Alia Bhatt chose a sensitive subject like domestic violence as her debut project for her production house. Instead of making a hard-hitting movie about it, the story has been wrapped in the guise of a black comedy. But it is the hopes, dreams and despair of the characters that will stay with you until the end, after the credits roll.
Badrunissa (Alia Bhatt) falls in love with and marries Hamza (Vijay Varma), who turns out to be an alcoholic who beats his wife. Her mother Shamshunnisa (Shefali Shah) stays in the same chawl in Byculla and encourages her daughter every day to get rid of her abusive husband. But Alia, like many women, has not yet given up hope. She wants to have a baby with her husband, fulfill the dreams she had seen with this man, and keeps looking for ways to reform him.
The movie could be a trigger for many of us independent women who wouldn’t put up with abusive behavior for a day. Darlings will make you angry, it will make you furious, especially after you’ve had movies like Thappad. But you will have to put aside your ideas of right and wrong and try to understand Badru’s desperation to keep her relationship alive, and patiently wait until the end of her patience.
The question of good and evil comes up many times in the film, especially at the climax when Badru has to make a decision that will change his life forever. Throughout the film, a fight develops between the mother who is in favor of more drastic steps, while the daughter follows her heart, until her last hope is also extinguished, changing the very core of the her beliefs.
Alia Bhatt brilliantly plays her role as the gullible wife who thinks she can change her husband. She also takes on the film as an actress, as is expected of someone who has played Udta Punjab, Gully Boy and Gangubai Kathiawadi. There are times when Badru reminds you of Safeena from Gully Boy.
Darlings reminded me of Gangubai Kathiawadi in Badru’s moments of vulnerability: a victim of his circumstances but trying to make the most of them. When she is breaking dishes after another episode of abuse and Zulfi (Roshan Matthew) walks in to check on her, he reminded me of Afsaan’s affection for Gangu. But here too there is a twist in the story.
Vijay Varma seems to have become a master of the gray-toned characters, shedding crocodile tears to get his way, going from loving husband to violent demon in the blink of an eye.
Shefali plays a practical mother who tries to show her daughter the reality of her marriage. She plays the quirky role with ease and is the main source of comic relief in many scenes. Alia and Shefali are totally entertaining as mother and daughter on screen.
The performances of Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma are the brightest parts of this bleak reality that the film represents.
Despite being a black comedy, the film does not have an elaborate or hilarious comedic scene, and remains mostly an emotional affair. The production design and attention to detail is commendable, as is the pace of editing. Director Jasmeet K Reen has done a good job of telling the story without getting too involved, while also maintaining a sense of dread throughout the narrative. Some of the well directed scenes are the preparation of episodes of violence between Hamza and Badru. Darlings has good situational songs like La Ilaaj, Bhasad and Pleaj, which capture the mood quite well.
Darlings may not be the best black comedy out there, but it’s definitely worth watching, especially if you’re looking for stories about strong women taking charge of their own lives.
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