It’s Got Strong Women, But Does Baahubali 2 Pass the Bechdel Test?
The two main women characters in <i>Baahubali 2</i>: Devasena played by Anushka Shetty (L) and Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan (R). (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/<b>The Quint</b>)
The two main women characters in Baahubali 2: Devasena played by Anushka Shetty (L) and Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan (R). (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/The Quint)

It’s Got Strong Women, But Does Baahubali 2 Pass the Bechdel Test?

Yes, this story idea itself invited a lot of scorn from male colleagues who asked whether a movie like Baahubali 2, with not one but two strong female leads, needed to be subjected to a Bechdel test. (Simply put, the test assesses the representation of female characters and gender inequality in a work of fiction.)

To be sure, for a testosterone-filled film, Baahubali 2 does a surprisingly good job in its portrayal of women.

It gives adequate agency to the women characters, Sivagami (played by Ramya Krishnan), and Devasena (played by Anushka Shetty), showing them to be headstrong, assertive women who can stand at par with the male characters in the film.

Even quantitatively, the screen time devoted to the two women is impressive– save for the war sequences, where of course, we only see glimpses of them as worried watchers.

But being the feminist spoilsport that I am, I wanted to run the Bechdel test on this film. To pass the test, a film must have two women characters talking about something other than a man. So, how does Baahubali 2 fare?



(Photo: Lijumol Joseph/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Lijumol Joseph/The Quint)

The Bechdel test has been used as a popular measure to check the portrayal of women in fiction since the 2000s. Its premise is simple.

For a movie to pass the test, it must have the following:

1. Two female characters

2. Who talk to each other

3. About something besides a man

Unfortunately, for all of its glory, the movie fails to pass this simple checklist.

However, to dismiss its wonderful portrayal of women, that shows female characters exercising authority and also taking on the issue of consent, is to degenerate the complex issue of representation of women in film to a mere technical test. Because cinema has enough of a scope to empower its characters, Bechdel test or no Bechdel test. As long as it succeeds in breaking stereotypes and doesn’t evade its responsibility of giving an equal opportunity to women characters. Kya samjhe?

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