Review of “Girlfriend”

Girlfriend Tonya and Sapna

Warning: spoilers

Girlfriend, the much-ballyhooed 2004 Bollywood flick about a love triangle recently released on DVD, offers up some familiar lessons: 1) Women’s friendships are rife with jealousy and rivalry; 2) Lesbians are man-hating psychopaths; 3) They are that way because of childhood sexual abuse; and 4) They prey on innocent straight girls who only succumb to their seduction if they’ve had a little too much to drink.

In director Karan Rajdan’s film, Tanya (Isha Koppikar) and Sapna (Amrita Arora) are former college roommates who now share a large beach house and a small bed. Tanya is a hard-working jeweler whose pay doesn’t quite cover the rent, let alone a separate bed for her “best friend,” who apparently doesn’t work. To make ends meet, Tanya is a secret streetfighter who can beat even the burliest of thugs at kickboxing. While Tanya is away on business, Sapna meets Rahul (Ashish Choudhary) and falls in love.

When Tanya returns to find a boyfriend in the picture, her jealousy rears its ugly green head. Her efforts to separate the new lovers so she can keep Sapna to herself fill the remaining 2 1/2 hours of the film.

According to the movie’s official website, “There are hidden desires in Tanya. Wild desires, which lead her to clash with Rahul in a fight to the wild finish.” Tanya’s “wild desires” are conveyed in her cheetah-print mini-dress, and in how she scans the horizon for Sapna like a tiger stalks its prey. Her “clash with Rahul” is subtly rendered in his scowls, frowns and other facial contortions. It also includes beating the hapless boyfriend in a race that must have required special camera work to disguise his obvious lead. From there it escalates to a more violent sort of beating, and then on to all-out murderous rage. And the so-called wild finish has our lezzie villain plunging from a window to her inevitable death—an ending that’s neither positive nor original.

Negative stereotypes abound in Girlfriend. The female leads are codependent man-haters: “Both are into male bashing,” according to the website. “Whatever Tanya does, Sapna follows.” Sapna plays giggling Barbie to Tanya’s sultry villain. The former is always wearing white or bubblegum pink while the latter wears wild animal prints or black.

Tanya hates men, yet she supposedly wants to be one: She rides a motorcycle, is handy with a plumber’s wrench, and even pretends to pee standing up—just to mess with Rahul, who looks on with Sapna in horror until the “joke” is revealed. Tanya later cuts her hair short once she gets down to ass-kicking business.

And the movie conflates gender identity and sexual orientation: When Tanya confesses she’s a lesbian, she has to elaborate with “a boy trapped in a girl’s body.” Referring to Tanya, Rahul tells Sapna “She is your husband. One who controls you. She is not your girlfriend. She is a guy.”