Domestic abuse remains prevalent even today, but its representation in the cinema has been on the verge of becoming passé for quite some time. Therefore, it was a clever decision on the part of debutant director Jasmeet Reen to present the issue in a new light in her film ‘Darlings’.
Co-writers Jasmeet Reen and Parveez Sheikh have created a dark comedy on the same theme. Hamza (played by Vijay Verma) is an alcohol addict who gets triggered by the smallest of events to physically abuse his wife Badru (Alia Bhatt). Badru’s mother Shamshu (played by a terrific Shefali Shah) constantly urges Badru to leave Hamza, though her daughter wants to stay married because she believes that her husband will change. But one night, when Hamza pushes Badru too far, she realises that the problem was not with her husband’s alcohol addiction but with the man himself. So she decides to teach him a lesson by keeping him captive in his own house and inflicting the same tortures on him that he used to torment her with.
It is, indeed, difficult to tackle an issue this serious with a script that is embedded with humour. This is a feat at which the writers shine because the film effectively manages to find a balance between the depth of the topic and the light-hearted comedy that the movie is punctuated with. Cinematographer Anil Mehta captures the claustrophobic home of Badru and Hamza which becomes a reflection of Badru’s inner suffocation.
The performances are excellent. Alia Bhatt puts in genuine efforts to fit into the character and gets several shining moments, but the strain to sound rustic is visible at times. Vijay Verma is convincing as Hamza, to an extent that it becomes difficult not to despise him. A riveting Shefali Shah is simply brilliant in every frame. Watch out for her expressions in the scenes that immediately follow Hamza hitting her.
The part of the climax that shows what exactly Badru and Shamshu decide to do to Hamza at the end is unintentionally comical. The one question that remains in my mind is why Badru bothered to go through all the troubles by kidnapping and torturing her husband when the cops were ready to put him behind the bars and her supportive mother was suggesting her a divorce already. I get that she wanted to punish Hamza herself, but did she not think about what would happen afterwards?
Despite its shortcomings, the film, available to stream on Netflix, doesn’t fail to keep you engaged in its story and the protagonist.
I am going with Three-and-a-half out of Five stars for Darlings.