I once prided in calling myself a Bollywood buff. No matter what inanely painful stuff the Khans came up with it was my moral duty to suffer it in a theatre. I could never imagine missing out on a Salman Khan movie (I once dragged my mother to the movie hall to watch Khamoshi with only a handful of people for company). Later, it was Hrithik’s eyes, Sushant’s smile, and Tiger’s abs that seemed to lure me in. However, with the pandemic and multiple OTT subscriptions my inclination toward Bollywood has taken a downward dive. The last three movies I’ve watched on the big screen were all dubbed ones. Occasionally though something comes along that reclaims your faith in this industry that often leaves a lot to be desired. For me, it was Darlings, a dark comedy about marital abuse, broken hearts, and hammered souls.
Let me give a brief story idea of Darlings for the uninitiated. Badrunissa or Badru (beautifully portrayed by Alia Bhatt) is the protagonist and instantly touches your heart with her vulnerability. Badru is married for three years and lives in a dilapidated Mumbai chawl with her alcoholic husband Hamza (Vijay Varma) who routinely beats her black and blue. Her mother Shamshunissa or Shamshu (played by the awesome Shefali Shah) lives nearby and repeatedly tries to convince her to walk away from the marriage but to no avail. Zulfi (cutie Roshan Matthew) does odd jobs around the chawl and knows everything about them. Many threats, a police complaint, and a miscarriage caused by Hamza later, Darlings Badru finally sees red and vouches to make him go through the hell she did, at his hands. That’s when the movie actually picks up and moves at bullet speed.
5 reasons why Darlings is a must-watch Alia Bhatt movie
Badru’s portrayal – If you see Alia’s first movie Student of the Year and then arrive at this, you can’t help but marvel at the maturity she has brought in her acting and characterization. Her deglam avatar is a far cry from the excessively groomed look she customarily flaunts with the best international designer labels. Her accent and body language are perfect to the T. And her eyes, oh how they speak! You feel every emotion she feels and sometimes simply want to shake her wildly to wake her up or beat some sense into her.
Misplaced idea of love – Badru faces mental, emotional, and physical torture because she believes that Hamza loves her and will someday mend his ways. What’s more, she cares for him dearly while being wrapped in self-loathing and bandages. This silly belief is one of the reasons why women remain in unhappy marriages. Love doesn’t allow anyone to disrespect or hurt you and Darlings in a brilliant and starkly odd way puts this point across. Alia truly shines when this reality dawns upon her.
Cold-hearted revenge – Darlings might’ve gone a bit overboard in the scheming and revenge part, but hey, truth is stranger than fiction and worse things are known to happen. Badru and Shamshu hatch a great plan and manage to get away with it proving that an injured woman is a like a tigress on the prowl. Also, in dire situations, one cannot wait to let the law take its course. Wrong as it may, protect yourself when no one else will. Hats off to Alia and Shefali for their amazing chemistry!
Well-kept secrets – Every experience in life, good or bad, leaves a mark on our existence. Shamshu’s character, while being upfront and vocal, has many layers that are visible only if observed closely. Badru’s retaliations that Hamza isn’t like her father leave Shamshu speechless although she’s a battered but protective mother. As a mother, I felt heartbroken since our children’s pain hurts us more deeply. A few unexpected revelations later though, I was as shocked as Badru was. Alia killed that scene without uttering a single word.
Fly away, the sky is yours! – I was curious to know how the movie ends and if there’ll be any frustrating loose ends left to interpretation. Thankfully, there were not. Badru couldn’t continue with this relationship, she just couldn’t. On the other hand, Hamza wouldn’t let her move on either. Not giving spoilers but the climax of Darlings pleased me. That smile on Badru’s face as she watches a movie was well-deserved.
Darlings reminds you of the Bollywood of the 70s when simple movies like Katha, Kisise na Kehna, Khoobsurat, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, etc concentrated on content and characterization. It shows the reality of underprivileged dependent women who don’t have the courage to access or utilise the laws that are made for them. It’s however a matter of perspective and empowerment. I’m not an Alia Bhatt fan but this movie sure made me sit up and take notice of her raw talent. I’m sure there’s a lot we’re yet to see from her. Do watch it if you haven’t yet and share your comments with me if you have.
*You can watch Darlings on Netflix. It is also showing on television now so keep an eye out for it.
This blog post is part of the Women’s Day Blog Hop, themed on She: A Tribute to Her, hosted by Swarnali Nath
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