alone that makes it sans raunch. Its the entire perspective which is probably the only thing I’d give to Luthria. Even though flawed, narrow, superficial and ‘massy’, thankfully doesn’t exploit the very woman it sets out to sympathise with. (Although the whole idea about making a film on a woman known as a temptress is in itself a rather exploitative thing to do but then that’s Balaji for you. Its not a production house its a marketing house.)

  7. anshu kutil says:

    seems passing Bechdel Test is like getting ISO 9001 certification or getting ISI mark.

  8. It does pass the test because Silk and Shakila talk about Shakila being the new Silk and Silk and Nyla talk about Silk always being wild and spontaneous!

  9. Thalassa says:

    I can’t believe how flippant some of your commentators have been about the Bechdel test. This just shows how pervasive and entrenched the problem is.

    I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with cinema in recent years and despair of finding enough films that would appeal to me with a distinctly feminine perspective on things (and before anyone jumps on me, the only reason why we don’t recognize the outlook in most movies as intensely masculine is because it is just so normalized).

    The only good thing to come out of the TV serials that many so despise is that a lot of them are made with a dominant female protagonist and the point of view is strongly feminine, even with all of their regressive bullshit. In fact, I’d rather watch stuff like that than what passes off as either mainstream or alternative cinema that tries to do precious little to accommodate a female audience.

  10. tejas says:

    Amma’s name was Rathnamma.

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