Alia Bhatt chose such a sensitive topic as domestic violence as the debut project for her production house. Instead of making a hard film about it, the story is shrouded in a black comedy. But it’s the hopes, dreams and despair of the characters that stay with you until the end, after the credits.
Badrunissa (Alia Bhatt) falls in love 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 house in Byculla and daily encourages her daughter to get rid of her abusive husband. But Alia, like many women, has still not lost hope. She wants to have a baby with her husband, fulfill the dreams she had seen with this man and continues to look for ways to reform him.
The movie could be a trigger for many of us independent women who wouldn’t tolerate abusive behavior even for a day. Darlings will make you mad, make you mad, especially after we’ve had movies like Thappad. But you’ll 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 for the limit of her patience.
The question of right and wrong comes up often in the film, especially in the climax when Badru has to make a decision that will change her life forever. Throughout the film, there is a struggle between the mother who favors more drastic steps, while the daughter follows her heart, until her last hopes are also extinguished, changing the core of her beliefs.
Alia Bhatt plays her role brilliantly as the gullible woman who believes she can change her man. She also carries the film as an actor as is expected from one who delivered 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 moments of Badru’s vulnerability – victim of her circumstances, but trying to make the best of it. When she breaks plates after another episode of abuse and Zulfi (Roshan Matthew) comes in to check on her, it 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 gray-hued characters, shedding crocodile tears to get his way and turning from loving husband to a 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 by Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma are the brightest parts of this otherwise grim reality that the film represents.
Despite being a black comedy, the film doesn’t have an elaborate or hilarious comedic scene, remaining mostly an emotional affair. The production design and attention to detail are commendable, as is the pace of editing. Director Jasmeet K Reen did a good job of telling the story without causing too many complications while also maintaining a sense of dread throughout the story. Some of the well-directed scenes are leading up to episodes of violence between Hamza and Badru. Darlings has good situational songs like La Ilaaj, Bhasad and Pleaj, which capture the atmosphere well.
Darlings may not be the best black comedy out there, but it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for stories about strong women taking charge of their own lives.
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