tv & movies

Why Hamza Is A Wife Beater in Darlings

‘In Byculla, a lot of boys hero-worship the bhais.’
‘Hamza grew up in that environment, but he got a government job.’
‘And he did this so he could marry the woman he loves.’
‘Now, after getting the government job, he thought he would get to bully people…’
‘But bechara, he’s getting bullied at work.’

Darlings, like we have said, is daring, not superficial.

It has bold ideas and clever imagery.

And while a lot of credit goes to its stellar performers Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah, Vijay Varma, Roshan Mathew and Vijay Maurya, it’s really first-time director Jasmeet K Reen who needs to take a bow.

Jasmeet had not planned to make her directorial debut with a film staged around domestic abuse. She had preferred to start with an intense love story, probably keeping in mind Bollywood’s biggest demand from its film-makers.

Jasmeet tells Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com why she gave a voice to Darlings — so ironically titled — and discusses the film everyone is raving about.

Have you been affected by domestic abuse?

Yeah, yeah, all the time.

Growing up, I’ve seen violence in various forms in my friends’ families.

I had a maid, whose husband was abusive.

Once I had this idea, I did speak to a lot of people across strata.

I realised that it is very hard for the women to leave (the marriage), so I wanted to be sensitive and empathise with them, make the characters behave responsibly.

Of course, this genre is tricky, but I wanted to play with the structure a little bit.

The script is also a bit hatke.

To pitch such a different kind of film as your first film, and everybody liking it is great.

I’m really grateful that people are connecting with my voice.

How did you conceive a film like Darlings?

There was a two-line story that I had in mind about a mother-daughter, trying to fix the daughter’s marriage, and they come up with ideas to do so.

The conflict with the daughter’s marriage was that she’s a good girl, but madly in love with this guy. He is a little off, but loves her totally.

She’s unable to leave the marriage because she feels there’s love in it.

Then I thought this would be a nice comedy because the mother-daughter are very simple, and the ideas they come up with to fix this marriage are a bit off.

I always like to play the genre, in that sense.

There was no plan to write a dark comedy as such. The story lent itself to it.

It’s a dark comedy because the characters are not trying to crack jokes, right? They are stuck in a mess, and they are trying to get out of it.

I thought about it for some time because I wanted to be sure I could tell it, and direct it too.

I approached my co-writer (Parveez Sheikh) and then we wrote the script.

Did the subject of domestic abuse mean a lot to you and that’s why you wanted to make a film on it? Or was this one of the many subjects that you wanted to make a film on?

It was because of the story.

I had written another film earlier, a totally different one.

That was an intense love story, but it was taking time to make.

So I decided to write Darlings because I thought the story was interesting.

The way you shape Vijay Varma’s character is so pivotal to the script. You hate him and he is scary, but you feel sorry for him too. How difficult was it writing this character?

Why is he the way he is?

It’s good to understand that you will never agree with it.

I’ll give you a bad example. Everybody watched Joker all over the world, and connected with the film.

Now, you know who Joker is, what his future is and what he stands for.

But once you watch the film, you understand where he comes from.

Now in Hamza’s character, I wrote a back story.

According to me, he grew up in a family where his father must have beaten his mother and it was okay. Nobody said a word.

So he grew up entitled, thinking it’s okay to be controlling towards the woman you love and it’s okay to own her.

But why is he so frustrated?

The film is based in Byculla (south central Mumbai). Now what happens in Byculla is a lot of the boys hero-worship, sadly, the bhais and the dons.

He grew up in that environment, around people who aspire to be dons. But this guy actually studied and graduated. He got a government job.

And he did this so that he could marry the woman he loves.

Now, after getting the government job, he thought he would get to bully people, get them to make him coffee… But bechara, instead, he’s getting bullied at work.

That’s frustrating for him. His insecurity is actually money. We never say that in the film but it’s in one dialogue where he asks Alia’s character (when they are discussing parking space in the new building she hopes to live in), ‘Kya park karogi?‘, and she replies, ‘Scooter.’

So he says, ‘Meri aukat scooter ki hai, tumko four-wheeler suja bhi nahin.’

He feels he never made it. So he removes his frustration on his wife.

Is he allowed to do that? Of course not.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m born and brought up in Bombay. I was doing my CA (chartered accountancy), but I knew I did not want to pursue that as a career.

So I moved to advertising. I loved that, but I still felt something was missing.

I used to direct small in-house films. I did a short course summer course in FTII when I was in between jobs, and that’s when I knew I wanted to join the Hindi film industry. But I didn’t know anyone.

This was about 15 years ago. Slowly, I came into the industry.

I assisted Sanjay Gupta in Musafir, I was writing and pursuing a lot of things.

When I wanted to become a director, I stopped assisting.

I took a break and wrote an intense love story. I wanted to make that as my first film.

People liked that a lot, but it’s an ambitious film and was somehow taking time. Sanjay Leela Bhansali was supposed to produce it.

Then I wrote Darlings.

Darlings fell in place, and now I’m just focused on that.

Tomorrow: Jasmeet on working with Alia, Shefali, Vijay, Roshan…

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