Alia Bhatt turns producer with her latest Netflix film ‘Darlings’. Directed by Jasmeet K Reen, this film is a satirical take on a marriage that oscillates between love and abuse. On paper, it’s a tale of women who get trapped in marriages that knocks the wind out of them. But when this gets translated on-screen with powerful performers such as Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Verma, it becomes a film to watch out for. There’ve been only a handful of films made about domestic violence yet ‘Darlings’ manages to carve a niche for itself for its quirky take on an abusive marriage and how it leaves its victim seeking a shred ofdignity back into her life. 

‘Darlings’ is the story of Badrunissa who’s married to Hamza. Living in a chawl, where Badru’s mother Shamshu also resides, Badru is a regular victim of domestic violence, meted by his alcoholic husband. While her mother encourages her to come out of this abusive relationship, the innocent and meek Badru believes that someday her husband would turn a new leaf. Eventually one day, something happens that changes the dynamics between the couple. To know what happens next, see the film.

The film is set in a lower-middle class backdrop, where life goes on without much brouhaha. There’s the local chemist, who knows about the alcoholic Hamza, a beautician downstairs who keeps working on her clientele, ignoring the abuses hurled and inflicted on Badru, a local butcher who silently keeps chopping the meat pieces yet he’s aware of the toxicity that’s prevalent in the locality. The setup itself tells us that while everyone’s aware of the toxic relationship that Hamza and Badru share, nobody says anything or does anything about it. This tells us how domestic violence gets indirect approval from society, making it the norm. 

The husband keeps gaslighting the wife, blaming alcohol for his sudden rages and furores, while it’s quite evident that the man’s a sadistic and manipulative piece of shit, who doesn’t think twice before raising his hands over women. Despite this, the wife keeps falling into his trap, led by his sweet talking and repeated promises of becoming a better man. It’s weird how women choose to stay in an abusive relationship, for the sake of society. It’s evident in the scene, where the policeman suggests divorce saying that society has become progressive to which Shamshu says that society has only become progressive for people dwelling on social media! The film also highlights patriarchy, the male gaze, substance abuse with its unique and quirky tone, laced with dark humour. The title of the film is also a witty take on the characters’ often usage of broken English language in daily lives.

Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Verma set the house on fire with their epic performances. So gifted are these three actors, that not for a single moment, they don’t look like the part. Ably assisted by Roshan Mathews, Vijay Maurya, Rajesh Sharma and Kiran Karmakar, the leading troika of actors perform their hearts out. While ‘Darlings’ hits home hard with its tale of abusive relationships, well hidden in the disguise of a satire, credit must go to the director Jasmeet K Reen, who has also co-written the film with Parveiz Sheikh, to have handled a delicate subject with much nuance and humour. 

Watch ‘Darlings’. I’m sure you will fall in ‘loves’ with the ‘mads’ people and their antics. ‘Pleaj’ !

‘Darlings’ is streaming now on Netflix. The runtime is 134 minutes, rated U/A for some coarse language and violence. 

The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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