I was actually planning on reviewing the Argentine crime-thriller “Recurrence” this week, the third installment in the “Pipa” trilogy following “Perdida” and “Intuition”—and I managed to watch all three this weekend. But Netflix did me dirty this time. It released a string of movies and series I had previously watched trailers of and anticipated. So I was forced to stay indoors the whole weekend and glare at my TV screen, in sheer joy.
So the “Pipa” trilogy gets an aggregate rating of four stars and falls under the must-watch category. Also on the must watch list is the Korean action-thriller “Carter.” It may not be an amazing movie but the visuals are mind-boggling. With mediocre VFX, the cinematography and editing in the film will sometimes make you rewind a scene and ask yourself “How did they do THAT?”
Now coming back to my senses from all the awesomeness currently available on Netflix, I review the Alia Bhatt-starrer “Darlings,” because it caters to a wider audience and I have started to love Bhatt as an actor based on her recent performances.
Darlings is a black comedy co-written and directed by Jasmeet K. Reen and produced by Gauri Khan, Alia Bhatt and Gaurav Verma under the Red Chillies Entertainment and Eternal Sunshine Productions banners.
Actor and co-producer Bhatt plays Badru, a housewife married to Hamza (Vijay Varma). The couple appear happy and in love but their relationship is strained by Hamza’s drinking habit and abusive nature. Hamza is an alcoholic who routinely inflicts physical abuse on Badru—and makes her believe he hit her out of love. The gullible Badru buys it and forgives Hamza each time.
Badru’s mother Shamshu (Shefali Shah), on the other hand, knows Hamza will never change and will keep abusing her daughter. She time and again begs Badru to leave her husband, to no avail. But then, one day, a disaster in Badru’s life caused by Hamza’s recklessness forever changes her. From an innocent housewife, Badru transforms into a vengeful woman, seeking to get back her self-respect.
Within this premise, the two female leads—Bhatt and Shah—paint the stage with glorious colors in Darlings. Bhatt is on a successful acting sprint with back-to-back critically acclaimed performances. I don’t understand why she gets unnecessary hate for belonging to a filmy family. That could have gotten her her first role but after that the actor has been impeccable in her works. In Darlings, she delivers another masterpiece of a performance as Badru.
Shefali Shah also finally gets her worth in a film. The actor with immense potential and skills has mostly been reduced to playing supporting roles in her career, much of which were forgotten in the grand scheme of things. But in Darlings, she gets a strong character and ample screen time to display her skills. Together, the two ladies playing the mother-daughter duo take the story forward in a tight-kind screenplay that is predictable yet shocking at the same time.
Vijay Verma, who shot to fame in Bollywood with the commercially successful “Gully Boy”, holds his grounds firmly against the ladies. Verma’s Hamza is a vindictive chauvinist, skilled at gaslighting. The actor manages to convince the audience how intrinsically flawed Hamza is and how much we can detest him.
The writing of Darlings gives it multi-layered depth while the direction captures the minute details of the characters’ life and surroundings. The cinematography and the background music need a special mention for not being outstanding. Yes, you heard that write.
Anil Mehta’s cinematography and Prashant Pilla’s background score blend in with the characters and the settings. This creates a harmony between all things beautiful, despite the film’s darkness.
Who should watch it?
Like I said, Darlings caters to a wide group of audiences—from thriller movie lovers to Alia Bhatt fans. It may not be one of the best Indian thrillers of all time but it is definitely top-notch. The way the film builds around the two central female characters is something unique and highly enjoyable too.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Run time: 2hrs 13 mins
Actors: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Verma
Director: Jasmeet K. Reen