“Darlings,” a Netflix original, released on the 5th of August 2022 on the platform, is written by Parveez Sheikh and Jasmeet K. Reen and directed by Jasmeet herself, and is a black comedy set in the claustrophobic chawls of Mumbai.
What Happens in the Film’ Darlings’?
Badrunissa Ansari Shaikh, the wife of Hamza Shaikh, a ticket collector with Indian Railways since the beginning of the film, is shown to be deeply in love with each other. The marriage has been abusive since the year they got hitched. Hamza, an alcoholic as well, doesn’t stop himself from getting offended over tiny things, ending up brutally attacking Badru, leaving marks all over her body. Badru’s mother, Shamshunissa Shaikh, played by Shefali Shah, who lives across from their home, is aware of the abuse and is constantly nagging her only daughter to leave her husband and move in with her. Shamshu also has Zulfi, a friend who is also an errand boy of the society, someone who is aware of Hamza’s abusive behavior. He tries to convince Badru to file a complaint, but Badru refuses to do so under the manipulation of Hamza.
Badru gets pregnant, but the joy is short-lived when Hamza starts suspecting Badru of having an affair with Zulfi, and as usual, he confronts and physically intimidates her to the point where the pregnant Badru is thrown down the stairs. Badru loses her child and vows to take revenge on Hamza. What happens once Badru decides that Hamza needs to be taught a lesson?
*Trigger warning*: Domestic abuse/domestic violence
‘Darlings’ Ending Explained: Does Badru Kill Hamza?
Badru eventually snaps and decides to confront Hamza. Shamshu gets a call from her daughter. On reaching her home, she sees Badru has tied up a sleepy/groggy Hamza and has full intention of harming him, if not killing him. Hours go by, and Hamza is fully aware and starts giving out false promises to Badru. After hours of back and forth, Hamza’s colleagues start worrying about his unexpected absence. At this point, Badru is confused as to whether to let him go or will this captivity make him say sorry and accept her, or she’ll be in jail purely for committing a crime.
Badru finally decides to kill her husband; with the help of Shamshu, Zulfi, and a local butcher, they take a sleepy/groggy to a railway track, tying him up on the track, making it look like a suicide. Badru again changes her mind about killing, but this time after loosening his noose and freeing him, she asks him to leave her for good, as she can’t continue to be a part of an abusive household. Hamza, rattled by her decision, is accidentally hit by an oncoming local train.
Shamsunissa finally confesses to her daughter that Badru’s father was killed by Shamshu in self-defense because he was equally abusive towards her. Shamshu confesses that she is glad her daughter didn’t go ahead with the murder, as the guilt would kill her. In the end, Hamza’s murder is now considered suicide, and Badru is free from the shackles of an abusive husband.
The second half of “Darlings” is when the story picks up and the screenplay weakens. The story did not sugarcoat how intense abuse in a marriage gets. The husbands never take the blame for it and always accuse outside factors like alcohol of altering their decision-making abilities in the spur of the moment. The next day, most of them act as if nothing happened the previous night, not realizing how traumatic abuse is for the partner.
Badru never saw her father in person. All she saw was the picture of her father in a fireman’s costume, and up until then, Badru wasn’t aware of the fact that her mother was also a victim of physical abuse from her husband. By letting Hamza go, not making herself guilty of any action that might be like Hamza’s, Badru breaks the cycle of abuse by making him aware of the pain he put her through and finally asking him to leave her for good. The cycle of abuse had to break at some stage, and Badru, who up until then, no one thought had it in her to walk out of her abusive marriage, finally took matters into her own hands.
The second half of the film, till the climax, did project the angst of lower-middle-class women about being always pushed around and never being taken seriously. Badru and her mother, Shamsu, find an agency by starting a small catering business and garnering enough strength to file a complaint against Hamza. Shamshu, at a juncture, points out to Inspector Rajaram Tawde that everything seems all okay only on Twitter and not to them in real life. The latter half also had the writer briefly suggesting the fact that Zulfi is in love with Shamsu and not Badru as Hamza had claimed.
What the writers forgot to acknowledge by the end of the film is that abuse is not the way to tackle abuse. It might be a temporary solution, but a permanent solution is right around the corner. One just needs to take a deep breath and find a permanent solution. Abuse is a pattern, a habit that is difficult for the perpetrator to break away from. The end of the film showcases how a partner feels once they are galaxies away from the abuse they were subjected to on a daily basis.
“Darlings” is an ideal case of a great start, mediocre in the middle, and a terrific ending. “Darlings” suffers from a case of a far too stretched screenplay. A story such as this should have ideally been over in an hour and a half. The screenplay was just all over the playground. Plenty of scenes/portions/setup could have been chopped off, which were unnecessary for the major narrative. At one point, Hamza is diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, but the subplot goes nowhere.
The story and the performances of Shefali Shah, Vijay Verma, Roshan Mathews, and Alia Bhatt stand out, as all four of them carry the film brilliantly, which kept the film afloat and engaging till the end. The climax is predictable, but the performances of all the actors, in the end, make it worthwhile.
“Darlings” is a dark comedy that, unfortunately, bit more than it could chew, but somehow the product did not turn out to be a mess. Must-watch just for the three leads, who shine bright like diamonds.
“Darlings” is now streaming on Netflix with subtitles.