I watched the movie because I wanted to know what was being shown as mardana or masculine in a woman.

I found the beginning so disturbing, that at first I wanted to walk out of the theatre. The friend I was watching it with felt the same way – but I am glad we didn’t do that – because when you really think about it – what’s not so disturbing about child trafficking? 

How did we ever expect to watch a ‘rape scene’ or children being abducted and sold, without feeling the horror of the crime? 

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is the only other movie I have seen where a sexual crime is shown the way it should be shown – humiliating, disgusting and traumatic. This is how such crimes should make us feel. [The Marital Rape scene in Bhag Milkha Bhag]

Mardaani does not show how the men ‘buying sex’ were feeling, there was no attempt to titillate. What we felt was the terror that the little children were feeling. Their being given new names and their being viewed as ‘goods’. And as the movie progressed it did make sense.

I will never be able to think of prostitution or child trafficking without remembering the faces, or the shaking hands of the children in Mardaani. We need movies like this undo the damage and desensitisation that ‘rape scenes’ have done in the past.

I also think the movie makes a point about fitness for women and general empowerment for women.

I hope the movie does well, it’s fast paced, well edited and for those who like action (I don’t) there is action too.

BUT I couldn’t could see why the movie has been named ‘Mardaani’ (translates to – a woman who is like a man)

Senior Inspector in Crime Branch – Shivani Shivaji Roy is a woman.

She is strong and she is shown working out.

She is working hard and at all hours, but she has a happy family life.

She does not go home and start cooking.

Her family loves, supports and respects her.

Their name plate has the names of both of the couple.

Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy seems to have retained her maiden/father’s name as her middle name (I hope we see movies where there is no name changing at all, for either partners). 

And her husband is shown feeling feelings that can’t be described as  ‘mardaani’.

* * * 

Does the movie pass the Bechdel Test? 

No 😦

Related Posts:

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Hasee toh Phasee : When a Bollywood hero is an Emotional Dhakkan.

Kai Po Che : Through feminist eyes…

Dhobi Ghat. Zara Hat ke.

Delhi Belly: Indecent, immoral, abusive language. Permitted everywhere except on screen.

Does porn affect how men view sex, women and children?

Shuddh Desi Romance : When Getting Married and Staying Married is not an Indian woman’s life purpose.

Dev D: Practical Paro Artless Chandramukhi

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35 thoughts on “Mardaani

  1. Thanks for the review. I’ll definitely check it out.

    BTW, I have a question. AFAIK, a movie will pass the Bechdel test if it had a 10 second scene with two women talking about household chores while stripping and pole dancing or whatever, while a movie with a strong female character might fail it.

    So, what would be a good and comprehensive test for movies?


  2. I liked the movie…though I didn’t know what “Mardaani” meant! Does it really mean “Like a man”? If so, then yeah that’s pretty messed up. I LOVED the idea of a film with no male lead. I’m very impressed. And they didn’t “doll up” the actress. She was shown working out, sweating, bleeding. But not gratuitously so.

    We need more movies like this.


  3. Please forgive me for a slightly unrelated comment:
    This comment is not related to this post but movies in general. I love it when you review women-oriented movies and was wondering how you missed out mentioning Bobby Jasoos. I loved it. Please see it if you haven’t yet and tell us what you liked about it. I’ll be waiting. 🙂


  4. I thought I was being sentimental about the scenes with the children but looks like the struck a chord with you too (and others it seems).

    Re Bechdel test…would that 1-min cupcake scene count, where the woman in the child trafficking gang is shown talking to the two girls?

    In any case, I do see the point here. There were scenes where a gender-reversed version of the Bechdel would apply (two men talking to each other etc). I suppose that goes to highlight the male-dominated world that the film was about!


  5. Sounds interesting. I will watch it this weekend. This seems to be a good trend in Bollywood. Queen, Highway, Bobby Jasoos and now Mardani within a year.
    I found a different meaning of Mardaani from Wikipedia though. Mardaani (Hindi:मर्दानी “Fierce Female Form”, from Mahishasuramardini)


    • That is a gloss up. In folk mardani aurat meant a derogatory term, one who had a dare of a man but no finesse. It has got nothing to do with sanskrit word mardini मर्दिनी meaning killer originating from mardan मर्दन meaning destroying or killing, where as, mardaani मर्दानी is of Persian origins originating from mard मर्द, the man.

      Wikipedia has a whole lot of discrepancies, it is not trust worth source. As a grad student DG started a page on Feminism in India now look at its state every thing female is feminist there. It was a part of class project on how knowledge is created and distorted by free agents.
      Desi Girl


      • Right DesiGirl.
        ‘Mardini’ and ‘Mardaani’ are entirely different in origin and meaning. The only non- derogatory use of the term ‘Mardaani’ that I can think of is in the poem ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’…
        Khoob ladi mardaani, wo to jhansi wali rani thi…’

        I guess, the above line gave the movie its name too. Stress is more on the ‘daring’ and little or none on ‘no finesse’.



        • @Gunjan,
          When Subhadra kumar Chauhan wrote khoob ladi mardani… she bought into the concept of frailty of women courage and women to her could not fit together. Why did she equate a woman’s courage that of a man thus negating her femininity? If Rani Jhansi was brave then how come we did not read about Jhalkaribai’s bravery she was the one who made way for Rani Jhansi to escape, she too was raised by a widower father as a son. There is a huge caste dimension to valorization of some and negation of others.
          Also, if you are aware of character assassination of Laxmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi by the British, it comes back to the derogatory part of Mardani.


  6. I watched the movie and loved it for multiple reasons. Don’t know what is a Bechdel Test. Is there is a post regarding what it is? If not, please write a post with details for people like me. Even if it failed, I am quite sure it fared pretty well in comparison to a lot of Bollywood movies.


  7. Human trafficking is a huge issue but why are the children trafficked? who pays for prostitution and pornography or even cheap bonded labor? its time for us a s a society to introspect.
    being man-like though is no virtue according to me.


    • I just mentioned in comment here with reference to someone referring Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s Khoob ladi mardaani woh to Jahnsi wali rani thi…

      Why did she have to exalt a woman warrior to the status of a man thus negating her femininity. Why can’t a woman be brave in her own right and not need a qualifier/adjective?


    • Satish, I agree. I find reading about such cases very distressing and I don’t think I could watch a movie about it. Even Slumdog Millionnaire was hard for to watch for me.


    • Dear god. I felt like throwing up when I was reading this article.

      I despair when I read articles like these. Is there any way at all to protect children from sexual abuse?

      What kind of men rape a 13-year old and force her friend to watch the rape?

      Can these men even be called human? Sometimes I feel that being a female child is a curse. What kind of upbringing creates men like these?


  8. The first half was really disturbing. I can never forget the face of the young school girl who was trying to kill herself and how the villain made her feel completely helpless and without choice. It was scary. Scary isn’t doing justice to the exact fear that those cold-blooded scenes brought within me. Shivani’s role I found really empowering. The last sentence of Shivani Shivaji Rao when she tells the villain about how his death will be viewed as public outrage was simply superb and hopefully a wake-up call for the cops and other law-makers.


  9. Pingback: Several well-known businessmen arrested in Hyderabad on Sunday for being involved in a high profile prostitution racket. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  10. Promos look quite good ! I like movies where women are shown beating up bad people ! I think title is quite apt ! Policewomen need to be like man if they want to get respected and get work done ! Otherwise ,junior policemen will wait for weaker moment and womanise her ,not respect her authority !
    Women have to work twice harder in general at workplace just imagine attitude in police against women !


  11. I didn’t actually know the meaning of Mardaani like a few others, so thank you for the information! I really enjoyed the film but actually the ending made me a little uncomfortable. I don’t know whether that was to add in extra action during the last scene or to make you leave feeling uncomfortable and haunted by the message of the film. But whatever it was, I had to look away during the end!


  12. *Spoiler warning*
    First of all, I absolutely loved this movie. It used just the right mix of shock and discretion to reinforce the horror of human trafficking. What I actually liked in terms of film technique was the fact that it actually makes you first identify with the character, learn her name and remember her face (Pyari) and then make ‘her’ go through the trauma you’d not expect a lead character to go through. In any other film, horrific things mostly happened to faceless or insignificant people which made the character distant and the horror unreal and mostly fictitious for the audience. In this film, however, the agony is felt first hand through the eyes of Pyari. Not once did I feel sympathetic towards the villain and the build-up to the exposition at the end actually made me feel victorious as well. The film was bang-on there.
    Also, as far as I can analyse, as a film student, the title ‘Mardaani’ is used more in the form of irony rather than the literal translation of it as ‘manly’.
    Overall I feel the film did an excellent job of driving home the anguish and horror of child trafficking. And lastly, I feel the film shouldn’t have been certified ‘A’ as everybody should be exposed to and made aware of sexual violence in a non-sugar-coated way, as opposed to the ‘glorified’ ways in which Bollywood is infamous for portraying.


  13. Pingback: Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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