The new Alia Bhatt starrer, ‘Darlings’, may stretch credibility a bit in its choice of subject, but it establishes that Bollywood is still capable of churning out crowd pleasing entertainment if it tries some new masala. This OTT offering also underlines the fact that Bhatt is without a doubt already one of the great actors of the Indian film industry. She has the capability, often called the X factor, that provides credibility to a diversity of roles. With Darlings she has also forayed into film production, a clever move that indicates she is not just a natural actor but has a larger understanding of the film-making craft as well, possibly obtained from proximity to her father, Mahesh Bhatt.
Her fellow producer is Gauri Khan, thereby affirming that the women-centric subject of Darlings is no coincidence. Although the plot challenges credibility somewhat, its positioning as a ‘dark comedy’ and the successful direction by another woman, Jasmeet K Reen, promises much for the future.
It is a genre difficult to classify as it follows similar productions such as ‘Gully Boy’ and ‘Raaz’, and Rishi Kapoor starrer ‘Mulk’, set in a visualised world of the present day Indian Muslim community as apart from its traditional depiction in mainstream cinema. It doesn’t have to be entirely authentic to give voice to issues specific to the community, which is very necessary in the present.
Darlings is a ‘dark’ production because it addresses in an unconventional way the very real issue of domestic violence, which has not diminished over generations and, indeed, may have worsened under the pressures of modern urban existence. It had to be presented in a ‘comic’ manner because, otherwise, the subject is too harsh for viewers to sit through. While many people could be concerned about the resolution of the problem in the movie, the narrative still works. The other actors in the movie have matched Alia in their performance, which shows a professional casting approach, another element that has gone missing in Bollywood.
After all the recent failures involving the ‘superstars’ and the possible ones to come, if predictions regarding ‘Laal Singh Chadda’ and ‘Raksha Bandhan’ are to be accepted, there are lessons to be learned from movies like ‘Darlings’. Bollywood must go back to basics and focus on engaging and original scripts, realistic positioning and professional acting as well as direction, if it has to maintain its hold over the audience.