Darlings Controversy: Why Not Watch The Film, Before Passing A Judgement On It?

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A section of social media (you know which one) has called for boycott of actor Alia Bhatt ahead of the release of her upcoming film Darlings. Many have claimed that the film promotes domestic violence against men. It is curious how people have passed this verdict even before viewing the film.

Directed by Jasmeet K Reen, Darlings marks Bhatt’s debut as a producer and also features actors Shafali Shah, Vijay Varma and Roshan Mathew in key roles. I’ll be honest, alarm bells did go off in my head when I saw the trailer of this film. An abusive husband gets a taste of his own medicine. The theme does sound problematic as it calls for use of violence, in order to counter, well, violence. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, said Mahatma Gandhi. So is smashing abusive husbands indeed the most feasible solution to the issue of domestic violence? Before answering that, we need to ask ourselves, should we judge a whole feature film based on a 2 minutes and 34 seconds long trailer?

Darlings controversy: Outrage wins, patience and logic lose

According to the National Family Health Survey-5 report released in May this year, over 32 percent of married women in the country, between ages 18-49 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. Intimate partner violence is a serious issue which can’t be taken lightly. Women are often discouraged from even complaining against domestic abuse, let alone seek intervention.

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Raising this subject in pop culture could indeed help us take forward a much needed conversation, as we have seen with films like Thappad. But a conversation on domestic violence needs to be inclusive and must offer solutions that do not involve taking law into one’s hand, but bringing a more wholesome change in our society. Like women, men too face intimate partner violence, however, it is even more difficult for them to speak up against the abuse due to the stigma around masculinity. Thus, when we talk about domestic violence, it is important that we take the plight of male survivors into account as well. We must also ensure that domestic violence is not glamourised or presented in form of a comedy, which could trivialise the crime in eyes of the public.

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Having said that, we live in a dangerous era where outrage always has an upper hand on logic and patience. Why are we passing the verdict on Darlings without even viewing it? If at all the film glamourises domestic violence against men then it must be criticised and rejected by the viewers. However, this is not the first time a call has been raised to boycott a film prior to its release. Be it for political gains or under the ruse of hurting religious sentiments, time and again we have seen people boycotting films, trolling actors and circulating memes that can best be described as whataboutery. Case in point being two other films releasing this week- Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan, both of them being rejected for previous statements made by a cast or crew member, or because trolls just love to hate Bollywood. The allegations against Darlings are way more concerning than the other two films, but this doesn’t mean viewers shouldn’t get to pass a verdict on it after watching it.

But by calling for boycott of a film without watching it sets a wrong precedent, as here, the film is only being viewed and judged based on snippets and not as a whole picture. Many a times, the context, the story, the outcome- everything needs to be taken into consideration before cancelling a film. Do we even know if the film is exactly what its trailer wants us to believe? If not, then why can’t we instead commit to watching the film and then discuss what it gets wrong in depth?

If Darlings indeed advocates domestic violence against men then we need to ask the makers of the film why they gave into the urge champion vigilantism, thus missing out on a good chance to raise awareness about an important cause?

Views expressed are the author’s own.