Darlings Review – A dark comedy with a social issue landing well.
Darlings is about a woman finding her inner voice and understanding the difference between love and violence.
Debutant director Jasmeet K Reen makes a brilliant attempt to balance the act. The film has a very unusual combination of the cast, Alia Bhatt in the lead, with Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma, and Roshan Mathew in supporting roles.
The film revolves around a lower middle-class Muslim mother and daughter who veers between crises and amusements.
Badrunissa Shaikh(Alia Bhatt) is married to her lover Hamza Shaikh (Vijay Varma), who hits her daily. He is profoundly alcoholic, and that is never changing.
Badru is a submissive, complaining, doting wife. Her aspirations are limited to her home with her husband. When Hamza chomps on stones that have been unintentionally cooked in rice Badru has made, Badru extends her palm for him to spit into. Badru believes that their love for each other and, eventually, a child will save their toxic marriage, which is impossible since Hamza is deceitful, aggressive, insecure, and can change colours like a Reptile. He appears to work as a ticket collector and begins his day by cleaning his boss’s toilet. His home is the only space where he can show his superiority.
Vijay Varma gives a stellar performance as this cruel man. He goes very smoothly with every shade of Hamza.
Alia Bhatt as Badru will remind you of Safina Firdausi, which she played in Gully Boy. The only similarity between these two characters is their looks. Rest they are opposite of each other.
Shefali Shah, who plays Badru’s mother- ‘Shamsunissa,’ popularly called “Khalla,” is as terrific as in her other performances. Khalla knows men like Hamza very well, as she had a similar experience in her married life. Alia and Shefali rock on screen as a mother-daughter duo.
Another highlighter in the narrative is Zulfi(played by charismatic Roshan Mathew), their apprentice whose love life gets a fortuitous track.
The script is written by Jasmeet K Reen and Parveez Shaikh (who wrote the exquisite Queen).
The dialogues in the film are co-written by Jasmeet K Reen, Parveez Shaikh, and Vijay Maurya, which gives a finishing touch to the film’s writing. Maurya also appears as the cop towards whom Badru and Khalla go. When he advises Khalla that times have changed, she laments, “Twitter walon ke liye duniya badal gayi hai” (The society may have changed for those who utilize Twitter. Not for us).
Jasmeet’s creation of Chawl in Mumbai is as realistic as Dharavi in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy.
Cinematographer Anil Mehta (who previously worked in Lagaan, Saathiya, Veer-Zaara
and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna) captures every element surrounding the characters and them in the frame. He even uses the narrow spots to highlight Badru’s repression- the way she is trapped in her world, which she signed up for. From romantic fantasy, her red dress, nail polish, and high heel shoe transition into a rebellion.
The film’s color palette is made of dark shades to display love, revenge, passion, and frustration through dark humor.
The mischievous title song of the film, sung by Mika Singh, which has a retro theme, will make you laugh out louder and make a few moves on its’ beat. Arijit Singh’s La Illaj makes a graceful fit into the narrative.
Darlings is the first film co-produced by Alia Bhatt’s production house Eternal Sunshine, and it’s a beautiful way for her to get started as a producer.
Darlings is now streaming on Netflix.
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