4.0 / 5
By a broad definition, domestic noir means a dramatic horror film set in a house with female protagonists and revolving around relationships. Most are psychological in nature, with elements of both the horror and murder genres included. The Darlings combine all of the above, albeit in an interesting way. It’s domestic drama with a fair amount of dark comedy. It is also a moral story that focuses on domestic violence. Family abuse is a much neglected feature of our society. It has been normalized so much, especially in middle- and middle-class homes, that it no longer surprises people. People tend to see it as a “problem” between husband and wife, and no one interferes in such cases. A point is poignantly brought up in the film when the woman who runs a downstairs living room below the home of Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma doesn’t even stop to dab mehendi on a young bride’s hand as she heard a commotion.
Badrunissa ‘Badru’ Shaikh (Alia Bhatt) is married to Hamza Shaikh (Vijay Varma), a senior TC in the railway industry who happens to be a chronic alcoholic. Theirs is a love marriage. He had a habit of hitting her randomly whenever he felt like it, which he initially blamed on alcohol. She is very submissive and forgiving to him each time and even makes the perfect omelette for him in the morning. She feels he will give up drinking when he becomes a father. But her mother, Shamshunissa (Shefali Shah), who lives in the same roof, doesn’t think so. Shamshunissa wants her daughter to be separated from her abusive husband. Badru is a romantic at heart and feels love will conquer all one day. Her eyes opened after experiencing a tragedy. She decides to teach him a lesson, giving him a taste of his own medicine. That’s when things start to get out of hand, before fate steps in and puts everything back together.
Domestic abuse not only leaves physical scars but also physiological ones. The parts where Hamza deals a systematic blow to Bardru’s dignity and self-esteem are tough and make him the monster he is. Given the extent of the abuse she caused, her retaliation seemed justified at all costs. But thankfully the film has limited serving of revenge porn. The basic message is that you risk becoming the very monster you swore to kill. And one should avoid giving in to that impulse for the sake of one’s own soul.
The film is more or less confined to Badru and Hamza’s rather large house in a thatched roof. In addition to the three main characters, we also have Roshan Mathew playing the role of Zulfi, a good dealer hiding a secret of his own, a frequently confused inspector (Vijay Maurya); and a strong, silent advocate (Rajesh Sharma) who happens to be a butcher. The supporting characters, too, play an important and complementary role to the story.
Vijay Varma plays an abusive husband in a textbook. He is very normal while dealing with violence and very normal otherwise it would be hard to ignore the evil lurking deep in his heart. The character is a serial abuser with no regrets with no justification for his actions, and the actor expresses all the nuances of the character with natural ease. The film belongs to Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah. They talk a lot through eye contact as well as dialogue, understanding each other perfectly in terms of gestures and body language. Their characters all have the same problem of domestic abuse. As the movie progresses, we see their stories converge. The two deal with their separate tragedies in their own ways. Their silent care and support for each other is real and believable. Kudos to both Alia and Shefali for letting go of themselves and losing themselves in their characters, giving us a masterclass of acting in the process.
The proceedings are sometimes absurd, but that adds to the film’s appeal. Check out Darlings for its message and for the good acting shown by the entire class.
Renuka Vyavahare, Aug 5, 2022, 1:04 PM IST
3.5 / 5
Story: Badru (Alia Bhatt)’s unconditional love for her husband Hamza, (Vijay Varma) causes her to ignore all red signs in their relationship. Her mother (Shefali Shah)’s constant warnings also went unheeded. From a humble background, the young wife continued to hope for a better tomorrow until things went too far.
Even if Hamza had a habit of hitting the black and blue Badru while drunk or driven by gratuitous rage, she devoted herself to making an omelette for him the next morning. He apologizes to his ‘lover’ and she happily forgives him… the cycle continues. She reminded herself that their marriage was a love marriage after all and such arguments and abuse must be common. However, a tragic incident forces her to reframe her life decisions and views on her manipulative husband. Violence breeds violence but can revenge set you free? Who is the real victim here – the one who fights back with questionable methods or the one who normalizes abuse in the name of love?
Contrary to the trailer, Darlings is not quite a dark comedy or a suspenseful thriller. Told in a simple, linear fashion, the film tells the story of an abuser exploiting his partner in a war between men and women. While the subject matter at hand and the observations are strong, the storytelling and editing takes some work. Shot in a confined space throughout (a rather spacious room), the series continues to go in circles, making it more of a monotonous drama than a compelling domestic drama. The climax feels morally contradictory and leaves room for thought. The situation is ironic when a beauty salon woman paints mehendi on a blushing bride, while secretly about an abusive marriage next door or a handcuffed Hamza being asked to peel vegetables by a sudden wife. stifled … and many such nuances are subtly captured.
Darlings offers a fascinating case study on domestic violence but what it would be like, if it weren’t for Shefali and Alia. Both actresses speak through their eyes and sometimes offset the dreary pace with their outstanding chemistry and performances. The close friendship between the mother and daughter that sets the tone of this film – whether the heartbreaking, emotional scenes – or the more difficult scenes are softened with subtle humor. They easily get into their characters’ skins, taking each other’s energies as actors and taking you along with their stories. Despite being let down by the men inside, they decided not to see themselves as victims, and that’s the highlight of this daring domestic drama that sheds light on male privilege, physical abuse. and emotional and menacing. There are a number of reasons to watch this movie, but Shefali and Alia’s stellar performances top the list.