Darlings is a dark humour film with an effective storyline and charismatic characters
arlings is a newly released Netflix movie. A tale of marital conflict portrayed as a quirky revenge play, it is a dark comedy with meaningful messages to convey on domestic violence and toxic marriages. Directed by Jasmeet K Reen and written by Parveen Sheikh and the director herself, co-produced by Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt who also stars in the movie as Badrunissa aka Badru. Vijay Sharma plays the role of Hamza, the abusive, alcoholic husband. Shefali Shah as Shamsunissa Sheikh, a headstrong mother who is struggling to be a chef and Roshan Mathew as Zulfi, an aspiring screenplay writer and self-effacing man, are diametrically antithetical to Hamza. Outstanding performances by the cast, witty yet carefully written and directed screenplay, music by Vishal Bhardwaj and lyrics by Gulzar set a high bar.
The movie begins with Badru and Hamza, a married couple, living in a middle-class house right next to Badru’s single mother Shamsu. Badru, a hopeless romantic, is stuck in a love marriage, a mistake she made three years ago. She suffers in silence as her husband who apparently loves her, gets violent over the littlest issues. Like many other women in Asian societies, she tries to save a doomed marriage at the expense of her physical and mental wellbeing. Her husband beats her up every night and gives empty apologies the next morning. Badru dreams of a bigger home and two children, so she forgives him every time.
She suffers in silence as her husband who apparently loves her, gets violent over the littlest issues. Like many other women in Asian societies, she tries to save a doomed marriage at the expense of her physical and mental wellbeing
Having experienced her mother’s failed marriage, Badru tries her best to work things out with her abusive husband to avoid being a divorcee. Highlighting the taboo of divorce, the films potrays how a lot of people are still okay with violent marriages where the wife gets beaten up and tortured by her husband but does not want to be divorced. The story continues as Badru tries to ‘fix ‘’ Hamza by using different tactics that fail. She ends up being miserable. He hits her, she sheds a tear, he says sorry and she believes it has more to do with the liquor in his belly than the vacuum in his head. It is a toxic pattern that many see around them but ignore, like the beautician who lives on the floor below. Things take a turn following an unfortunate incident. Badru loses what she had believed would change her life for the better. This makes her appreciate her mother’s advice to leave her husband or murder him. Badru rears her head against Hamza and decides to punish him the way he has punished her. Constant torture and verbal abuse hit him hard. The actor makes the behavioural transitions that will make viewers forget that he is acting and loathe his existence throughout. The climax hits and there comes the plot twist that makes the whole movie a little underwhelming. She forgives him at the last minute. Fate then decides to punish him in its own way. The production ends with a note about toxic marriages and abusive relationships.
The story is not just about domestic violence. It is also about alcoholism and its impact on those close to the addicts, the strength of motherhood and normalising the relationship of an older woman with a younger man. It’s also about accepting one’s mistakes and leaving someone when it affects one, choosing divorce over a failed marriage and embracing being single. Then there is a stellar mother-daughter solidarity. Shah says it all through her eye movements and Badru understands it every time. The subtle complexity of the actors, as well as the addition of dark comedy and the element of revenge make it a fresh take on an otherwise simple story. Another worthy aspect of the movie is the song Pleaj (with lyrics by Gulzar), which captures the milieu and spirit of the story to absolute perfection. All in all, this is a worthwhile film supported by strong themes and outstanding performances.
The writer has a background in English Literature. She can be reached at email@example.com