‘DARLINGS’ REVIEW | 5 August, 2022

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Netfilx, Red Chillies Entertainment and Eternal Sunshine Productions’ Darlings (UA) is the story of Badrunissa Sheikh (Alia Bhatt), her husband, Hamza Sheikh (Vijay Varma), and her mother, Shamshunissa Ansari (Shefali Shah).

Badrunissa is married to Hamza, a ticket checker. He is an alcoholic and a wife beater. Badru’s mother is sick of seeing her daughter being ill-treated by the husband and keeps pressurising her to leave him and return to her. Both stay in the same building in row houses in a lower middle class locality. Badru is easily manipulated by Hamza and, therefore, can’t dream of deserting him. So much so that when a well-wisher, Zulfi (Roshan Mathew), complains to the police about Hamza’s ill-treatment, Badru takes back the complaint. However, Hamza continues his ill-treatment of Badru. What happens ultimately?

Parvez Shaikh and Jasmeet K. Reen have written a wonderful story and fast-paced screenplay, both of which keep the viewers engrossed. The drama does get a bit depressing at places in the first half but that feeling doesn’t linger on for too long. There are so many twists and turns that the audience gets completely involved and engrossed in the unfolding drama. The second half is simply brilliant. As for the last 20-25 minutes, it is not just entertaining but also mood-elevating! Dialogues, written by Vijay Maurya, Jasmeet K. Reen and Parvez Shaikh, are extraordinary and often evoke laughter.

Alia Bhatt is simply outstanding as Badrunissa Sheikh. She looks and acts like an illiterate lower middle-class Muslim lady who is not sure of what she wants but who ultimately wises up to the reality. Her body language is phenomenal. One has seen Alia perform brilliantly in almost every film she has worked in, and this is one more addition to the list of her memorable performances. Vijay Varma is wonderful as her husband, Hamza. It is interesting to see him manipulate her after beating her up — and this, every time! Shefali Shah absolutely shines as Badru’s mother. Her acting and expressions are to die for. A word here about the coordination between Alia and Shefali: it is unbelievable and just too fantastic. It’s sheer delight to see how both exchange looks, how they complement each other and how they also enhance each other’s performance. Roshan Mathew lends terrific support as Zulfi. Vijay Maurya proves that he is a born actor, with his performance as police inspector Rajaram Tawde. His facial expressions and body language enhance his performance. Kiran Karmarkar is delightful in the role of Hamza’s boss, Damle. Even without too many dialogues, Rajesh Sharma stands his own as Kasim Kasai. Santosh Juvekar provides able support as Janardhan Jadhav. Puja Sarup (as Noor) leaves a mark. Ajit Kelkar (as Raman Kaka), Sachin Kathuria (as the builder), and the rest lend excellent support.

Jasmeet K. Reen’s direction deserves distinction marks. Her narration keeps the audience engaged throughout. Vishal Bhardwaj’s music and Gulzar’s lyrics are in synch with the film’s mood. But there are no hit songs. Prashant Pillai’s background music is very nice. Anil Mehta’s cinematography is lovely. Garima Mathur deserves kudos for her production designing. Nitin Baid’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Darlings is an entertaining fare with a fast-paced script, excellent narration and some extraordinary performances.

Released on 5-8-’22 on Netflix.