Darlings 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Darlings – the latest Netflix Original film set in a lower middle-class Muslim-dominated neighbourhood in Mumbai wants to break the mould is made clear in the love song that it opens with – Pleaj (with lyrics by Gulzar), which captures the milieu and spirit of the story to absolute perfection. Debutante director Jasmeet K Reen, who has co-written this film along with Parveez Sheikh takes a closer look at patriarchy and domestic violence (DV) amid the social-psychological milieu of the lower middle class.
Set in Mumbai, where the rich and not so privileged co-exist and resilience rides high, two women – mother and daughter, find their own heaven in hell. They find ways to bring their own sunshine even as dark clouds hover around them. They laugh in the face of adversity and make merry with whatever little they have.
Even as Hamza habitually beats up Badru black and blue in a drunken state or driven by uncalled-for rage, she devotedly makes an omelette for him the next morning. He apologises to his ‘darlings’ and she happily forgives him… the cycle continues. She reminds herself that theirs’ is a love marriage after all and these arguments and such abuse must be common across. However, a tragic incident forces her to recalibrate her life decisions and her views on her manipulative husband. Violence begets violence but can revenge set you free ? Who’s the real victim here – the one who fights back using questionable methods or the one who normalises abuse in the name of love ?
Contrary to the trailer, Darlings isn’t quite a dark comedy or a twisted suspenseful thriller. Told in a linear, simplistic fashion, the film is about an abuser exploiting his partner over a man versus woman battle. While the subject at hand and observations are powerful, the storytelling and editing needed some work. Shot in a confined space throughout (a rather spacious chawl room), the film keeps going in circles, making it more of a monotonous drama than a gripping domestic noir. The climax feels morally conflicted and leaves room for thought. The irony of a beauty parlour lady drawing a mehendi on a blushing bride, while being privy to an abusive marriage next door or a handcuffed Hamza being asked to peel veggies by a suddenly hardened wife… and more such nuances are finely captured.
Alia Bhatt once again has proved why she’s not hyped just for the sake of it. She plays her part brilliantly as the gullible wife who believes she can change her husband. Despite a stellar performance by Alia, Vijay Varma remained to be the most intriguing element for me in the film. The artist in him owns the hate he gets for Hamza so much that almost starts feeling like he’s feasting on the same to improve his character. The emotions he enrages in you from fear to the urge of killing him is a sign of his artistic brilliance & the magic of this script.
Shefali Shah flows with the story as smooth as the butter. The emotional burden Rukhsar comes in the guise of her quirky nature is highlighted impeccably well by Shefali ma’am. Post Choked, Roshan Mathew chooses yet another interesting character portraying his skills at the best. The way his character is used for comical relief in the second half stands out. Rajesh Sharma doesn’t get much dialogue but still, he adds certain substance to his role.
Apart from Prashant Pillai’s intriguing background score, it’s the sound design of the film that took the cake for me. From the sound of Vijay Varma banging his tiffin on the stairs while climbing up to syncing guitar-riff in a very important ‘sandal-hitting’ scene, the designer uses all this external noise extremely well to create the tension in the room. Vishal Bhardwaj & Mellow D’s songs just land perfectly without creating any obstruction. The rap song Bhasad is to this film exactly what Badla was to Blackmail.
All said and done, Darlings is Bollywood getting as close as it could ever be (to date) to Andhadhun. The ‘tragedy mein comedy’ treatment gives this a soul as Alia Bhatt ends up being the heart of this film.