It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bollywood is in the middle of its roughest phase. Not only has the year 2022 been below par with even the biggest of films being absolutely dismissed at the box office, but they have also been a constant target of the trolls. Boycotting a film has become the new norm by faceless trollers. Anything and everything below the sun is getting boycotted if it comes from ‘The Big Bad World Of Bollywood’. It was recently that both the forthcoming releases Laal Singh Chaddha and Rakshabandhan had to face the wrath of the trolls so much so that Aamir Khan had to come with folded hands and say to give his film a chance.
What the trolls do not realise is that not only does Bollywood provide labour to people who aren’t products of nepotism(even if they are, everyone has the right to earn by the right means in their chosen profession) but it also contributes to the economy of the country by paying taxes. So if the income is low, all the other aspects would get impacted. So while it is good to criticize the film on its merit(and to be fair Bollywood has given such opportunities by delivering substandard products this year), to troll a film even without watching it is disservice to all the hard work. So please stop this Boycott nonsense(and No, No One Has Paid Us For Putting Across This Message)!
After that little rant, we will get back to the review and I finished watching the new Hindi film Darlings on Netflix. While the film did have the right kind of buzz right from the beginning, I was really excited in watching a bunch of talented actors together in what is Alia Bhatt’s debut as a producer(and Popcorn Reviewss wishes her the best). I must admit I did skip its trailer as I usually do these days primarily as I wished to be surprised by this dark comedy. So then with much anticipation I have watched Darlings. Is it worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Usually I start this section with the story of the film but this is again one of those films which should be watched without any pre-conceived notions. So if you may have watched its trailer, venture into the film right away, if you haven’t then continue to walk into the movie blind. Because the story is relevant and hard-hitting with a brilliant dose of black comedy which laces the narrative. The screenplay at about 134 minutes felt slightly stretched particularly in the second hour but that in no way hampers the overall viewing experience.
The drama opens by defining the relationship of the lead pair. After the few initial reels, you get a clear and distinct picture about their relationship. And I started getting the vibes of the Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen even though this film does take the violence quotient to next level. The writers really need to be credited here for the wonderful world building which has been lacking in a few Hindi films recently. So you get a sense of the area where the drama takes place as also the dynamics of every character. And there are high doses of dark humour which found me crackling up hysterically.
It is easy to say that every marriage has its share of problems but marriage is a two way street and if only one person is suffering at the hands of the other then it is a problem. But to break free of your existing relationship also takes some guts. You are vulnerable and often keep giving the other person chances. And that is just beautifully shown here. This until the tables turn in the second hour.
The drama does get slightly dark but equally delicious in the second hour. The entire chain of events are interesting and engrossing and they keep you glued for most parts. The minor flaw is that the drama gets slightly repetitive and in the process, it gets slightly stretched. But the writers quickly put the drama back on track in the final 30 minutes where a series of subtle twists keep you invested in a stunning final act. So overall this screenplay deserves brownie points for willing to tell a story which is fresh yet relevant and equally hard-hitting.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are incredibly well written with some of the most witty one-liners which will make you laugh despite the serious nature of the subject in hand. The music is excellent and blends perfectly with the drama. The BGM compliments the drama to the T. The tone is set with some beautiful visual shots of Mumbai(depicting the then rosy life of the protagonist) only to cut to the crammed by lanes of Mumbai(depicting the mundane life post marriage) and for that the cinematography needs to be applauded as well. There are so many beautifully placed metaphors especially towards the end which are wonderful to witness. Director Jasmeet K Reen does an incredibly good job in keeping things tight with the right doses of humour. There were touches of Zoya Akhtar in her narrative style in what was a fabulous presentation of skills by Jasmeet.
The performances are incredibly good here. Rajesh Sharma has his moments to shine in a well restrained role. Vijay Maurya is just so brilliant as the cop, it was such a pleasure to watch him onscreen. Kiran Karmarkar is first rate. Roshan Mathew is one of my favourite actors doing the rounds today and he is just outstanding as Zulfi. His character traits include soft glances making him extremely affable. Shefali Shah as Shamshu is fiery(given the past experiences of her character) but never goes overboard. This was such a finely balanced act which was subtle yet so impactful. There has never been any doubt about her acting chops but this role was pulled off just so effortlessly. Vijay Varma as Hamza will make your blood boil after the initial few reels and full credit to him for going all out with his role. This was one of the finest performances of his budding career in a role for which he was aptly cast given his brilliant acting skills. Alia Bhatt is a powerhouse of talent. Following up on her astounding act in Gangubai Kathiawaadi, she is just outstanding here as Badru. This character had so many layers to it and she expertly peels off each layer slowly but surely in what was a towering performance. This was a character which you would sympathize with right throughout and part of the credit goes to a brilliant performance by Alia.
Darlings is a deliciously dark comedy weaved around a relevant and hard-hitting subject with some terrific performances. Available on Netflix and Highly Recommended. And yes, Bollywood is alive and kicking!