Domestic abuse and abusive relationships have been the themes of many movies in the recent past, and Darlings from Jasmeet K Reen gives it an entirely different look by treating it as a black comedy. While the structure in totality is somewhat guessable, the movie smartly maneuvers into those murky areas of a problematic relationship without losing its quirky texture. With every performer adding their best to the table, Darlings is entertaining and disturbing.
Badrunnisa aka Badru is married to Hamza. He is a railway TC who is an alcoholic, and for the past three years since their marriage, Hamza has been abusing Badru. He always gets away from any actions when he justifies his act of violence in the name of love. The movie talks about the events that happen in Badru’s life when one time, Hamza’s behavior made her make a bold decision. What Badru did with the help of her mother Shamshunnisa and their close aid Zulfi is what we witness in Darlings.
Jasmeet K Reen somewhere knows that the subject will not give her any grace marks as we have seen effective films on similar subjects in the past. So the focus is on developing a constantly engaging script that addresses every angle of an abusive relationship. If any of you have witnessed an abusive relationship, the one thing we all might have noticed is the manipulative power of the abuser to make the other person cling to the relationship. More than the abuse, this manipulative mentality made Hamza an unlikeable persona. Every trait in an abusive relationship gets addressed within the framework of a black comedy.
Alia Bhatt, as always, was excellent in her character. The forgiving character trait of Badru was portrayed beautifully by her. In terms of characterization and scope, I think Shefali Shah got the meatier character, and the chemistry between the mother and daughter was great fun to watch. Vijay Varma as the manipulative and unapologetic Hamza was terrific. Roshan Mathew, as the scared Zulfi, gets a good space in the movie’s second half, and it takes a while for us to realize the significance of that character. Rajesh Sharma and Vijay Maurya are the other two major names in the star cast.
The writing divides the film into two zones. In the first one, we see how the age-old patriarchal norms make things easy for the abuser to get away quickly. In the second, it is the punishment. There is a crucial moment in the film’s climax when the mother agrees with the daughter when she talks about a possible lifelong trauma. That thought not just gives the movie additional layers of understanding but also makes us realize that Darlings is beyond a tit-for-tat revenge story. In the last quarter of its runtime, so much is happening in Darlings. We occasionally see the movie slipping away from the Black Comedy zone to connect deeply with the central characters. Some of the Priyadarshan movie-like confusions in that phase were written very smartly, making the whole thing look practically possible.
The treatment and the quality of the performances give Darlings a unique space in the category of films that address domestic abuse. With dark humor never really reducing the seriousness of the central theme, Darlings is an interesting film that works in totality. One dialogue that stayed with me was by Shefali Shah’s character when the inspector suggests divorce as a solution. She says it’s a solution only for Twitter people. And a majority is still struggling in a judgemental society.
The treatment and the quality of the performances give Darlings a unique space in the category of films that address domestic abuse.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended