Bollywood Hits That Passed And Failed Gender Test In 2014

21/02/2015 8:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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MUMBAI, INDIA MAY 26: Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt at the trailer launch of their upcoming movie Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania in Mumbai.(Photo by Milind Shelte/India Today Group/Getty Images)

Another year, and another assortment of blockbusters, pulpy B-grades movies and the oddball-character-driven pieces passed us by. On the bright side, 2014 was a breakthrough year for real women in Bollywood, with plenty of roles with nuance and shade. But the not-so-bright side of the story is that the trend didn't carry over to the blockbusters, aka the biggest money makers of the year. Yes, Dedh Ishqiya allowed Madhuri's magic and Huma's sensuality to drive the narrative, while Queen liberated Kangana Ranaut and Lisa Haydon from the purgatory of playing second fiddle to beige-coloured men, but these were not the films that raked in the riches.

The masses still went to see their beloved Khans strut their superhero stuff and their favourite dour Devgan sleepwalk through his dance-packed action. They went to see women dance around poles, and that is why, unfortunately, only one out of the ten biggest movies of the year passed the Bechdel Test.

As a quick reminder, to meet the Bechdel Test, a movie (1) has to have at least two women in it (2) who talk to each other about (3) something besides a man.

1. PK

Bechdel Test: Fail. There was one conversation between Anushka Sharma's Jagat Janani and Rukhsar Rehman's Pakistani Embassy receptionist, but the discussion was entirely about Sushant Singh's dreamy eyes, and who can blame them?

On The Brighter Side: PK scores a perfect 10 on the Aamir Khan Movie Scale, in which every scene must have another character talking about the Aamir Khan character with awe and wonder. For a movie that busted so many stereotypes with panache, it's a shame it didn't do much to the stereotype of superstar supremacy.

2. Kick

Bechdel Test: Fail.

On The Brighter Side: Unlike a lot of earlier Salman Khan heroines, Jacqueline Fernandez seems in on the joke. Her gentle air of amusement goes a long way in reducing the otherwise creepy vibes created by the age disparity between the lead male and female.

3. Happy New Year

Bechdel Test: Fail. It disappoints us that Farah Khan - possibly the one woman director with the clout and ability to shake things up - continues to churn out the most banal female characters imaginable. And yes, we buy her screed about entertainment before anything else, but surely women can entertain in more ways than just titillating viewers in over-choreographed dances?

On The Brighter Side: Despite her inexplicable love for a slut-shaming hero, Deepika Padukone's Mohini was the standout performer in a half-baked film. Half Rakhi Sawant and half Mata Hari in her role, we couldn't help fall a little in love with her, even as we struggled to laugh at the tired jokes in the script.

4. Bang Bang

Bechdel Test: Fail.

On the Brighter Side: The best that can be said about Bang Bang was that it objectified its male lead (a sun-bronzed, Miami-louche Hrithik Roshan) just as much as it did Katrina Kaif. More of a glossy vacation advertisement than a feature film, the script let down both its star performers with equal disdain, preferring to focus on their sculpted abs instead.

5. Singham Returns

Bechdel Test: Fail.

On The Brighter Side: Of the five films mentioned so far, Singham Returns perhaps gave its heroine the most to do. Not enough to really matter to the story perhaps, but Kareena Kapoor's Avni is allowed to be funny and angry and entertaining in a way that Hindi film heroines rarely are.

6. Holiday

Bechdel Test: Fail.

On The Brighter Side: In an industry in which the heroine is almost always a college girl - irrespective of whether her hero is aged 14 or 40 - Sonakshi Sinha portrayed a professional boxer with a mind of her own. We've always cheered Sona, and hope she chooses more such roles over the pointless Rajjos and Chandas.

7. Jai Ho

Bechdel Test: Fail. We can't remember the last time an actress of Tabu's stature was wasted in a movie.

On The Brighter Side: Theatre veteran Nadira Babbar made a rare big screen appearance as Salman Khan's mother. Pity that it was a blink-and-miss role, but what else can we expect from a movie that is of the Bhai, for the Bhai, by the Bhai (we kid you not, Bhai's bhai Sohail Khan is the director).

8. Ek Villain

Bechdel Test: Fail.

On The Brighter Side: We would have loved to say that Shraddha Kapoor rose above the exceedingly silly Aisha, but sadly, she was perfect for the role. If we managed to sit through the giant sized logical flaws in the movie, it was thanks to the men - the smouldering hot Sidharth Malhotra and the common man Riteish Deshmukh.

9. 2 States

Bechdel Test: Fail. Despite significant roles for not just one but three women, every single conversation between the ladies is about the men (mostly Arjun Kapoor!). Okay, maybe when the MILs are snarling at each other, they utter two words that are not directly about the gentlemen - but!

On The Brighter Side: If there is anything we dislike more than a movie full of clichés, it is a movie that pretends to be modern while being riddled with clichés. Despite the completely unimaginative use of two fine actresses (Revathy and Amrita Singh), it's the women who lift the movie - none more than Alia Bhatt, who infuses the done-to-death Ananya Swaminathan with a rare charm and elegance.

10. Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

Bechdel Test: Pass, Pass, Pass! Leading lady Kavya (Alia Bhatt) video chats with bestie Gurpreet about wedding lehengas. The women in the movie are far more entertaining than the men. Ok it's Second Division when compared with a Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, but have you seen the first nine movies on this list?

On The Brighter Side: Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt, who are turning into Bollywood's Jodi Number One. The spoofing of DDLJ. By far the brightest spot is Varun Dhawan's slightly dippy Humpty - a real charmer if there was one!

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