Feature name: Darlings
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Verma
Directed by: Jasmeet K. Reen
‘Darlings,’ a film that brings domestic violence to the forefront, gets everything right, the most striking of which is the way it creates its couple – a husband who continues to beat his wife.
The wife, who continues to believe in a curdled mix of hope and desperation, that ‘ek din woh badal jaayenge’ (one day he will change).
A serial wife-beater does it because he enjoys it, not because he is obliged to. It helps him feel like a huge man in his own home after being unmanned everywhere else, particularly at work, where he is treated like trash.
And a woman who continues to ignore the battering, concealing all evidence behind a cheerful mask, does so out of desperation.
Set in Mumbai’s Byculla district, the story immerses us in the lives of Badru (Alia Bhatt) and Hamza (Vijay Verma). After three years, they look to be a lovey-dovey couple, but Hamza appears to believe violence is also part of the ordinary coexistence of a man and a woman living under a roof.
He punches her, she sobs, he apologises, and she feels it has more to do with the vodka in his stomach than the emptiness in his skull. It’s a destructive trend that we all notice but overlook, similar to the beautician who lives a level below the marriage.
Speaking of performances, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma are excellent as the brilliantly written Badrunissa and Hamza Sheikh, whose ‘love marriage’ turns into a cyclical sequence of beatings followed by apologies a few years later.
And here is the second important piece that seems just right: Hamza is overtaken when he stares out the window at Badru patiently cooking his pao-omelette breakfast.
He attempts to make amends with her, but she resists, he puts on the charm that drew her to him in the first place, and she melts. The pattern is difficult to break.
Shefali Shah delivers another spectacular performance. As Shamshunissa, aka Shamshu, Badru’s mother provides unwavering support, but she is more than simply a door-stopper.
We observe a mother doing anything she can to keep her head above water, with the difficult task of raising her kid alone barely acknowledged in passing.
She’s attempting to build a name for herself and the scenes between her and her eager, gorgeous accomplice (Rohan Mathew). When she begins putting out her goods. As a home cook, provide a comic touch to the proceedings. He’s also quite excellent, and you want to see more of them, this unusual couple that makes you grin.