There are some things thatdear‘, the film which brings domestic violence to the fore, is absolutely true, and perhaps most striking is the way in which it has created the couple – a husband who continues to beat his wife; and a wife who still believes, in a curdling mixture of hope and despair, that ‘ek din woh badal jaayenge (One day it will change).
The chain-wife racket does not do this because it is forced to do so; He does it because he loves her. He makes him feel like a big man in his own home, having become flightless everywhere else, especially in his workplace, where he is treated like dirt. And the woman who constantly ignores the beatings, and hides all evidence under a smiling facade, does so from an almost unrealistic place of resilience that most of her fellow sufferers are aware of.
In this score, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma are in place, as are the beautifully written Badro and Hamza, whose “Love Marriage” becomes after a few years a periodic series of beatings followed by apologies. And this is the other important element that seems just right: when Hamza, in the light of day, looks at Pedro making a bau omelet, he is overpowered. He tries to make up for her, she resists, and putting on the magic that made her fall in love with him in the first place, she melts. This pattern is hard to break.
It’s a toxic world, but it’s theirs, and until the time we stay with the back and forth between them, the movie grabs us. The rapid change in Bhatt’s mood reveals her emotional temperature: very few actors working in Bollywood today have the ability to record the mood without saying a word. And pharma is great: as a ticket collector at the bottom of the column in his office, subject to hilarious bullying (Karmakar), he didn’t really get what he wanted, so he would make sure no one else could get what he wanted. They want. It’s all about command and control, never wrong.
Watch Darlings’ trailer here:
The other strong verb of Shefali Shah. As Shamso, mother to Pedro, she gives full support to her daughter, but she is not just a door stopper. We see a woman using everything she has to keep her head above water, and the hard grind that she had to go through to raise her daughter on her own only mentioned in passing. She’s trying to make something out of herself, and the parts between her and her serious and handsome partner (Rohan Mathew) as she begins to craft her wares as a home cook, lends a touch of amusement to the proceedings. It’s very good too, and you want to see more of them, a weird pair that makes you smile.
It’s okay even there. After the interval, in an effort to lighten the “heavy” topic of domestic violence, the film begins to build on its black comedy side. Between cooking “mirchi ka salans” and spicy biryanis, mother and daughter dream about useless revenge methods. A hardened cop appears trying to be helpful (Moreya). But the gags don’t really go downhill, the comedic touches feel compelling, and a contrived sequence or two becomes disconcerting in a movie that’s familiar with its characters and their motivations.
But the peak sequence, which has a satisfactory weight, saves the “darlings” from deviating from its course. With her first production, packed with an array of excellent performances, Alia Bhatt has raised the bar for meaningful films, something Bollywood lost in the jungle can do.
The Darlings movie crew: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma, Roshan Mathew, Rajesh Gupta, Vijay Maurya, Kiran Karmakar
Darlings director: Jasmeet K Rin
Darlings movie rating: 2.5 stars