Darlings MOVIE REVIEW: Alia Bhatt Starrer Netflix Film Is A Delightfully Blithe Look At Domestic Abuse-DEETS Inside

Scroll down to read the review of Alia Bhatt’s latest release Darlings, which marks her debut as a producer!

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Darlings MOVIE REVIEW: Alia Bhatt Starrer Netflix Film Is A Delightfully Blithe Look At Domestic Abuse-DEETS Inside
Darlings (Netflix)

Starring Shefali Shah, Alia Bhatt, Vijay Varma.Roshan Mathew

Directed by Jasmeet Reen

Rating: ****

Debutant director Jasmeet Reen’s  Darlings is an adorably seductive concoction about two women, mother, and daughter if you will, who decide to get rid of the man who insists on raining on their parade. The droll premise is fodder for the darkest shades of comedy. Reen who comes into directorial elan with very little pre-warning,  styles a  marital fable that is at once twisted at able. No one has ever thought of doing a film on marital violence where the abused wife and her mother get together to squeeze the life and breath out of the man who thinks it is his birthright to flare up on his wife when she inadvertently leaves a bone or two in the chicken biryani. Or, worse still, when she orders stilettos online.Tauba!

Ah, the stilettos! Who would have thought they could be used in such unexpected ways to get even? Even the smallest of object acquires a vigorous meaning in this work of ouch which is all about getting even against all odds.

 The writing is  done in  broad strokes, subtlety not being too much in demand among the characters who inhabit this world  where only thick-skinned survive, to highlight the  humour that  underlines what Tolstoy described as  the  “tragedy  of the marital bed.” Interestingly Jasmeet Reen’s  story of an underprivileged  Muslim housewife never quite makes it to the bedroom.We never know how abusive Badru’s husband Hamza(Vijay Varma) gets when the light are out and the defences are down. It’s a frightening thought.

The end result does look somewhat sanitized, and cleaned out for the sake of Netflix’s home viewership which may not be happy watching physical abuse in graphic detail. Reen nonetheless generates a throbbing imminent dread each time Badru’s husband comes home drunk.

And of course, Alia Bhatt as the abused wife is gloriously spot-on. Charming and a little annoying in her insistence on taking the hard knocks of life on her chin, literally. It isn’t difficult to shine in a  role that’s tragic, sassy, funny and brave. I would give more credit for performance to Vijay Varma as her husband.Varma has a thankless job. But he miraculously manages to humanize Hamza , making him a victim at work.Forced to  wash his boss’ toilet every morning,Hamza believes he has every right to get drunk and beat up  his wife if,well, life is so unfair to him. Good one.

For a plot that gets hot only when the ladies are around, the men are fairly sharply drawn. Even a small part like that of Hamza’s boss is rendered interesting by the actor who plays him(Kiran Karmarkar).

But my favourite male character is the poor exploited Zulfi played by the wonderful Malayali actor Roshan Mathew. Zulfi is used by the mother and  daughter Shamshunissa and Badrunissa, known among the chawl wallahs as simply Shamshu and  Badru, because he chooses to be used  by them. It’s not the same as Badru’s domestic abuse. There she has no choice.

This brings me to the two ladies who run the show. Shefali Shah and Alia Bhatt’s mother-daughter act is so slyly self-serving we never know when these two women go from victim to perpetrator. Both the actresses helm the proceedings with a commanding force. They are both brilliant. But even Alia Bhatt would agree that Shefali Shah steals the show every time.

Shefali’s Shamshu  is what Badru would describe as  ‘Too cools.’ “Jab Allah Miya Good Lucks baant rahe tthe toh hum kya kar rahe tthe?”  Alia asks her screen mom. Sharpening your claws? Catty, lissom relevant, wicked and funny, Darlings ticks all the boxes and is a beast of its own kind.
As Badru would probably say, Darlings you cannot affords to miss this films.