‘Husband Material’ romantic dramedy
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” will open the 31st edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival. The film, which is Cooper’s directorial debut, had its premiere in Venice and continued at the Toronto Film Festival this week.
The Tokyo festival runs Oct 25 to Nov 3 at venues around the Japanese capital. It will close with “Godzilla: The Planet Eater”. Co-directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita, the creature feature is the third and final part in the animated “Godzilla” trilogy. Nov 3 is said to be Godzilla’s birthday. “Planet Eater” will release in Japanese theaters shortly afterwards, on Nov 9. Japan will be the last major territory to release “A Star Is Born” where it will arrive in theaters on Dec 21.
The festival confirmed that it will also give a gala screening to Japanese film “The House Where The Mermaid Sleeps”. Directed by Yukihiko Tsutumi and starring Ryoko Shinohara and Hidetoshi Nishijima, the film is the story of a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. They are roused into action when their daughter nearly drowns and falls into a coma.
The festival will announce its full line up on Sept 25. It will make use of regular venues in the Roppongi Hills shopping and entertainment complex, and add a new venue, the Hibiya Step Square, for the first time. The EX Theatre in Roppongi district will continue to be used for the opening event and galas.
During the bustling opening number in the Bollywood romantic dramedy “Husband Material”, a performer lyrically insists: “Old-fashioned love stories need an update.” But that turns out to be just a tease: Director Anurag Kashyap (“The Gangs of Wasseypur”) and scripter Kanika Dhillon don’t stray very far from the cliches and conventions common to scads of similar masala movies in this lightly engaging but thoroughly predictable trifle about an independent-minded young woman torn between an irresistibly bad boy with commitment issues and an impossibly understanding fellow who’s the very embodiment of the film’s title.
Taapsee Pannu is by turns appealing and annoying – and in some scenes, both simultaneously – as Rummi, a free spirit who lives with her tradition-conscious extended family in Punjab state, but refuses to conform to societal norms. She makes only half-hearted (and largely unsuccessful) efforts to hide from disapproving elders her ongoing friends-with-benefits attachment to hunky Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), an impetuous would-be DJ given to tonsorial extravagance and swagger. When anyone in her family suggests she settle down and accept an arranged marriage, Rummi does everything short of belching fire to express her revulsion.
Early in “Husband Material”, however, Rummi indicates there are limits to her unconventionality: She really wants Vicky to finally put a ring on her finger after all their times together. (She makes a passing reference to her needing to have had an abortion, a mildly shocking thing to hear referenced in a Bollywood extravaganza.)
Enter Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), a gracious and attractive fellow who has returned home from his banking job in London for the express purpose of making his own tradition-conscious family happy by finding a suitable wife. One thing leads to another, thanks to the manipulations of the matchmaker Kakaji (amusingly played by Saurabh Sachdeva of the Netflix original series “Sacred Games”), and soon Rummi and Robbie are betrothed.
Mind you, Rummi initially agrees to the union only to make Vicky change his mind about matrimony. But when her inconstant lover once again demonstrates his unreliability – which, to give fair credit, Kaushal demonstrates most persuasively – Rummi accepts her role as Robbie’s dutiful wife. Sort of.
For a lengthy stretch of “Husband Material”, Robbie stoically endures Rummi’s obvious ambivalence about their marriage – yes, he knows all about her not-entirely past relationship with Mr Wrong – while patiently and hopefully waiting for her to truly fall in love with him. (RTRS)
But eventually, inevitability, Robbie tires of waiting for his spouse to be less of a stranger. And when he witnesses a platonic yet impassioned close encounter between Rummi and Vicky, he is pushed over the edge, and toward an annulment.
Bachchan appears so incensed when Robbie learns of Rummi’s seemingly undiminished desire for Vicky that if this were almost any other melodrama about a romantic triangle – especially one of the non-Bollywood variety – the audience might expect one or more crimes of passion were in the offing.
But no: The happy resolution is never seriously in doubt. Although Kashyap gets a respectable amount of mileage from the movie’s borderline-trite premise, and manages to keep putting pedal to the metal in modestly diverting fashion long after he starts running on empty, “Husband Material” only sporadically offers more than typical Bollywood song and dance and romance. (RTRS)
By Patrick Frater