Darlings – the new Alia Bhatt film, out on Netflix on Friday – claims to be a black comedy revenge thriller. In it, a young woman (Bhatt) trapped in an abusive marriage seeks retribution for years of violence inflicted on her by her alcoholic husband (Vijay Verma). When it comes to time lapse, the film is awkwardly split evenly through Bhatt’s character, and the plans she makes after she goes past her breaking point. But not only does it make you wait too long for the kicker—it takes up half of the film’s 134-minute runtime—the darlings really don’t know how to raise the stakes and in which direction, even after that crucial moment. have to go in. It goes on like before, with the narrative momentum never really picking up.
On one level, it’s because Darlings – feature debutante Jasmeet K. Directed by Reen, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Parvez Shaikh (Queen, Belbottom) – is honestly more of a comedy of errors than a dark comedy. At times, it’s more like a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, Gol Maal says, than a proper black comedy revenge thriller in its vein, a la promising young lady, Prior to its release, the cast and crew of Darlings attempted to “educate” audiences about what the phrase dark comedy meant. But as the Netflix movie shows, they don’t even understand it themselves. This results in a tonal imbalance, with the darlings unnecessarily shifting between different styles. If you’re making a dark comedy, as you say, everything needs to follow that direction from the first minute.
Darlings’ inability to choose the alley proves that Bollywood is too afraid of the eventual darkness. But sometimes, it’s not even about the big changes—but the sequence of ingredients being mixed. Take, for example, a character who hides his trauma behind dialogues that come across as jokey. Except we only learn it toward the end when the Netflix movie reveals the past of said character. Darlings would have been better if it had revealed this to us sooner. Because then, this character’s words would be taken as humor by all the other characters in the movie, but they would have a much deeper meaning to the audience. Doing the opposite makes the lines funny to us too. It is failures like these that ultimately stop the Darlings from becoming who they want to be.
Everything you need to know about Darlings
Three years after the honeymoon phase and settled in a chawl in southeast Mumbai’s Byculla neighborhood, Badrunissa “Badru” Shaikh, nee Ansari (Bhatt) is regularly beaten up by her abusive husband, Hamza Shaikh (Verma). Even those around him have got used to the noises emanating from his house every night. Badru believes that Hamza’s consumption of alcohol – starting his day with a shot – is part of the problem. And it is implied that his government job, where he works as a ticket collector for the railways but is also made to clean his master’s toilet, contributes to his despair, which he blames on his wife. removes. Make no mistake though: Hamza is the villain of the Darlings, as he manipulates Badru’s emotions and adapts the facts to suit himself.
While his mother Shamshunissa “Shamshu” Ansari (Shefali Shah) is telling Badru that he needs to get away from Hamza from day one, Badru believes that she can heal him. The Darlings never really clarify whether it’s because she’s in love with him weirdly, or if it’s because he’s too devoted to her big picture scheme. Badru has planned the years of his life: a first child in 2020, a bigger house in 2021, a second child in 2022 and a car in 2024. That’s why she keeps prompting Hamza to sign a builder’s proposed redevelopment plan on the dotted line. (No doubt gentrify the place and push them out, though the Netflix movie never really addresses that). This only serves to enrage Hamza more, and Badru realizes he must come up with a plan to fix him for good.
But no matter how hard he tries, Hamza shows no inclination to do better except with empty promises. And when her anger escalates one night, Badru admits that it is impossible to change her husband. Well, for 10 minutes anyway. Darlings has that peculiar problem where its protagonist swings back and forth between Hamza-has-gone-to-far and I-still-care-for-Hamza. While Badru feels very passive for the first hour, he is very aimless for the second, even as the character comes into his own. But the character’s transformation — from a naive and innocent young woman to powerful, driven and controlling — is repeatedly undermined by the Netflix film’s willingness to craft the comedy bits, many of which feature a police officer (Vijay Maurya). .
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Mild plot spoilers follow.
And thus Darlings turns into a comedy of errors. At the beginning of the second act, as Badru thinks about healing her husband, his mother tells him that she should kill him. A minute later when Shamshu receives a call from the police, the mother-daughter duo panic, thinking that the police had somehow overheard them. ️ The scene after this is more in Hera Pheri. Later, after Badru decides to teach Hamza a lesson, Hamza’s boss – the same man who makes her a clean toilet – begins to inquire about her. The scene after this is even more so in Hera Pheri. Even later, as Badru wonders what to do with Hamza (who is sitting in his flat tied to a chair), the mother and daughter decide to file a missing persons complaint. Why bring that kind of headlines to yourself?
The only thing that saves them from being caught red-handed is the gullible decision of Zulfi (Roshan Mathew), a young man who revolves around Sheikh and Ansari, just like he hunkers down on a Netflix film. Matthew does not need to be present in this story, as his presence is more or less tertiary to Darlings. Zulfi is important to the plot and its intrigues, but doesn’t have much to do with it.
What Darlings does, beyond comedic misapplication, is its narrative approach and misunderstanding of character continuity. After Hamza falsely promises to mend his ways, the following scene is created in a lovable manner, replete with a musical montage. It is understandable that Badru may be deceiving himself, but why is the film also in the lurch? Elsewhere, while the Netflix film never explores the trauma of certain characters, as with most others, it is left at the door. They don’t carry their trauma – as they rightly would – from scene to scene. This is important to the film as it allows for its brilliant satire, but it creates a discrepancy in the minds of the audience.
Like the execution of the film’s ideas, the ending is also complicated. On the one hand, it indicates that Darlings is a moral universe. But in search of a forceful ending – we get a full screen PSA, within A film – The Netflix film essentially turns Badru into Alia Bhatt. At least Darlings ends up in theatres. Something that the movie was once made for—you can feel the “lag” that was timed for Badru’s “transformation”—before it went into streaming. It is interesting that Netflix became the destination, as Shah Rukh Khan-owned Red Chillies is a producer here.
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In late 2017, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings personally went to Shah Rukh Khan, getting his banner Red Chillies to produce films and series for his platform. I guess it was in the hope that such a deal might one day lead to a Netflix movie with the darling of India. That dream never came true, with the deal being a slow death as Red Chillies produced under the barrel material for Netflix – the Emraan Hashmi-led Bard of Blood, the zombie horror miniseries Betaal, or the Bobby Deol-led Crime. Remember the Thriller class. ’83? – over the past few years.
While Darlings may sound like a return to those days, it (most likely) is not. Red Chillies hasn’t produced an original film for Netflix since 2020. And more importantly, on Darlings, this is the first time a co-producer with producer Bhatt’s new banner, Eternal Sunshine. Darlings is the start of its Alia Bhatt business – and Netflix is undoubtedly praying that this collaboration turns out to be more fruitful than the last one.
Darlings releases on Netflix worldwide on Friday, August 5 at 12:30 pm.