Darlings Presents A Spectacle On The Consequences Of Domestic Abuse

Darlings review
Darlings Review: Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma starrer Darlings attempted to showcase a story of domestic violence and its deep-rooted connection with Indian society. Domestic violence is more common than one can think of and one of the outcomes of it can look like what was portrayed in the film.

The film released at a time when the world saw the unfortunate incident of Mandeep Kaur, a 30-year-old housewife who allegedly ended her life after surviving emotional and physical abuse from her husband for years. She had recorded a video explaining the reasons for her decision and the absolute helplessness in situations like these. Our Indian culture puts marriage on such a high pedestal, especially for women that in cases of bad marriage women force themselves to somehow survive through it in order to save the dignity of their family. Seldom these wives find a support system that can pull them out of such a situation.

Darlings shows a similar case of domestic violence where a young woman named Bhadrunissa, played by Alia Bhatt waits for that moment when her alcoholic husband will stop hitting her for the tiniest of things. In this story, Bhadrunissa has a confidant in her mother Shamshunissa, played by Shefali Shah, who tries to protect her by suggesting various plans of escape.

One wonders how a mother, well aware of her son-in-laws abusive behaviour, lets her daughter stay married. Shamshunissa herself says in the film that the tag of divorce on a woman can be detrimental for the rest of her life. After all, they were from a minority community, economically backward class and most importantly, they are women. For a woman to thrive in a society like ours with such obstacles almost seems impossible to many.

According to data, 32 percent of ever-married women aged 18 to 49 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional spousal violence. The most common type of spousal violence is physical violence (28%), followed by emotional violence (14%) and sexual violence (6%). As many as 77 percent women never sought any help or told anyone about the violence inflicted on them.

Darlings shows the trauma bond that many survivors have with their abusers. Bhadrunissa was well aware that whatever her husband Hamza Sheikh, played by Vijay Varma was doing to her wasn’t correct but she kept forgiving him out of love and sympathy.

In a few conversations about why many husbands abuse their wives, the common notion came out that women let themselves get abused. But it’s not just that, it roots from the very childhood when normalisation of abuse happens. A slap is a very normalised part of correcting a kid by parents. So the kids grow up thinking that the person in power holds the ability to abuse. Moreover, the institution of marriage in India has never been about equals, despite us living in 2022. The husband is by default considered the head of the family and is entitled to control the lives of his wife and children.

How fair is revenge?

According to STARS, historically, women who killed their abuser would be labelled as having Battered Woman Syndrome (“BWS) which is a term that’s been described as women who overreact to abuse they have received by irrationally killing their abusive partner. Darlings while contradicting the popular notion after its trailer release presents a unique climax where the survivor of abuse does not have to sacrifice her whole life fighting for justice. Bhatt’s Bhadrunissa decides that she needs to respect herself instead of seeking that from her husband.

While the film’s narrative is only a fiction, it is also one of the many versions of the same story lived by different women around the world.

Suggested Reading: Study Finds That Domestic Violence A Major Factor In Suicide Of Pregnant Women

What happened in Mandeep Kaur’s case and what fictional character of Bhadrunissa faced at the hands of her husband were sadly two of the worst versions of the same story. If women like Kaur and Bhadrunissa had more freedom to choose and did not have to fight the societal stigma against divorce, would there stories be different? Can normalising divorce and standing by the survivors of abuse actually help women live their lives fearlessly?

The views expressed are the author’s own.