Broadly speaking, a family noir is a dramatic thriller in a house featuring a female protagonist and revolves around human relationships. Most are psychological in nature, with elements of horror and hack and slash. Darlings combines all of the above, albeit in a lighthearted way. This is a domestic noir film with black comedy. It’s also a morality story that focuses on domestic violence. Domestic abuse is a neglected feature of our society. It’s so normalized, especially in lower-middle and middle-class households, that it’s no longer noticeable. People tend to see it as a “problem” between husband and wife, and no one ever intervenes in the situation. A poignant part of the film is that the woman who runs the living room at the downstairs home of Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma doesn’t even stop when she smears mehendi on the young bride’s hands after hearing the commotion.
Badrunissa ‘Badru’ Shaikh (Alia Bhatt) is married to Hamza Shaikh (Vijay Varma), the railway’s senior TC who happens to be a chronic alcoholic. Their marriage has always been love. He had a habit of hitting her whenever he wanted to, initially blaming it on alcohol. She was very submissive, forgiving him every time, and even made him the perfect omelette in the morning. She felt that when he became a father, he would stop drinking. But her mother, Shefali Shah, who lives in the same dormitory, thinks otherwise. Shamshuniza wants her daughter to be separated from her abusive husband. Badrue is a romantic at heart and feels that love will conquer the whole day. She opened her eyes after a tragedy. She decides to teach him a lesson and give him a taste of his own medicine. That’s when things start to get out of hand, before fate reaches out and puts things right again.
Domestic abuse leaves not only physical scars, but physical scars as well. The part where Hamza systematically strikes at Bardru’s dignity and self-esteem is tough, making him his monster. Given the amount of abuse she endured, her revenge at all costs seems justified. But thankfully, the movie doesn’t offer revenge porn. The underlying message is that you are in danger of becoming the monster you swore to kill. For the sake of one’s own soul, one should avoid giving in to this urge.
The play is more or less confined to Badru and Hamza’s big house. In addition to the three main characters, we have Roshan Mathew as Zulfi, a generalist who hides his secrets, a perpetually bewildered inspector (Vijay Maurya); and a strong, silent supporter (Rajesh Sharma), He happens to be a butcher. Supporting characters also play a vital role and add color to the story.
Vijay Varma plays a textbook abusive husband. He’s casual, otherwise normal, in his handling of violence, and it’s hard to miss the evil lurking within him. The character is a ruthless serial sadist who acts for no reason, and the actor brings out all the nuances of the character naturally. This movie belongs to Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah. They talk as much through their eyes as they do through dialogue, and understand each other’s gestures and body language perfectly. Their characters share common domestic abuse tendencies. As the film progresses, we see their stories converging. Both deal with their respective tragedies in their own way. Their silent attention and support for each other is real and relevant. Thanks to Alia and Shefali for letting go of themselves and getting lost in characters, giving us an acting masterclass along the way.
The proceedings are sometimes ludicrous, but that adds to the film’s appeal. Watch information from the Darlings and great performances from the entire ensemble.
Renuka Vyavahare, Aug 5, 2022 1:04pm EST
story: Badru (Alia Bhatt)’s unconditional love for her husband Hamza (Vijay Varma) makes her ignore all the red flags in their relationship. The constant warnings of her mother (Shefali Shah) were also ignored. The young wife, from an ordinary background, continued to hope for a better tomorrow until things got a little too far.
Even though Hamza habitually beats Badru when drunk, or beats Badru when he is driven by unprovoked anger, the next morning, she wholeheartedly cooks him an omelette. He apologizes to his “darling” and she happily forgives him…the cycle continues. She reminded herself that they were a love marriage after all, and that these quarrels and abuses must be widespread. However, a tragic event forces her to recalibrate her life decisions and views on her manipulative husband. Violence begets violence, but can revenge set you free? Who is the real victim here – the one who fought back using questionable methods, or the one who normalized abuse in the name of love?
Contrary to the trailer, Dear is not a dark comedy, nor is it a twisted suspense thriller. Told in a linear, simple way, the film follows an abuser who takes advantage of his partner in a battle between men and women. While the subject matter and observations at hand are powerful, storytelling and editing take some work. Shot throughout in a cramped space (a fairly spacious dorm), the film keeps going in circles, making it more of a drab drama than a gripping domestic noir. The climax feels morally contradictory and leaves room for thought. The irony of a beauty salon lady painting a mehendi on a blushing bride while learning about an abusive marriage next door, or a handcuffed Hamza being asked to peel vegetables by a suddenly hardened wife… more like this The nuances are well captured.
Darlings makes a compelling case study of domestic violence, but it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Shefali and Alia. Both actresses speak through their eyes, sometimes making up for the dull rhythm with their brilliant acting and chemistry. The camaraderie between mother and daughter sets the tone for the film—whether it’s the heartbreaking emotional scenes—or the tougher ones, lightened with a subtle sense of humor. They blend effortlessly into the skin of their characters, drawing energy from each other as actors and taking you through their stories. Their choice not to see themselves as victims, despite the men in their lives letting them down, is the highlight of this daring family drama that reveals male privilege, physical-emotional abuse and intimidation. There are several reasons to watch this movie, but Shafali and Alia’s great performances top the list.