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The Expresso Entertainment Update

Your Entertainment Expresso is served! The Indian Express brings to you the latest news updates from the world of Indian and international entertainment, movies, TV and OTT.

Episode 1235 August 14, 2022
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Expresso Darlings review: Alia Bhatt raises the bar for movies with meaning

You are listening to the Expresso Entertainment Update. Here is a review on the movie “Darlings”, brought to you by The Indian Express.
“There are a few things that ‘Darlings’, a film that brings domestic violence to the fore, gets right, the most striking of them being the way it has created its couple — a husband who keeps beating his wife; and the wife who keeps believing, in a curdled mix of hope and desperation, that ‘one day he will change.’ Going by a broad definition, domestic noir refers to a dramatic thriller that is set in a house with primarily female protagonists and revolves around relationship matters. Most are psychological, with elements of both the horror and slasher genres splashed in. Darlings have made attribution of all of the above but in a lighthearted way. It’s domestic noir with a fair sprinkling of dark comedy. It’s also a morality tale focusing on domestic violence. The humour element does take over the darker aspects at times and the style may have taken over the substance but overall it was a great attempt.
Domestic abuse is a much-neglected theme of our society. It’s so much being normalized, especially among the lower-middle class and middle-class homes, that it no longer raises eyebrows or shocks us. People tend to see it as a “”problem”” between husband and wife, and no one ever intervenes in such cases. A point which is substantially made in the film where the woman running a parlour in the downstairs home below Alia Bhatt’s and Vijay Varma’s house doesn’t even pause while applying Mehendi on the hands of a young bride upon hearing a commotion.

A serial wife-beater doesn’t do it because he is forced into it; he does it because he likes it. It makes him feel like a big man in his own house, after being unmanned everywhere else, especially in his workplace, where he is treated like dirt. And a woman who keeps ignoring the battering, hiding all evidence under a smiling facade, does it from a place of almost unreal resilience that most fellow sufferers recognize.

On that score, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma are spots on with their performance, as the beautifully-written Badrunissa and Hamza Sheikh, whose ‘love marriage’ a few years down the line becomes a cyclical series of beatings followed by apologies. And this is the other crucial element that feels just right: when Hamza, in the light of the day, looks at Badru dutifully making his pao-omelette breakfast, he is overcome. He tries making up to her, but she resists, he lays on the charm that made her fall for him in the first place, and she melts. The pattern is hard to break.

It is a toxic world, but it is theirs, and till the time we stay with the back-and-forth between them, the film holds us. Bhatt’s quicksilver change of moods reveals her emotional temperature underneath: very few actors working in Bollywood today have her ability to register moods without saying a word. And Varma is terrific: as a ticket collector at the bottom of the pole in his office, slaving under a jovial bully and boss, he hasn’t got what he wanted, so he will make sure that no one else can get what they want. It’s all command-and-control, and he never puts a foot wrong. The other powerful act is from Shefali Shah. As Shamshunissa aka Shamshu, mother to Badru, she extends full support to her daughter, but she is not just a door-stopper. We see a woman using whatever she has to keep her head above the water, the hard grind she has had to go through to raise her daughter single-handedly only mentioned in passing. She is trying to make something of herself, and the portions between her and her earnest, handsome accomplice (Rohan Mathew) as she starts laying out her wares as a home-cook, lend a touch of amusement to the proceedings. He is very good too, and you want to see more of them, an odd pair that makes you smile.

It’s fine till there. It’s fine till there. The fact that the main characters are Muslim, living in a chawl with other Muslim characters, they are not used as a signpost; they just happen to be Muslim. While they are aware of the othering that goes on around them, they are quite capable of dealing with it matter-of-factly, conversationally, and clearly.

Post-interval, in a bid to lighten the ‘heavy’ topic of domestic abuse, the film starts to build on its black comedy aspect. Between the cooking of ‘Mirchi ka salans’ and spicy biryanis, mother and daughter dream up clunky ways of revenge. A heavy-handed cop trying to be helpful (Maurya) shows up. Injecting humour into darkness is an easy temptation: how do you keep viewers entertained? The result is tonal confusion. The gags don’t land, the comic touches feel forced, and a contrived sequence or two becomes annoying in a film that is otherwise so aware of its characters and their motivations.

But the climactic sequence, which has a satisfying heft, rescues ‘Darlings’ from getting derailed. With her maiden production, dotted with a clutch of excellent performances, Alia Bhatt has raised the bar for movies with meaning, something a lost-in-the-woods Bollywood can do with. ‘Darlings’ manages to send across the message it intends to in a very clear manner. Among several reasons to watch the film, the performance by its star cast exceptionally Alia and Shefali Shah, make it a must-watch. The only criticism in the movie was the missing humour which needed to be put across all over with pinches of satire. Even without that, it’s still a great one-time Watch.”

“You were listening to the Expresso Entertainment Update by The Indian Express. Ask your digital assistant device to play the latest entertainment news from the Indian Express to
stay up to date with the most accurate and reliable updates in the world of Entertainment.”

Expresso Darlings review: Alia Bhatt raises the bar for movies with meaningYou are listening to the Expresso Entertainment Update. Here is a review on the movie "Darlings", brought to you by The Indian Express. "There are a few things that ‘Darlings’, a film that brings domestic violence to the fore, gets right, the most striking of them being the way it has created its couple — a husband who keeps beating his wife; and the wife who keeps believing, in a curdled mix of hope and desperation, that ‘one day he will change.’ Going by a broad definition, domestic noir refers to a dramatic thriller that is set in a house with primarily female protagonists and revolves around relationship matters. Most are psychological, with elements of both the horror and slasher genres splashed in. Darlings have made attribution of all of the above but in a lighthearted way. It’s domestic noir with a fair sprinkling of dark comedy. It’s also a morality tale focusing on domestic violence. The humour element does take over the darker aspects at times and the style may have taken over the substance but overall it was a great attempt. Domestic abuse is a much-neglected theme of our society. It’s so much being normalized, especially among the lower-middle class and middle-class homes, that it no longer raises eyebrows or shocks us. People tend to see it as a ""problem"" between husband and wife, and no one ever intervenes in such cases. A point which is substantially made in the film where the woman running a parlour in the downstairs home below Alia Bhatt’s and Vijay Varma’s house doesn’t even pause while applying Mehendi on the hands of a young bride upon hearing a commotion. A serial wife-beater doesn’t do it because he is forced into it; he does it because he likes it. It makes him feel like a big man in his own house, after being unmanned everywhere else, especially in his workplace, where he is treated like dirt. And a woman who keeps ignoring the battering, hiding all evidence under a smiling facade, does it from a place of almost unreal resilience that most fellow sufferers recognize. On that score, Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma are spots on with their performance, as the beautifully-written Badrunissa and Hamza Sheikh, whose ‘love marriage’ a few years down the line becomes a cyclical series of beatings followed by apologies. And this is the other crucial element that feels just right: when Hamza, in the light of the day, looks at Badru dutifully making his pao-omelette breakfast, he is overcome. He tries making up to her, but she resists, he lays on the charm that made her fall for him in the first place, and she melts. The pattern is hard to break. It is a toxic world, but it is theirs, and till the time we stay with the back-and-forth between them, the film holds us. Bhatt’s quicksilver change of moods reveals her emotional temperature underneath: very few actors working in Bollywood today have her ability to register moods without saying a word. And Varma is terrific: as a ticket collector at the bottom of the pole in his office, slaving under a jovial bully and boss, he hasn’t got what he wanted, so he will make sure that no one else can get what they want. It’s all command-and-control, and he never puts a foot wrong. The other powerful act is from Shefali Shah. As Shamshunissa aka Shamshu, mother to Badru, she extends full support to her daughter, but she is not just a door-stopper. We see a woman using whatever she has to keep her head above the water, the hard grind she has had to go through to raise her daughter single-handedly only mentioned in passing. She is trying to make something of herself, and the portions between her and her earnest, handsome accomplice (Rohan Mathew) as she starts laying out her wares as a home-cook, lend a touch of amusement to the proceedings. He is very good too, and you want to see more of them, an odd pair that makes you smile. It’s fine till there. It’s fine till there. The fact that the main characters are Muslim, living in a chawl with other Muslim characters, they are not used as a signpost; they just happen to be Muslim. While they are aware of the othering that goes on around them, they are quite capable of dealing with it matter-of-factly, conversationally, and clearly. Post-interval, in a bid to lighten the ‘heavy’ topic of domestic abuse, the film starts to build on its black comedy aspect. Between the cooking of ‘Mirchi ka salans’ and spicy biryanis, mother and daughter dream up clunky ways of revenge. A heavy-handed cop trying to be helpful (Maurya) shows up. Injecting humour into darkness is an easy temptation: how do you keep viewers entertained? The result is tonal confusion. The gags don’t land, the comic touches feel forced, and a contrived sequence or two becomes annoying in a film that is otherwise so aware of its characters and their motivations. But the climactic sequence, which has a satisfying heft, rescues ‘Darlings’ from getting derailed. With her maiden production, dotted with a clutch of excellent performances, Alia Bhatt has raised the bar for movies with meaning, something a lost-in-the-woods Bollywood can do with. 'Darlings' manages to send across the message it intends to in a very clear manner. Among several reasons to watch the film, the performance by its star cast exceptionally Alia and Shefali Shah, make it a must-watch. The only criticism in the movie was the missing humour which needed to be put across all over with pinches of satire. Even without that, it’s still a great one-time Watch." "You were listening to the Expresso Entertainment Update by The Indian Express. Ask your digital assistant device to play the latest entertainment news from the Indian Express to stay up to date with the most accurate and reliable updates in the world of Entertainment."
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