A dark comedy dealing in the disturbing subject matter of domestic violence is taking audiences by storm in India and beyond.

Darlings, which began streaming on Netflix globally a week ago, has had the highest global opening for a non-English Indian film, with audiences spending more than 10million hours watching it in its opening weekend, according to a statement released by the streaming service to the BBC.

It is also “currently trending in the top 10 in 16 countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia including in the UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago.”

The film is directed by Jasmeet K Reen and stars Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt, Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma in the lead roles. The narrative sees a young couple fall in love before he begins to abuse his young wife until, after a while, the tables are turned.

The film has enjoyed attention, not least because of actress Bhatt’s popularity, plus its backing by the production company of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Prior to release, the film also found itself in a media storm with with men’s rights activists accusing Darlings of promoting violence against men and calling Bhatt “the Indian Amber Heard” – a reference to the Hollywood actress who recently lost her domestic violence case against ex-husband Johnny Depp.

The BBC reports Save Indian Family Foundation, a men’s rights group, posting on social media that “thousands of male victims of domestic violence were traumatised after watching the trailer” and called for a boycott of Alia Bhatt and her films.

Director Reen told the BBC, “Domestic violence is not a gender thing, it happens to men too. It’s a very serious issue and we have looked at it with sensitivity and with empathy.”

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