Expresso Darlings review: Alia Bhatt raises the bar for movies that make sense

You are listening to Expresso Entertainment’s update. Here is a review of the movie “Darlings”, brought to you by The Indian Express.
“There are a few things that ‘Darlings’, a film that highlights domestic violence, achieves, the most striking being the way it created its couple – a husband who constantly beats his wife; and the woman who continues to believe, in a curdled mixture of hope and despair, that “one day he will change”. Broadly defined, domestic noir refers to a dramatic thriller that takes place in a house with mostly female protagonists and revolves around relationship issues. Most are psychological, with elements of the horror and slasher genres splattered. The darlings attributed all of the above, but in a light way. It’s domestic noir with a good dash of black comedy. It is also a morality tale focusing on domestic violence. The element of humor sometimes takes over the darker aspects and the style may have overpowered the substance, but overall it was a great attempt.
Domestic violence is a very neglected topic in our society. It’s so normalized, especially among the lower middle class and bourgeois homes, that it no longer raises eyebrows or shocks us. People tend to see it as a “problem” between husband and wife, and no one ever intervenes in such cases. A point that is noticeably made in the movie where the woman who runs a salon in the house downstairs under Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma’s house doesn’t even stop applying Mehendi on the hands of a bride in hearing a commotion.

A serial wife-beater doesn’t do it because he’s forced to; he does it because he likes it. It makes him feel like a big man in his own home, having been unsupervised everywhere else, especially his workplace, where he’s treated like dirt. And a woman who continues to ignore the beatings, hiding all the evidence behind a smiling facade, does so from a place of almost unreal resilience that most other victims recognize.

On that score, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma live up to their performance, as the beautifully written Badrunissa and Hamza Sheikh, whose “love marriage” years later becomes a cyclical series of jabs followed by apologies. And it’s the other crucial element that seems right: when Hamza, in the light of day, watches Badru conscientiously prepare his pao-omelet breakfast, he is overwhelmed. He tries to reconcile with her, but she resists, he leans on the charm that made her fall in love with him in the first place, and she melts. The pattern is hard to break.

It’s a toxic world, but it’s theirs, and as long as we keep going back and forth between them, the film holds us back. Bhatt’s rapid change of mood reveals his underlying emotional temperature: very few actors working in Bollywood today have his ability to register moods without saying a word. And Varma is great: as a ticket collector at the bottom of his office post, enslaved by a bully and a jolly boss, he doesn’t get what he wanted, so he’ll make sure no one else gets it. can get what he wants. . It’s all command and control, and he’s never wrong. The other powerful act is by Shefali Shah. As Shamshunissa aka Shamshu, mother of Badru, she gives her daughter her full support, but she is not just a doorstop. We see a woman using everything she has to keep her head above water, the hard work she had to go through to raise her daughter single-handedly is only mentioned in passing. She’s trying to make something of herself, and the games between her and her handsome, serious sidekick (Rohan Mathew) as she begins to lay out her wares as a home cook, lend a touch of amusement to the procedure. It is very good too, and you want to see more, a strange pair that makes you smile.

It’s good so far. It’s good so far. The fact that the main characters are Muslims, living in a chawl with other Muslim characters, is not used as a signpost; they happen to be Muslims. Although they are aware of the otherness going on around them, they are quite capable of handling it in a factual, conversational and clear way.

After the interval, in an effort to lighten the “heavy” topic of domestic violence, the film begins to lean into its dark comedy aspect. Between cooking ‘Mirchi ka salans’ and spicy biryanis, mother and daughter dream up clumsy ways to get revenge. A clumsy cop trying to be helpful (Maurya) shows up. Injecting humor into darkness is an easy temptation: how do you entertain viewers? The result is tonal confusion. The gags don’t land, the comedic touches feel forced, and a contrived sequence or two gets boring in a movie that’s otherwise so self-aware of its characters and their motivations.

But the climactic sequence, which has satisfying weight, saves “Darlings” from going off the rails. With her debut production, studded with excellent performances, Alia Bhatt has raised the bar for movies that make sense, something a Bollywood lost in the woods can do. “Darlings” manages to convey the message he intends to convey very clearly. Among several reasons to watch the film, the performance of its exceptionally star cast Alia and Shefali Shah, make it a must-watch. The only criticism in the movie was the missing humor that had to be put everywhere with pinches of satire. Even without that, it’s still a great unique watch.

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