The Alia Bhatt-led movie rises high and shines with the incredible performances of its cast.
Last Updated: 04.04 AM, Aug 05, 2022
Darlings is a dark comedy movie full of drama, intrigue, and secrets. The movie dives into the lives of a strong mother (Shefali Shah) and daughter (Alia Bhatt) who are battling their issues while seeking love and establishing themselves in Mumbai.
Darlings heavily relies on the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog. The story explains that cruel people cannot restrain themselves from harming others, even when it serves their interests. The film is dependent so much on this story that it's narrated twice in the film, first by Shefali Shah and then by Alia Bhatt. However, the narrative for both shifts dramatically, effectively summarising Darlings' story.
The film, which is touted to be a dark comedy, is more into the former space with a lot of intensity. The comedy is more in the dialogues and expressions, but that doesn't take away from the seriousness of the issue addressed, even for a bit.
Badrunissa, aka Badru, ties the knot with Hamza after he bags a government job. It's shown as all hunky dory in the beginning of how he's over the heels in love with her and can't see anything beyond her. However, after three years of marriage, Hamza becomes a raging alcoholic, who finds every reason to hit his wife before they sleep. And the man believes in "raat gayi, baat gayi," so that he once again becomes a romantic husband when the sun rises.
This process of their married life is shown for a bit, and it just reminds you of The Great Indian Kitchen, of how the routine life of a wife is. However, because of the weak walls and roofs, the entire mohalla is aware of the routine of domestic violence.
Here, the problem of domestic violence is shown in a way that gives a hard-hitting reality check. The film delves more into how when you have the option of leaving, you believe suffering is a better solution and also believe that things might change in the future.
This very important aspect of Darlings has stuck with me well, and it has been explored amazingly well in the writing by Parveez Sheikh and Jasmeet K Reen, along with Reen's direction.
However, the build-up just crashes slightly towards the end of the film. The fate of Darlings looks predictable, only with the last shot adding a shocking value to it. But not even once, there's a slight hint of boredom that strikes while watching the film.
It's incomplete to talk about the film without talking about Shefali Shah. The actor plays Shamshu, Badru's mother in the film, and they are, hands down, two peas in a pod. The chemistry shared by the two female actors is so adorable that they don't even need dialogue between them to strike up a conversation. She is his rock and keeps on telling her to leave Hamza, knowing that her daughter suffers every night.
The mother-daughter relationship is unconventional yet very relatable in how it pans out as they live just a stone's throw away from each other.
Coming to performances, Alia Bhatt is in the league where you might say, "Is there any bad Alia Bhatt performance?" Despite whatever the plot is, the actor brings his A game and excels stupendously. The film fits her age appropriately and shows how a girl might behave when she marries a partner of her choice. The actor as Badru shows how her forgiving nature cannot be mistaken for staying forever. But, in certain scenes, the actor expresses angst as well as empathy at the same time, and you might not like her character in those instances.
This is Alia's third outing of 2022, and she just gets better and better, proving that she cannot be put in a box.
On the other hand, Shefali Shah equally shoulders Darlings, and there's no surprise in that. The actor bakes the cake and eats it too, literally. We see her in the chef's role, who knows how to save time and money in every way. The actor effortlessly shows her range, and I will call it a chef's kiss! Like Alia, even Shefali has had multiple outings this year on OTT, and we have seen her give even heavy drama an intense twist that one might not expect.
But with Darlings, the actor even performed straight-faced humour beautifully, making it believable and equally funny. At the end of the day, we need someone like Shamshu, who thinks the best solution is to get rid of anything and not suffer so much that you might get sidelined altogether.
Vijay Varma, who plays Hamza in the film, is too good and you will enjoy loving to hate his character very well. The actor has been portraying grey shades onscreen for a long time, but he has made sure that they are not cliched in any way. The violence struck at him is shot in such a way that it shows symmetrical to how Alia's character has suffered. However, when it comes to him, the actor with his dialogue makes it funnier and not empathetic.
The surprise revelation of the film is also Roshan Mathew, who starts as a mere supporting character but is not left hanging by a loose thread. He is the one character who is given a complete arc in the film and in the most exciting way.
Darlings is a dialogue-heavy film with punch lines that will crack you up instantly. Reen and Sheikh, along with Vijay Maurya, wrote these dialogues in such a way that you will instantly believe them and recognise the underlying tone of sarcasm and wit. Every scene leaves an impact with the way dialogue has shaped it along with the actors who performed it well.
The songs by the deadly combo of Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar take Darlings up a notch, making it trippier.
In all its glory, the problem of Darlings lies mostly in the way it goes to define the film as a genre. Although it was mentioned as a dark comedy, it fails to fall into that category. The film gets into the space of the Shakesperian Comedy of Errors, where one thinks of something and does something else.
In the third act of the film, we see that too many efforts are made to show how to make the film meet its fate, and instead of leaving the viewers upside down, you might just be left with a puzzle of what more could have been expected.
Darlings end up becoming "The Scorpion and The Frog" story meets Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Darlings makes it obvious with its theme of how not to suffer from domestic violence with an underlying tone of dark comedy. The Alia Bhatt-starrer film soars high on intent, but the performances show that the scope could have been slightly better. Nonetheless, I will give it to their first attempt knowing that Alia, despite becoming a superstar, paved the way for the fantastic supporting cast and made them shine as well.