What's the Bechdel Test that Sushmita Sen’s Aarya, Kajol’s Tribhanga rated high on?

What's the Bechdel Test that Sushmita Sen’s Aarya, Kajol’s Tribhanga rated high on?
  • Bechdel Test is a crucial gender parity test which reveals how women are represented in works of fiction.
  • 18 movies and series rated high on this test as per a report by Ormax, Film Companion and Prime Video India.
  • Almost half of Indian movies or web series could not pass the test.
Half of Indian movies or web series could not pass a crucial gender parity test, which evaluates how well and how much are women represented in works of fiction.

As many as 150 properties were evaluated by Ormax Media, Film Companion and Prime Video India, and as per the report ‘O Womaniya’, and 55% of them passed the Bechdel Test.

Women in scenes and what they speak

Bechdel Test, named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, came up with a simple way to evaluate female representation in works of fiction. It evolved in 1985 and to pass this, the book or movie must have at least one scene where two women are discussing a topic that’s not related to a man.

In the Indian context of this study, the criteria was modified to three scenes. The fact that most movies do not pass it shows that women are merely represented as female interests of the male lead, or objectified.


However, most of the movies which passed the test were either web series or movies that were bankrolled by OTTs like Hotstar, Netflix and Prime. The report also chose 18 movies and web series which rated the highest when it comes to women representation.

Eight web series made it to the best performers list as opposed to 10 movies. Regional series like Aha’s Telugu web series 3 Roses, Bengali series on MX Player, Hello and Marathi film Jhimma made it to the list, in addition to the very popular Malayalam film Great Indian Kitchen which spoke against patriarchy. Sushmita Sen’s Aarya, Kajol’s Tribhanga and Sanya Malhotra’s Pagglait were listed as well.

Name CategoryLanguageStreaming Platform
3 rosesSeries TeluguAha
Aarya Season 2SeriesHindiHotstar
Ajeeb DastaansFilmHindiNetflix
Bombay BegumsSeriesHindiNetflix
Call My Agent: BollywoodSeriesHindi, EnglishNetflix
ChhorriFilmHindiAmazon Prime
Haseen DilrubaFilmHindiNetflix
Hello Season 3SeriesBengaliAmazon Prime
JhimmaFilmMarathiAmazon Prime
Mumbai Dairies 26/11SeriesHindiAmazon Prime
Pagglait FilmHindiNetflix
Rock Paper Scissors Season 2SeriesMalayalamYouTube
The EmpireSeriesHindiHotstar
The Family Man S2SeriesHindiAmazon Prime
The Great Indian KitchenFilmMalayalamAmazon Prime
Vakeel SaabFilmTeluguAmazon Prime

Working twice as hard for half the recognition

Apart from the topics, women have less to say in most of the movies. Even in trailers, women were only given a quarter of the talk time that male counterparts receive. A total of 48 film properties had trailers in which women spoke for 10 seconds or less. Men outspeak women by a factor of 3:1 in trailers.

“I reached a point in my film journey where I thought to myself that I need to either change my gender or stop making films - that’s the point it can bring you to when you are made to work twice as hard as any man to be able to put your opinion forward,” said Kanika Dhillon, screenwriter of Haseen Dilruba.

Moreso, out of the 750 positions available across 150 film properties, only 10% of them had female heads of departments. Involving more women in the movie making process, also helps give more voice to women, as per experts.

“Eleven years ago when I did The Dirty Picture, we hardly had two women on set. I do see this 10% HODs as a very positive change. The fact that so many of male-lead films are bombing has to be an eye-opener. Why don’t we release more female actor lead films theatrically?” said Vidya Balan, starrer of female-centric series Sherni on Amazon Prime.

Even if it’s slow, it's progressing, with OTTs taking the lead. Half of Netflix India’s workforce is female. Amazon Prime launched Maitri this March with Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) to help build a community of women in Indian entertainment.

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