'Darmiyaan' is a story of Zeenat Begum, the reigning singing film star of Forties. It is also the story of Immi, Zeenat's only son, who was born a hermaphrodite and who is persuaded to pretend that he is Zeenat's brother. On yet another level, there is Chapa, a hijra, who is the leader of a small, local gang of hijras, and who makes repeated, persuasive efforts to claim Immi for her tribe; accordingly, in 'Darmiyaan' there is also the mini story of Champa and her tribe. All this neither complicates nor confuses the brilliant flow of the story.
To Immi's bewilderment and pain, Immi's childhood friends have discovered, to their amusement, that Immi is not a boy. In the meantime, Champa tells Immi that he is an eunuch just like her. All this confounds and terrifies Immi.
Zeenat lives with her mother, Ammi, and her two sisters Ameena and Shakeela. The older girl, Ameena, is married, and her husband also lives with the Ammi household. Zeenat was married to Javed Khan, a producer, who is also a studio owner, and Immi is their only child, but as Zeenat's career fades, and her private life becomes torrid, she throws her husband out.
Ammi runs a comfortable home, mainly for Zeenat. Ameena and Shakeela as well as Ameena's husband Sajjad are all pressed into Zeenat's service - Ammi wants to pamper and protect her favourite child. But as Zeenat adds years to her age and her popularity wanes, the frustrated star entrusts to Immi the chores the Ameena - Shakeela - Sajjad trio was doing. Immi, who has deep affection for his mother Zeenat, tries to cover up her fading stardom and her increasing indiscretions.
Heartbroken over her favourite daughter's decline, Ammi passes away. Zeenat takes to drinking, and gambling. Zeenat is replaced in most films by Chitra, a newcomer. Inder, Zeenat's actor lover falls for Chitra. Zeenat loses money, jewellery, household possessions in gambling sprees on cards. Only the house is saved because of Immi's pleas for help to Javed Khan, who is terminally ill.
In desperation, Immi obtains a minor role as an 'extra' in a movie, but Champa takes the already deranged Zeenat to the shooting location and upsets Immi's new career.
In more desperation, Immi sheds the kurta pajama and joints group, participating in singing and dancing assignments. One day, a gang of rich, rowdy youngsters sexually assaults him. Immi can't accept this indignity and the brutality, and walks away from the hijras.
While crying his heart out at a secluded place, Immi hears a child cry. Realising that the child is abandoned, Immi lifts and consoles the baby boy, and takes him home. He names him Murad. However, Zeenat thinks he is her child, Immi, and proclaims herself to be the mother of Immi, the boy!
One day, while Immi was away, Zeenat gives away the child Murad to Champa, this time believing Murad to be Immi, her hermaphrodite offspring. In her later day subconscious mind, she had realised and accepted that she should have given away the child Immi to Champa. When Immi realises that Murad has been given away to Champa, he gets enraged and slaps Zeenat, his mother.
Immi rescues Murad when he is about to be castrated by Champa for induction into her tribe, a sort of substitute for Immi that she really did not manage to pull into her fold. Immi pleads with Chitra to accept Murad, and give the orphan baby a chance to live. Chitra accepts, despite opposition of Inder.
Immi is despondent. He consumes a drink laced with poison, half of which he offers to his mother, Zeenat. Which brings to an end the lives of the tragic duo.
One can say in "Darmiyaan" there is a film within a film; the story of Zeenat, her film career, her love life, and her fall, and the story of Immi, his tormented journey through life, his love for his mother who waits till her last moment to call him son.
Altogether a very fine cinema story, fit to be a novel.
Now, following the highly acclaimed and successful "Maachis", "Darmiyaan"...