“Women have to stand up for themselves,” says Jasmeet K Reen, director of Darlings, a dark comedy on: The Tribune India

Nonika Singh

“We have not taken the issue of domestic violence lightly, nor do we advocate male bashing. Our message is very clear. These words from Jasmeet K Reen should be a fitting rebuttal to the tribe of naysayers and trollers who question the premises of her directorial debut Darlings. The young director, who also co-wrote the film, shares what led her to present the burning issue of domestic violence in comedy form.

First, her one-line brief was about a mother and daughter trying to fix the daughter’s marriage. Indeed, the subject of domestic violence was at the center of his concerns. Only, she never thought she was taking a big risk by embarking on black comedy to highlight the horror of abuse.

She says: “Here, the situation is comical. It’s not that these women are joking. Rather, the humor emanates from the fact that these women are trapped and afraid. And that’s black humor… it’s not laughing at the subject. Instead, she insists, “We, including the cast and producers, have been very responsible and very sensitive to the seriousness of the issue at hand.”

Since the film juxtaposes poetic justice with taking charge of one’s destiny, what path would she really advocate? Granted, she advises women to stand up for themselves and get out of the situation, even if the story follows a different arc. But then a film, she believes, is not going to reform or change society, it can at best be a topic of conversation. If you’re wondering why, in a country with rather strict domestic violence laws, she hasn’t explored the legal option more, the answer is simple: as her research corroborates, many women in India don’t. do not. exercise their legal right even if they know it.

Jasmeet diligently researched the film but steered clear of any writing or film discussing the subject. She admits: “We have seen so much, in life as in the cinema, that somewhere deep inside, it sticks, and we end up joining the dots. But there were no deliberate or conscious reference points. Once the idea crystallized in her mind, she spoke to many women so that “the women we represent are understood with empathy and responsibility”.

And there was no particular reason to place a Muslim family at the heart of the film, except that Byculla, Mumbai, where the film is set, has delicious lingo – a mixture of English, Urdu, Hindi and of Marathi.

For those who can see a world of meaning in the Darlings title, no puns were intended or intended. Although she sticks to the script, there is an advantage to being a script director: “You can change some things and rewrite some scenes. On sets, however, it’s the director inside who decides.

As a rookie, leading a talent powerhouse like Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah could have been daunting. But she considers herself lucky to have the best (lyricist Gulzar, musical director Vishal Bhardwaj) on board. “A director’s job is to get the most out of their cast and crew. When they’re already that good, you’re pushed to do better. She adds: “On the first day of your shooting, there are 140 people, with much more experience than you, who look at you to guide you. So what do you know best… well, you know your script best. So, you have to filter what works best.

While this Sardarni, ready with a screenplay about the indomitable poet Sahir Ludhianvi, cannot say whether his Punjabi genes have influenced his cinema in any way, the fact that Punjabi women are indeed strong might have rubbed off on to essay “Darlings” as daring. Of the film’s many takeaways, the one she’d like viewers to absorb is this: respect yourself. Meanwhile, the one who started her career in advertising is busy bowing out.

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