Does AIB's A Woman's Besties pass the Bechdel Test? Image: YouTube/ AIB
Does All India Bakchod (AIB) only cast women in its sketches when it has to make a point about feminism? Do the sketches done by AIB pass the Bechdel test? The test is used to determine if in a work of fiction featuring two women, women can talk about anything else other than a man.
Cases in point: Why can't Failure or Average from Honest Placement videos or the paneer-eating friend be played by women? Comedians Aayushi Jagad and Sumedh Natu feel that the path-breaking comedy collective does not owe its audiences anything — and yet, if we do celebrate AIB, shouldn't it feel legit?
Aayushi and Sumedh themselves have been part of AIB sketches, and recently made a video which points out that AIB mostly casts women in their sketches only when the storyline is gender-specific like The Bollywood Diva Song starring Kangana Ranaut, or A Woman's Besties 1 and 2, but in other 'genderless' roles — characters which can be played by any gender — AIB mostly ends up casting men.
"There are a lot of characters in AIB videos which can be played by men or women, but AIB chooses for them to be played by men. Characters like engineers (Honest Placements), doctors, police constables (Chindi Crime Patrol), people with political opinions (AIB: Unoffended), friends who order food (Honest Bars & Restaurants) were all played by men," argue Aayushi and Sumedh.
Aayushi, for instance, has played Friend 3 in a background shot of Honest Restaurants, while Sumedh played an art collector with an actual dialogue in one of the Honest Placement sketches. In fact, the video even replaced a few of AIB's women characters with lamps, and found no diference in the narrative of the sketch.
AIB has created phenomenally relevant sketches in the past, like Women's Besties 1 and 2, It's Your Fault etc, which starred women in prominent roles. But these sketches talk about women, so they have to be cast in them. "It almost feels like in the AIB writers' room, women exist on their own planet — as feminists, in feminist women's sketches. They are either feminists or plot devices," argues Aayushi.
In fact, comedian Kaneez Surka also has a very 'honest' take. "I'm playing a sexy teacher. Because that's what I do in AIB videos. I either have an orgasm, or play someone sexy. I'm very excited. Can you not see from my face?" she said (cue sarcastic air quotes)
Aayushi and Sumedh also argued that most of AIB's videos do not pass the Bechdel test. Over the years, a number of stormy op-eds have been written about how most movies and TV shows do not pass the Bechdel test, which was named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel.
Aayushi and Sumedh claim that only two AIB sketches, besides the feminist sketches, pass the test — If Apps were People 1 and 2. "We can't get enough of feminist sketches. But as a woman, it would be really nice if I could see my gender do exactly the same things that men do," says Aayushi.
AIB, too, praised the well-reasoned video and shared it on their Facebook page. "We will actively work to fix this across our content, not just for the sake of social currency or likes, but because representation matters," they said.
AIB main man Tanmay Bhat, too, talked about the video. "I am personally, and we as a team are guilty of this 100%. I've discussed this internally with the team and while we recognise the problem, we've fallen way short and our own privilege stops us from seeing it immediately," he admitted, and also thanked Aayushi and Sumedh for calling them out.