Darlings is a film about women’s vulnerability. It is a film about the pain that we are taught to embrace as part of our gendered training. But Darlings is also a film about women’s rage. It is also a film about what happens when women decide to take charge of their own narrative. Darlings is a bittersweet experience, the one that you’d end up savouring in one sitting. It is compelling enough to do that. Shefali Shah and Alia Bhatt have done a brilliant job in bringing out that dichotomy of love and hate, weakness and strength, and trials and triumphs.
I watched Darlings from Shamshunnisa’s (played by Shefali Shah) eyes. Shamshu’s daughter, Badrunissa (Alia Bhatt) is married to Hamza (Vijay Varma), a sly, manipulative man. Hamza is addicted to alcohol, gets aggressive when he drinks and beats Badru at the slightest inconvenience. Shamshu lives right across the street from the couple and you can feel her anger building every time she sees a new mark on her daughter’s body. You can feel it get stronger, you can relate to it when Shamshu advises Badru to leave Hamza. The most satisfying part? Her rage finds a release!
Here’s how the film throws light on some of the very problematic things we teach women in India:
Badru is a superstitious girl, constantly scared about the repercussions of things she does and even things that happen to her. She wouldn’t let a stray nimbu mirchi touch her foot or leave an abusive marriage just because she is scared of bad consequences. Shamshu, on the other hand, constantly teaches her daughter to forget about “what if” and leave Hamza to live her life.
No matter how aggressive her husband might get, Badru will always be seen cooking for him and going about with her daily chores as if nothing happened. She mechanically functions like women in India are trained to as the “perfect wives.” Shamshu’s advice to her? Mix some rat poison in the curry that she makes for Hamza every day after getting beaten by him!
Every time Hamza misbehaves with Badru, he conveniently makes up for it by making a random promise. And sometimes even the offer of Chinese food is enough. He is constantly suppressing her voice and anger with things and promises. And since Badru depends on him financially, all of it works. Shamshu, on the other hand, is a strong, independent woman who wants her daughter to understand that she does not need a man to live the life of her dreams.
Badru is obsessed with the idea of becoming a mother. So much so that she even decides to cancel an FIR against her husband after he promises to give her a child. In her head, she is convinced that a child can change her husband and heal their marriage. But Shamshu’s is, well aware, that this is a horrible idea and even says “aese sochna bhi mat” the instant Badru tells her about it.
Badru constantly forgets Hamza at her own cost. She is living in the hope that one day Hamza’s love will triumph his darkness. She even lets him manipulate her in the name of love. But sometimes love is not enough especially when their is no respect. Shamshu has lived enough to know that and keeps reminding her daughter about it time and again.
Darlings is a film for every single desi woman. Go, watch it now!
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