Alia Bhatt starrer film Darlings is currently streaming on Netflix. Nowadays, Bollywood has opened its doors to some of the most unconventional yet very important topics. One such topic is domestic abuse, and Darlings presents this issue using dark comedy and does it exceptionally well.
The film stars Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, and Vijay Varma in the main lead and Roshan Mathew, Rajesh Sharma, Vijay Maurya, Kiran Karmakar, Puja Sarup, and Santosh Juvekar in the supporting roles.
Helmed by Jasmine K. Reen, the movie is co-produced by Alia Bhatt’s production company Eternal Sunshine Productions and Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment. The screenplay is by Jasmine K. Reena and Parveez Sheikh. The cinematography is by Anil Mehta, and the music is by Prashant Pillai and by the star duo Gulzar-Vishal Bhardwaj.
Set in a fictional Chawl named Bahru Chawl, Darlings is about the reality of domestic abuse in a marriage and how women can escape from it, but also what keeps them from escaping. The story revolves around Badru (Alia Bhatt), a simple Muslim woman who is stuck in the never-ending cycle of marital abuse. Her character in the first half displays the traits of a naive, vulnerable woman who is overly optimistic, and ignores all red flags.
Badru’s mother Shamshu (Shefali Shah) is also a resident of the same chawl and aspires of becoming a home chef. Her character is a complete contrast to her daughter as she is a cynical person, but projects deep love for her daughter, Badru.
Her husband Hamza (Vijay Varma) is the classic representation of a government employee with big dreams but is unhappy with the life he is currently living. Hamza is stuck in a work environment where he is mentally abused by his boss, Damle (Kiran Karmarkar), and has no escape from it. He is an alcoholic and becomes violent when drunk and time and again criticizes his ‘kismat’ for the way he is treated at work. His only way of releasing this anger and frustration is by physically and verbally abusing his wife.
Shamzu constantly asks her daughter to fight back, but she doesn’t listen to her mother, until one day she decides to take revenge. This movie presents the story of how a woman coming from a lower caste still manages to fight back for herself, even if it means having her husband behind the bars.
Darlings Movie Review
This dark comedy about revenge for domestic abuse is a simple tale of a woman’s journey from being a naive housewife to fighting for herself. Class differences and religious discriminations are prevalent throughout the movie, but the movie mainly deals with the gender inequality and the oppression that women in society and their homes face. Bringing some fresh content, Darlings is definitely not a predictable story of a wife escaping the dependence of her husband.
The writing of the film is beautifully done as it projects some grey areas in the storyline. This leaves the audience to interpret the story. It brings out numerous emotions in viewers as the story progresses.
The film touches on some important topics that are ‘normalized’ in the society like toxic masculinity, gender inequality in a marriage, and the dreams and aspirations of the middle/lower caste.
Alia Bhatt as usual does not disappoint with her marvellous acting skills. She presents the character of a mature and easily inhabited role. Although she undergoes a complete development, still she manages to keep the initial traits of being a naive and optimistic woman by the end of the film.
But there isn’t just one but two stars in the movie. The other is Shefali Shah, she definitely steals the show with her amazing acting and the way she presents the character of Shamzu. Shah’s attempt at playing the character of a free-spirited woman in a society that judges women about everything, is what makes her character so special. Shamzu is very well aware of the evils of society and an abusive husband which is why she urges her daughter to break free of his control. Bhatt and Shah create magic on screen with their amazing chemistry.
Roshan Mathew is a complete surprise on-screen with his character and also his acting skills. Zulfi is the personification of modern-day men, who are quite supportive of the women around them. The representation of Zulfi and Hamza is a great juxtaposition of how, in some households, men are.