The off-kilter worldview of Darlings begins at the title itself. “Darlings” is what Hamza (Vijay Varma) calls his wife Badru (Alia Bhatt). She too has a mania for mangling words (“thanks you”, “bad lucks”). United by their love for the plural, this young couple appears to be perfectly matched, except for Hamza’s uncontrolled drinking habit and nasty tendency to leave bruises on Badru’s pale skin.
Dump him, Badru’s mother Shamshu (Shefali Shah) advises. I have a “jallad (a monster) inside me, Hamza pleads. A railway ticket collector who’s put upon by his boss, Hamza seemingly can’t help himself. That’s what Badru fervently believes until a turn of the screw forces the worm to turn.
Jasmeet K Reen’s assured directorial debut, which she has also written with Parveez Shaikh, is out on Netflix. Darlings is an old-fashioned dark comedy that plays out both in a distinctive milieu (a chawl in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood in Mumbai) as well as an artfully designed imaginary bubble in which liberation might be pursued.
Reen boldly gives the sensitive subject of domestic violence the gallows humour treatment. Absurdist and often hilarious situations result from Badru-Shamshu’s masterplan, which plays out in the presence of the permanently exasperated police officer Rajaram (Vijay Maurya).