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Monica, O My Darling Is Genius, But Darlings Is Toxic! Double Standards?

Monica, O My Darling v/s Darlings - when abuse against women is normalised even without justification, but it’s unacceptable against men, even for a valid reason.

Trigger warning: This deals with violence against women and domestic violence and may be triggering for survivors.

I enjoyed watching both these offbeat movies—for their quirky plots entrenched in reality and hefty performances.

But this is not a movie review. Rather, it’s a commentary on the contrasting reactions to the two dark comedy movies.

Monica, O My Darling, helmed by a formidable cast in Huma Qureshi, Rajkummar Rao, Radhika Apte, Sikandar Kher, Bagavathi Perumal, Akanksha Ranjan Kapoor and more has created quite a buzz on social media with positive word-of-the-mouth reviews. Yes, there’ve been few critics who found the movie trying too hard to impress, a horrendous Quentin Tarantino movie rip off.

Darlings come with the stellar cast of Shefali Shah, Alia Bhatt, Vijay Varma, Roshan Mathew amongst others. This movie earned praise, but it also received scathing criticism.

Here are the four major criticisms against Darlings.

There is truth in some of these criticisms for Darlings, but some are biased. Let me make my case.

Black comedy is about uncomfortable truths

Black comedy is about taking sick, unadulterated potshots at an uncomfortable truth in society. In Monica, O My Darling, it was about the brutal truth of power politics. In Darlings, it was about an elephant in our rooms: domestic violence against women.

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The double standards on violence against women vs. men

On the argument of misandry, is where you’ll notice the obvious bias.

In Monica, O My Darling nobody, let me repeat, flinched an eyelid when the three “poor victims” (all men) of Monica plot her murder. Monica’s emotional blackmails and presence are a threat to their future and its prospects. It’s puzzling how no one found the male characters misogynist. But again, no surprises because men actually believe that women are the root-cause of all evil? Starting from Eve, the first woman and Satan’s partner-in-crime. Eureka!

Contrast this to the negative reactions to Darlings. There were actual comparisons between Alia Bhatt and Amber Heard. There were calls to boycott Alia Bhatt and Darlings as it promotes violence against men. I cannot recall one instance when anyone asked for a boycott against the multitude of movies that glorify violence against women and the heroes starring in them.

What Monica did was merely blame the men for being the father of her baby. Yet these men plotted to murder her. And, in the grand scheme of things, she wasn’t even the antagonist.

Badrunissa Sheikh, played by Alia Bhatt, is physically and emotionally abused by her husband Hamza Shaikh, played by Vijay Varma. Sadly, no one had an issue with Hamza physically abusing Badrunissa. But people had a problem with Badrunissa, along with Shamshun played by Shefali Shah, giving Hamza a taste of his own medicine. No one who called for boycott mentioned how Badrunissa saved Hamza, an untrustworthy, ungrateful man potentially risking her life in the future.

Why is abuse against women normalised even without justification but it’s unacceptable against men, even for a valid reason?

It beats me how men garner undivided, unprecedented support from everywhere, even without seeking it. And how women have to battle, often on their own, against the highest powers of authority and mass majority with the slimmest chances of ever winning.

Stereotyping particular groups

This criticism holds some truth. Not just Bollywood, we see black and white portrayals across movie industries. For example, how all South Indians are dark-skinned, loud-mouthed, nerdy or uncool, with comical accents who keep crying “Aiyyo” at the drop of their lungis.

But did I find the stereotyping criticism to be true with Darlings? No. The story happens to be set in a certain social class and family backdrop. But it’s universal in its subject and message.

Filmmakers need to be vigilant and responsible for the way it depicts communities and individuals, especially the susceptible ones.

Impractical solution and idealistic ending

I liked the idealistic ending of Darlings because I was hoping it wouldn’t end the way it seemed it would. I was glad it didn’t go that route. It made me love and respect Badrunnisa even more. Some may call it foolish, but I found her integrity and courage beautiful. I certainly don’t think killing someone can ever be the right solution.

But I found the ending incomplete. What Badrunissa yearned for was respect. She tried to avenge her baby’s loss through violence. Until she realised, it’s out of character for her, and she wouldn’t be able to live with guilt. So, while she saved Hamza’s life, the question remains:

Did she get the respect that she yearned for? Forget Hamza—for herself?

I’d have loved a dramatic slow-motion back shot of Badrunnisa walking into the police station and the film ending right there.

Let’s break the vicious cycle

We have several movies where violence against women is normalised and glorified. Remember the supposedly romantic dialogue from the movie Dabangg, “Thappad se nahi sahab, pyaar se darr lagta hai”. Who are these dialogue writers who think it’s romantic when women mouth dialogues that translate to “Aa bail, mujhe maar.”

I remember being goaded by my 20s-early 30s something colleagues to watch Arjun Reddy, the original Telugu version of the Hindi blockbuster, Kabir Singh, because it was “so romantic!” Later, I had a man tell me that the relationship between Kabir Singh and Preeti Sikka is pure, intimate, and deeply spiritual. Ahem!

With such distorted portrayals of love and gender in pop culture, men think it’s romantic to “own” a woman, to the extent of being abusive and violent. And women think it’s okay for a man to lose his cool and treat her horribly, ironically in the garb of love and protection.

But what’s love truly without respect? Would a man trade love for disrespect? Then why should women settle for any less? More so, when they play multiple roles to uphold the institution of marriage and family, alongside juggling their careers as well?

Our silent acceptance has created a ravenous monster. A vicious cycle of art imitating life and life imitating art—with disastrous consequences for women.

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Tina Sequeira

Author, poet, and marketer, know more about Tina Sequeira here: www.thetinaedit.com read more...

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