Darlings, the new Alia Bhatt film, is now streaming on Netflix, and the dark comedy has already sparked a discussion among viewers. The plot revolves around a mother-daughter team (Alia and Shefali Shah) who exact revenge on the daughter’s abusive husband (Vijay Varma) by subjecting him to the same torture. Despite the film’s intense plot, it takes a comic approach, balancing the intensity with laughs. Alia, Vijay, and Jasmeet K Reen, the film’s director, speak with me about walking this tightrope.
Alia claims that not being method actors helped her and Vijay maintain a cordial working relationship. “In the middle of that, we weren’t laughing ha ha.” However, our overall vibe on set was quite relaxed. We’re not really method actors, so we weren’t really aggressive with each other BTS,” she laughs.
Vijay, on the other hand, says he was concerned about not inadvertently injuring Alia in scenes where his character Hamza had to hit Alia’s character Badru. “I remember because it was a physically powerful exchange, I wanted to make sure the other actor wasn’t hurt or felt wrong,” he says. I told you I’d come over and grab your shoulder, so brace yourself. That sort of thing was going on. There aren’t many funny moments between the husband and wife, but the drama beats are great, and we were feeding off each other extremely well. But, yes, we discussed scene choreography so that our movements and moods reflected in the work we were doing.”
Hamza, played by Vijay Varma, is not the stereotypical monster. The film depicts the wife beater in a more human light, revealing his flaws and vulnerabilities. “It’s a reflection of life,” the actor says of the motivation behind it. It’s something we’ve seen, heard, and talked about, so it’s very human. And people are anything but black and white. We figured out what colour the character is. It’s a little darker than usual. He is not in a good place in his life, not just in the equation with his wife.
He is insecure and suffers from an inferiority complex. As a defence mechanism, he compensates for this. The wife is the one thing he believes is working in his life, and he is determined to keep it that way.”
Similarly, Alia’s Badru has shades of grey because she chose to exact revenge and murder her abuser. Alia says of the film’s depiction of domestic violence, “It’s not the quintessential villain, and someone is right and someone is wrong.” It’s simply the decisions you make in life. Perhaps if he had changed, they could have lived happily ever after. But there came a point when he chose to push, and his venomous side was overpowering the side of him she loves.”
However, tackling such a sensitive subject in a comedy is a difficult task. It runs the risk of being dismissive or insensitive to the plight of domestic violence survivors. “I think if you are sensitive to that issue, it will show in whatever you write or create as an artist,” director Jasmeet says. As a result, you must be sensitive. Yes, one wanted to tell it as a dark comedy because the story, about a mother-daughter finding themselves in this male-dominated world, was always that way for me. I was also conscious of the need to entertain and engage the audience so that the message could reach a wider audience.”
Alia’s character in the film is shown to be a meticulous planner with a vision board for her future, which Alia says she cannot relate to. In fact, the actor claims that her life has never gone as planned. “I’ve never had a year-to-year plan.” In fact, I sometimes don’t know how the years have passed. It’s almost as if it’s December! There is no strategy. Also, I have the impression that nothing goes as planned. Change is the only constant in life.
I’m afraid of adapting to too much change, but the pandemic came along and put us all in our place, telling us to deal with it. Even when I was in school, I spent most of my time rewriting time tables because I never followed any of them. “That’s not me,” she says.
Darlings, co-produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, was released on Netflix on August 5th. Roshan Mathew appears in the film alongside Alia, Vijay, and Shefali. It has received positive reviews and initial fan reactions.