Darlings by Jasmeet K Reen is the new OTT kid on the block that’s now being aired on Netflix. A quirky tale on domestic violence turns out a lesson that does leave a strong and bitter aftertaste in your mouth.
A gut wrenching story of a young couple supposedly in love soon tells a tale that’s least expected. Series of domestic abuses on Badru, the female protagonist by her husband Hamza makes you question the sanctity of the institution called marriage.
Badru, who’s a feisty young girl mothered by another strong willed woman called Shamshu leaves no stones unturned to make her marriage work. Apparently this effort seems go on for over 4 years which her mother Shamshu doesn’t feel comfortable about. She keeps insisting her sole daughter to reconsider the decision to stay back with her husband. Shamshu seems quite keen on bringing back Badru which is a stark reality for most Indian households; these houses run on the principle that no marriage is broken, they can be mended even when your partner can be fiendish in their approach. Thus leading us to lament on the statement- “why glorify those who stayed instead of those who had the courage to leave!”
Badru would surely score brownie points with Indian parents for her consistent efforts to salvage her marriage. But if you really make an attempt to deep dive into this, you only end up opening a can of worms! Hamza the quintessential Indian man finds it quite natural for his wife Badru to clean up after him every time he creates a mess; this even includes her spreading an open palm to collect all that her husband wishes to spit out post his meals. This she does quite nonchalantly as if to prove this is what marital bliss is all about.
The film’s portrayal of the euphemism that men are like scorpions who by default would end up stinging their prey-women is quite loud and conspicuous. Darlings emphasizes the sense of entitlement that all men are born with and goes on to show how if this is messed with by the weaker sex can result in hazardous damage to them.
The constant portrayal of Hamza abusing Badru followed by her shedding some tears which is counter followed by the former apologizing and justifying how devilish he is forms the crux of the movie. This toxic pattern is something that is akin to all those homes in our country that houses an abusive partner but goes easily overlooked by the rest of the society just like the character of the beautician who lives one floor below Badru and Hamza. She’s aware of this torment but chooses to ignore. This nameless character stands for the Indian society that often remains uncannily silent even when the world is coming to a screeching halt.
A typical patriarch, Hamza maintains his calm when he’s bullied by his boss. All his manliness is revealed when his wife goes against his wish. However the film also has male characters like Zulfi, Inspector Tawde or the butcher Kasim who feel that women should stand up for themselves or for what is right. While the former sees no wrong in loving an older woman Shamshu, the latter doesn’t hide his disappointment when Badru just as most Indian women doesn’t want to snitch on their abusive husband! And Kasim remains the silent but relentless ally to Shamshu whenever she’s in trouble.
As torments increase manifold to the extent of Hamza beating and eventually pushing a pregnant Badru down the stairs, the latter decides to take matters under her control. She along with her mother Shamshu and cousin Zulfi takes it upon themselves to adopt eye for an eye approach. This ends up in Hamza being meted out similar kinds of physical abuses. Finally when Shamshu reiterates the euphemistic tone of the film that most men are like scorpions and thus should be done away with, Badru is faced with the reality that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind which if practiced would result in her turning out just like her perpetrator husband. So she decides to leave Hamza who being an egoistical misogynist cannot handle the same and ends up cursing her. He goes to the extent of threatening her with a death penalty when (as if the forces of nature conspired this end) a speeding train hits him.
As Badru and Shamshu sit in Kasim’s van post Hamza’s not so grievous death, the former realizes how the latter too has been through a tumultuous marriage forcing her to kill her partner. However the thought that when you kill your perpetrator you can never forget them rules prime which dissuades Badru to do the same with Hamza who eventually gets punished for his sins.
Darlings is a comedy that also minces no words to portray gender inequality or a grave subject as domestic abuse poignantly. Badru the ultimate femme fatale turns the perfect foil to the dangerous homme fatale Hamza!