Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma, Roshan Mathew and ensemble
Director: Jasmeet K Reen
Rating: 3.5 Moons
Firsts are always special, and Alia Bhatt shall definitely agree! As she completes a decade in the entertainment industry, she ventured into production by launching her own studio named Eternal Sunshine. The first film to roll out of the banner is Darlings. Making her feature film debut is director Jasmeet K Reen.
Jasmeet along with Parveez Shaikh has written a story orbiting around 'mendhak' Badrunissa Shaikh (Alia Bhatt) and 'bicchoo' Hamza (Vijay Varma). Badrunissa is a young, starry-eyed girl who aspires to lead a comfortable and happy life with the love of her life, Hamza, a ticket collector. However, life isn't as rosy as she imagined it to be. Hamza, struggling at his job and alcoholism, turns out to be an abusive husband.
Despite being a victim of domestic violence, almost daily, the gullible Badru ignores Hamza's ill-treatment every time he coaxes her. Badru's mother Shamshunissa (Shefali Shah) disapproves of her kindness towards Hamza and motivates her to stand up for her self-respect, safety and dignity. A single mother, she becomes Badru's strongest pillar of support in her fight against domestic violence.
Years after tolerating injustice and abuse, a life-altering incident changes Badru's approach to the situation. Shedding the layer of her docile nature, she finally rises up against her ruthless husband. Zulfi (Roshan Mathew), a confidant, joins them in their battle with Hamza. Will bicchoo let go of his first nature of stinging? Will the innocent mendhak save herself from the bicchoo's poisonous sting?
There is a dialogue in Darlings said by Shefali. She asks a police officer, "Mard daru peeke jallad kyun ban jaate hai?" In response to this, the cop says, "Kyunki aurat usko banne deti hai." This assures that the foundation of the film is built strong. Any violence against women (even men) is a crime and with Darlings, the term dangerous gets a new definition. Set in a chawl in Mumbai, the film's setting voices out the claustrophobic nature of Badru and Hamza's relationship, the woman's desire to secure a happy and luxurious life, and the void of privacy and to an extent the melancholy that exists in the protagonist's life. While the trailer did give a hint at the story and the film feels like an extension of it, wait till the climax unfolds. Spine-chilling and unexpected.
There is a constant sense of foreboding in Jasmeet's direction. There is the curiosity to know the events that fall next. Yes, the plot was revealed in the trailer, but allow Jasmeet to surprise you. With a strong flavour of feminism, she blends emotions like desires, self-respect and love that sees no age bar. Watch out for the second hour of Darlings.
Can Shefali Shah and Alia Bhatt ever go wrong? The answer is, obviously NO! Despite getting 90% of the screen time, we cannot get enough of them and wish the film goes on for some more time. As smoothly and naturally as chameleons, Shefali and Alia adapt to their layered and unconventional characters.
It is the era of Shefali and there's barely any reason to complain. Call her an actress with extraordinary skills, she casts magic on you with just her eyes. Shamshunissa, as you might assume, isn't just a mother to Badru. She has an identity to carve, a life to live and independence to attain. Shefali brings the character alive on the screen; don't blink, you might miss a lovely yet subtle gesture.
Hands down, Alia is one of the best we have. Immortalising a fictional character's story to inspire millions, Alia took a brave step forward in the right direction; as a producer and actor too. Communicating with her facial expressions, she sucks you into the world of Darlings right from the word go. Her transition from the gullible Badru to a strong-willed woman, Alia will leave you gasping for more.
Amid the 'hanikarak aurat' is Vijay Varma who shines throughout Darlings as Hamza. A performance so good that you end up forgetting that it is just a character. If you don't hate Hamza, we feel sorry for you. Without giving out any spoiler, we advise you to sit up and take notice of how sublime was Roshan Mathew as Zulfi. To know more, watch Darlings right away.
As Shefali says in the film, "Twitter walon ke liye duniya badal gayi hai, humare liye nahi," we wish Darlings becomes the pioneer of change in society.
PeepingMoon.com gives Darlings 3.5 Moons