Darlings Movie Review: Alia Bhatt turns producer with this Netflix flick, that has Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Productions sharing the producing duties. Directed by debutante Jasmeet K Reen, Darlings is touted as a black comedy that deals with marital abuse, with Alia playing the main lead, while Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma and Roshan Mathew are seen in important roles. Darlings is an interesting film, and definitely a bold move from Alia as a first-time producer and as an actor, whose ‘offbeat’ roles in movies like Udta Punjab, Highway, Gangubai Kathiawadi were seen and enjoyed. Darlings Movie: Review, Cast, Plot, Trailer, Streaming Date and Time – All You Need To Know About Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma and Roshan Mathew’s Netflix Film!
Darlings revolves around a Muslim couple, Badrunissa (Alia Bhatt), a housewife and Hamza (Vijay Varma), a ticket collector, who live in a lower-middle-class locality in Mumbai that is due for redevelopment. They had a love marriage, though in their three years of marriage, Hamza’s adorings whisperings of ‘Darlings’ to his wife is over-dominated by his physical abuses towards her, often perpetuated by his love for the drink.
Badrunissa’s single mother Shamshunisa (Shefali Shah) who stays in the nearby kholi advises her to leave Hamza, and even jokes about killing him. Badru, however, continues to be with Hamza in the hope that he would change for good. That doesn’t happen, though, and one day, Hamza goes way too far in his assault of his wife, and that’s when Badru decides enough is enough. She is determined to pay back to Hamza for all the tortures that she suffered at his hand, while Shamshu and Zulfi (Roshan Mathew), a benevolent salesman with a soft corner for the mother-daughter, help her out.
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Darlings is supposedly a black comedy, and the movie has a few enjoyable nuggets of that. Loved most of the scenes that brought Badru and Shamshu in front of the cops. Like the first time they are called to the station, and they think they are brought in so because they earlier had a mock discussion of killing Hamza. Or when the cops comes to search Badru’s house for her missing husband, and the women try to pin the blame on a gullible Zulfi. Alia and Shefali’s chemistry is an absolute delight here, and that works the best in these scenes, where their camaraderie lends to some good laughs and even works well in the emotional scenes.
Beyond that, I loved that Darlings tried to address the issue of marital abuse without compromising on the seriousness of the issue and also not getting way too dark. A couple of scenes are quite uncomfortable to watch, like the taxi scene involving Hamza, Badru and Shamshu that leads to one character getting hit on the nose. Or that sequence where Hamza reacts violently when he learns that Badru knew who filed the domestic abuse complaint against him, the incident that breaks the camel’s back for Badru. Darlings throws light on both the physical and the psychological aspects of the abuse.
While marital abuse remains at the forefront, Darlings doesn’t remain pessimistic in nature. Just look at Shamshu’s storyline, that of a woman who has worked life beyond a missing husband and raising a daughter on her own, and now seeks to thrive in a business opportunity from home. This despite Shamshu knowing that the society isn’t as progressive as her. When an inspector tells her that the world has changed and women can have better lives after divorce, she tells him that the world isn’t Twitter.
And when I pinpoint these scenes out, I can’t help but also pinpoint that those scenes are highly effective because of the actors involved. Particularly Vijay Varma, whose ability to go from cheesy to terrifying is amazing. His Hamza is also a victim of professional abuse, but the movie doesn’t paint his viles as as products of his own abuse and then try to justify what he does to Badru, and that’s a smart thing to do. Whenever Varma comes on screen, I was worried what he would do next. Hamza is a terrifying villain, because he feels so real and reminds you of people like him that are way too real, someone who knows where he knows to draw the line and then plays his cruel games along that line, and Varma breathes enough menace into that character to make him the film’s most interesting character. Darlings Song La Ilaaj: Arijit Singh Brings a Soulful Melody to Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma’s Black Comedy Drama.
Then there is Alia Bhatt who continues to astound me as an actor in how impressively she can turn herself into any character. Her Badru is the right mix of vulnerability and tenacity, and Alia is so believable in that role that it is hard to think that she is the same girl who does more spunky, glam roles in her mentor’s productions. Alia slips effortlessly into the role of Badru, getting the mannerisms and the body language right, being funny where she needs to be, and effectively petrified in scenes that demand her to be. This is why I was disappointed with RRR when it comes to Alia. You have a fantastic actress in your mix, and yet you cannot just push her into a role that doesn’t even need her presence.
The casting of Shefali Shah is another brilliant stroke of genius for the film. Her Shamshu used to be what Badru is now, and Shefali allows her to be more confident of herself, her aspirations and her daughter, matched by a delightful twinkle in her eye. I just have a crush on those eyes, and I can totally understand why a certain character in the film reveals his or her besottment with Shamshu and I was not at all surprised when that happens.
As the well-wisher Zulfi, the Malayalam star Roshan Mathew is quite likeable and has underplayed the role effectively. He particularly shines in the scene where Badru and Shamshu try to pin the kidnapping on him, which ends up with him confessing his innermost secret. Vijay Maurya as the benevolent inspector is also fine.
While I loved the performances and the intentions of the film, Darlings didn’t completely wow me as a viewer, and that’s more to do with its too-relaxed pacing and convenient writing. While it was good to see Vijay Varma strut his stuff as the villain of the piece, the domestic violence scenes do become repetitive after a point in the first half and it would have been better for the film if some of the scenes were trimmed from these portions. I was looking forward to see Badru turn the tables over on Hamza, as I was sure the movie would shine the best when that happens. Which was true, but Darlings takes its own not-so-sweet time to reach there.
Another aspect that I found somewhat underwhelming is that despite being touted as a black comedy and the second half leaning more in that territory, Darlings doesn’t complete capitalise on the genre here. Darlings takes its seriously more as a drama than a black comedy, so when it takes a turn to the latter genre and occasionally go dark with a little mischief (the third act), the shift isn’t entirely convincing. The movie also fails to embrace the dark aspects of its narrative completely and the conclusion felt conveniently tame.
There is a revelation that happens about Samshu’s past that should have come as a shocker, but doesn’t exactly feel that way. It would have been better to leave it to the audience to deduce what might have happened there. Similarly, Zulfi’s ‘confession’ should also have been a big reveal to the audience, which it isn’t because the hints were way too clear to not be noticed. I also wanted a scene that would have explained why Badru doesn’t chose to go to the law when Hamza’s beatings crossed the line. The movie establishes that the cops were on her side when she was brought in earlier for the domestic violence issue. Her explanation that she wanted ‘respects’ for all the torture she suffered at his hands doesn’t really hold water. And despite living in a busy locality, the fact that most of the neighbours were blissfully giving them wide berth to carry out their ‘activities’ also felt a little unbelievable. Where are the nosy neighbours when you need them?
I also found Rajesh Sharma’s character, who turned out to be a crucial aspect of the film later on, underexplored for the very same aspect why he was need in the film.
– All The Performers
– The Black Comedy, When It Comes
– The Length
– Predictable In Its Conclusion
– Convenient Writing
Even though it deals with a hard-hitting subject and isn’t perfect in many places, Darlings is a delight because of its quartet of lead actors, with Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma particularly delivering on those good here. A little more infusion of black comedy and some trimming of the pacing would have made the movie even more ‘darling’ to endure. Darlings is streaming on Netflix.
(The above story first appeared on Fresh Headline on Aug 05, 2022 10:07 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website freshheadline.com).