“Darlings,” Bollywood’s latest film offering for Netflix, will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, with twists and turns that few will have seen coming.
This dark comedy features two of the industry’s most promising actors, Alia Bhatt, who plays Badrunnisa, and Vijay Varma, as Hamza.
The two are soon to be married, but when the film moves forward three years, it delivers a chilling revelation — that their relationship is abusive and uncomfortable to watch.
Director Jasmeet Reen has done a superb job, delivering effortless comedy without undermining the film’s serious and disturbing aspects.
The actors’ portrayals feel extremely real, with Bhatt playing the role of a typical good housewife who is manipulated by her abusive husband. At no point can the viewer say that the film is far-fetched.
Varma said in an interview that he hated the character he played and was worried how he would be received. Whenever his character appears on screen, viewers will feel their blood boil. His arguments, misogyny, snarky comments and manipulative tactics all seem familiar from real-life situations.
The first half of the movie can be difficult viewing, especially for anyone who has witnessed such abuse. But after a plot twist midway through, Hamza’s demise is extremely satisfying to watch.
The change in Badrunnisa’s character, improvising as she handles one situation after another, is a delight.
A must-see film, “Darlings” is available to stream on Netflix MENA.
‘Dubai Collection Nights’ puts the focus on art events
Week-long initiative promises panel discussions, film screenings, visits to private collections, studios
Updated 23 March 2023
DUBAI: The Dubai Collection has announced the launch of a week-long series of art events set to take place from March 25-31, the Emirates News Agency has reported.
The inaugural edition of “Dubai Collection Nights” will include panel discussions on institution building and collecting by influential art professionals, film screenings, unique opportunities to visit patrons’ private collections, and studio visits by acclaimed UAE-based artists.
It will provide insight into A.R.M. Holding’s corporate collection, illustrating how companies are increasingly becoming a part of Dubai’s creative landscape.
The Dubai Collection is an initiative that aims to provide the public with a chance to explore important artworks, while also encouraging a new, long-term collecting culture in the emirate.
Muna Faisal Al Gurg, chair of the Dubai Collection’s Curatorial Committee, said: “Our new initiative, ‘Dubai Collection Nights,’ underscores Dubai Collection’s mission to build a community of committed patrons of the arts and ignite creativity across the city.
“It is created to offer a new platform for local audiences to explore the stories in the collection and connect our communities of artists, collectors, and art professionals.”
Benedetta Ghione, executive director of Art Dubai, said: “‘Dubai Collection Nights’ is the first dedicated initiative that will bring together the wider Dubai Collection community in the city for the first time.
“The lineup of activities is an important opportunity for our local audiences to see the collection and connect with Dubai-based artists and patrons.
“Talks and debates will bring to the fore the voices of professionals and collectors committed to changing the landscape of institutional collecting, whilst every day during the week-long event there will be an opportunity for the public to see artworks and learn more about the collection.”
Part-Arab models share Ramadan greetings on social media
Updated 23 March 2023
DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian catwalk star Bella Hadid, Moroccan Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi and Dutch Egyptian Moroccan model Imaan Hammam took to Instagram on Wednesday to wish their followers a happy Ramadan.
Hadid, who also unveiled a new campaign with French luxury label Louis Vuitton on Wednesday, shared colorful artwork that read “Ramadan Mubarak.”
“I wish the most peaceful month ahead (sic),” she wrote in her caption.
Her father, Palestinian real estate mogul Mohamed Hadid, replied to her in the comments and wrote: “Love you Bella. The happiest and most peaceful month for you, me, our family and loved ones InshAllah.”
El-Maslouhi used her platform to ask people to support Moroccan mothers this Ramadan through the Rif Tribes Foundation, a youth-led humanitarian and cultural organization dedicated to the people of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco.
Public Art Abu Dhabi aims to bring accessible art to UAE capital
A digital media work by South Korean collective, d’strict, was unveiled on launch day
Updated 23 March 2023
ABU DHABI: With its dozens of islands and more than 30 sophisticated cultural venues – from Louvre Abu Dhabi to Manarat Al Saadiyat and Qasr Al Hosn – the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi is emerging as a leading arts hotspot in the region, and possibly the world. Adding to its roster of cultural projects is Public Art Abu Dhabi.
Launched on March 20, it's a community-focused initiative, supported by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, aimed to enhance the quality of living by dotting the city with various forms of public art that is accessible to all.
"We've built the foundations in Abu Dhabi. We're ready," Reem Fadda, the director of Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi, said in a speech at the initiative's official launch at the Cultural Foundation. "Public art has always had a place in Abu Dhabi and we have infrastructure to build upon that even further. . . We don't want you only to come to our sites and museums, we will take art to you. You will walk in the streets of Abu Dhabi and encounter art. You will recognize your city through the lens of art."
The initiative consists of three main components, which will be spread throughout the capital and demonstrated in the coming years. Manar Abu Dhabi, meaning "lighthouse" in Arabic, will launch in November 2023 as a "year-long light art platform that activates the city and celebrates its natural beauty through light art installations," explained Fadda. The other element is direct commissions by artists from the region and abroad, whose works will embellish Abu Dhabi's corniche, parks, schools, roundabouts, tunnels, and historic sites.
There will also be Public Art Abu Dhabi Biennial, taking off in November 2024, which will be co-curated by Fadda. "We are hoping to manifest a lot of public art commissions and also present artists' work across the city, and we are hoping to able to do that through community engagement," she said.
As the speeches of the launch came to an end, audience members were invited to step outside of the building to witness the unveiling of the initiative's first public artwork. Sitting atop of the building is "WAVE," a digital media work by South Korean collective, d’strict, that has implemented "an anamorphic illusion technique,” according to the press release, whereby, “the 2D installation recreates perpetually surging three-dimensional waves," It's a fitting theme, corresponding to the emirates's pristine azure waters.
What to watch in Ramadan: The latest slate of TV shows to hit your screens this month
Updated 23 March 2023
DUBAI: It is no secret that Ramadan TV series are among the most eagerly anticipated of the year, with fans across the Middle East — and the world — settling in to watch the latest hot new show after iftar each evening.
This year, regional production houses are offering up a slate of shows, including classic comedies, heart-felt roadtrips and even a docuseries focused on Anas Bukhash, who is famous for his YouTube talk show #ABTalks and has interviewed the likes of American Palestinian Netflix star Mo Amer, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father Mohamed, and Mohammed Diab, director of Marvel’s “Moon Knight,” among others.
‘A Sitdown with Anas and Hala’
Starring: Anas Bukhash, Hala Kazim
With #ABtalks, Anas Bukhash has cemented himself as a top Arabic-language interviewer, inviting stars from across the region onto his show for a series of often-heartfelt conversations about the human experience. In “A Sitdown with Anas and Hala” he hosts a very special guest — his own mother. The six-episode docuseries will follow Anas and Hala as they discuss grief, creating boundaries, and making connections, all on a quest to find their inner selves. Airing weekly in 30-minute episodes, each installment will find the two in their home as they discuss life, the universe, and everything.
‘Gaafar El Omda’
Starring: Mohamed Ramadan, Zeina, Hala Sedki
Where: MBC Shahid
Love him or hate him, Mohamed Ramadan is the prime Arabic-language television season’s biggest star, each year turning in a role that becomes both must-watch and hotly debated, driven either by his on- or off-screen antics. Two years ago, his period piece “Moussa,” set in 1940s Egypt, was condemned by his peers after a seemingly unflattering portrayal of Egyptian comedy icon Ismail Yassine. Last year, “El Meshwar,” a series in which he plays a man in the throes of a curse, was also poorly received by many. “Gaafar El Omda” looks to be a return to form for the talented leading man, reuniting him with writer Mohammed Samy, who previously crafted the acclaimed Ramadan 2020 hit “Al Prince.” This time around, he plays a rich businessman and village elder named Gaafar, who offers a woman a loan on the condition that she become his wife for 400 days.
‘El Keteeba 101’
Starring: Asser Yassin, Amr Youssef, Khaled Elsawy
Where: MBC Shahid
After a huge hit last year with “Suits Arabia,” an Arabic-language remake of the popular American legal series, Asser Yassin is back with a gun in his hand in “El Keteeba 101,” a military drama that pairs him with acclaimed actor Amr Youssef (from 2016’s massive hit “Grand Hotel”). The series is set in the Sinai Peninsula in 2014, as the Egyptian Army’s 101st Battalion wages war against terrorist organizations, striving to overcome what appear to be impossible odds. Yassin has cemented himself as one of the best action stars in the Arab world, especially after his 2022 hit “The Eight,” and a pairing with Youssef should prove impossible to resist.
Starring: Saad Aziz, Saleh Abu Amra, Muhammad Al-Shehri
Where: MBC1 and MBC Shahid
Perhaps the greatest joy of the Ramadan television season is the surprises. In Saudi Arabia last year, that was “Road Trip” (Sikat Safar), a hilarious and heartfelt dramedy following three brothers who set off on the road after the death of their father. The second season reunites the trio of Mohammed Alshehri, Saleh Abuamrh, and Saad Aziz, this time to help their uncle run a small hotel that is threatened with demolition, all set in the gorgeous backdrop of the green southern part of the Kingdom. After Abuamrh’s widely-loved portrayal as the boss in the Saudi Arabian remake of “The Office,” expect this series to fully transition from underdog hit to Ramadan mainstay.
Starring: Ibrahem Al-Hajjaj, Fayez Bin Jurays, Khalid Al-Farraj
Where: MBC Shahid
Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj is undoubtedly the most popular actor in the country at the moment, with his action-comedy “Sattar” still setting box-office records in the Kingdom, inching closer to number two on the all-time list overall, and his Netflix hit “Al Khallat+” still ranking in the country’s top five after nine weeks of release. Expect the second season of his Ramadan hit to be even bigger than the first, then. Here, Al-Hajjaj returns in a comedy following a conflict between two brothers who are attempting to run a company together but can’t seem to agree on how. Season two promises an unexpected love story, with Al-Hajjaj’s unique brand of physical comedy on full display throughout the month.
Starring: Ahmad Fahmy, Ahmed Salah El-Saadany, Shams
After two decades behind the camera making only films, Egyptian director Khaled Youssef is making his hotly anticipated TV debut with this historical drama that follows a young man in search of the secret shrine of Sultan Hamed, supposedly in a village in the Egyptian countryside. The show is set across two timelines, one present day, and one in the French-Egyptian war of 1798, with parallel characters existing across both. A strongly political filmmaker who serves in the Egyptian parliament, Youssef’s films often tackle social justice and corruption with the gritty cinema veritè style and signature use of improvisation that has made him one of the Arab world’s most distinctive voices.
‘Al Kabeer Awi’
Cast: Ahmed Mekky, Bayoumi Fouad, Mohamed Sallam, Rahma Ahmed
Where: MBC Shahid
Now in its seventh season, this long-running Egyptian hit continues to capitalize on the undeniable charisma of star Ahmed Mekky as the titular Al Kabeer, the mayor of Al-Mazareeta, a small town in the northern part of the country, as well as his twin brother, who returns to the country from the US to claim their father’s fortune. As the series has progressed, Mekky even added a third and fourth brother to the mix, while never losing audiences, even as the plots grew increasingly absurd. The latest season follows Al Kabeer after his latest marriage, and a mysterious potion transforms his grown son into a child.
‘Bab Al Hara’
Starring: Nizar Abu Hajar, Nijah Sefkouni, Fadia Khattab, Tayser Iddriss
No Ramadan TV list would be complete without the show that has become most synonymous with the season. “Bab Al Hara,” set to debut its 13th season, is still going strong, though many fans may debate in which season the show dropped from its peak. It follows the same family in Syria as the country continues its social and political transformation. In this season, set in 1945 and 1946, beloved star Nizar Abu Hajar returns as the characters grapple with an Evacuation Day that will see the final French soldiers leave the country ahead of April 17, 1946 — Syrian Independence Day. With Abu Hajar back front and center, will “Bab Al Hara” recapture its former glory? Stay tuned.
Qatar’s Museum of Modern Art celebrates Beirut’s golden age with major exhibition
Updated 23 March 2023
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: Music in a gallery room in Doha’s Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art signals a celebratory scene — it is, in fact, part of “Beirut and the Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility,” a new exhibition of artworks, films and archival material co-curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath.
The exhibition charts the 1960s in Beirut, a decade often described as the city’s “golden age.” Featuring 230 artworks and 300 archival documents from around 40 collections worldwide, the show explores a period of creativity during the heightened political years from 1958 to 1975, an era that ended with the Lebanese civil war.
Lebanon is again facing a period of upheaval amid an economic crisis, political stalemate and the fallout from the 2020 Beirut port blast.
“Staging an exhibition about Beirut at this particular moment comes with a heightened sense of responsibility,” Bardaouil told Arab News.
“We are aware of the struggles and challenges that many people are facing on a daily basis in Lebanon, and doing an exhibition that looks at Beirut’s cultural history is, in a way, an attempt to understand the roots of a lot of the problems that are still at play today.”
On display is the work of internationally renowned Lebanese artists, including Etel Adnan, Huguette Caland, Paul Guiragossian, Saloua Raouda Choucair, and Shafic Abboud, as well as celebrated artists working in the region, such as Adel Saghir, Cici Sursock, Nadia Saikali and Rafic Charaf.
The show unfolds through a series of rooms arranged by themes, beginning with “Le Port de Beyrouth: The Place,” which depicts Lebanon and its many contradictions, including those who benefitted from Beirut’s prosperity and those who watched on in destitution.
An oil painting of the city by Caland, titled “Une Ville” (1968), sits amid archival materials and exhibition posters. Another work by Adnan, titled “Le Port de Beyrouth” (1974), made with charcoal on paper, offers an almost endearing abstract sketch of the city.
Another section, “Monster and Child: The Politics,” traces the rapid escalation of political and social tensions from the late 1960s until the outbreak of war in 1975.
Regional crises, such as the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, also broke out during this time. In this section, Aref El-Rayess’ “Fifth of June (The Changing of Horses),” an oil on canvas completed in 1967, depicts a row of beheaded men and another of mourners — a reference to the events of June 5, 1967, when the Israelis occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip.
“By staging the exhibition at Mathaf you can contextualize the story of modern art in Beirut and Lebanon within a larger picture, and that is very important,” Bardaouil said.
“The contributions of these artists, their connections with artists from other countries, neighboring countries, and the common thread to common questions that each of these artists were articulating — this is a very important exercise in contextualization.”
Artworks displayed capture the same contradictions that continue to plague Lebanese society. Politically charged works are shown alongside works that show festivity, joy and desire.
The section “Lovers: The Body” features acclaimed Lebanese female artists, such as Simone Fattal, and explores how changing social values in Beirut and across the world during the 1960s inspired new artistic movements.
The notion of the past mirroring the present is underscored in a newly commissioned multimedia installation by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige about the devastation caused by the 2020 port explosion.
Staged in the final section of the exhibition, titled “Blood of the Phoenix: The War,” the installation includes footage shot from the Sursock Museum on Aug. 4 when the deadly blast occurred.
In a digital work titled “But my head is still singing,” Hadjithomas and Joreige recount the Greek myth of Orpheus and draw parallels with Lebanon’s tragedy.
After the death of his wife Eurydice, who Orpheus tried to bring back from the dead with his enchanting music, he was torn to pieces by a group of irate women. According to the myth, however, his severed head kept singing even after death.
As Hadjithomas tells Arab News: “Even after such a tragedy we are like Orpheus; we are still singing.