×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Husband Material’

A typical Bollywood song and dance and romance about a spirited young woman torn between two wildly dissimilar men.

Director:
Anurag Kashyap
With:
Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal, Abhishek Bachchan, Arun Bali, Ashnoor Kaur, Saurabh Sachdeva. (Hindi, Punjabi, English dialogue)
Release Date:
Sep 14, 2018

2 hours 30 minutes

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 clichés 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 sexy 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 that might curtail her pursuit of pleasure. 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 sexual 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 wild 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.) When he unsurprisingly balks, Rummi takes aim at his ego — “You fire your gun in under a minute! You should join the army!” — and promises her family that if Vicky isn’t interested in marrying her, they can go ahead and locate someone who is.

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 wily 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. Indeed, it’s difficult to recall the last movie husband who evinced such gentlemanly self-restraint when it came to actually consummating his union to a reluctant partner. Kent Smith in Val Lewton’s “Cat People,” maybe?

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.

Popular on Variety

Toronto Film Review: 'Husband Material'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentation), Sept. 7, 2018. Running time: 150 MIN. (Original title: “Manmarziyaan”)

Production: (India) An Eros Intl. release of a Colour Yellow Prods. production in association with Phantom Films. Producer: Aanand L. Rai. Executive producer: Kavan J. Ahalpara.

Crew: Director: Anurag Kashyap. Screenplay: Kanika Dhillon. Camera (color): Sylvester Fonseca. Editor: Aarti Bajaj. Music: Amit Trivedi.

With: Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal, Abhishek Bachchan, Arun Bali, Ashnoor Kaur, Saurabh Sachdeva. (Hindi, Punjabi, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

    Film Review: 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot'

    In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the [...]

  • So Long, My Son directed by

    Wang Xiaoshuai's 'So Long, My Son' Earns Six APSA Nominations

    Chinese drama “So Long, My Son” was nominated in six categories for this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an unprecedented haul that makes the Wang Xiaoshuai-directed film a clear favorite. A drama about separation, secrets, a lifetime of regret, and the consequences of China’s one-child policy, “So Long, My Son” had its premiere in February [...]

  • Alan Rickman

    Film News Roundup: 'Galaxy Quest' Documentary Set for Release

    In today’s film news roundup, rescue drama “Not Without Hope” is back in development, a “Galaxy Quest” documentary is set for release, “The Two Popes” wins another award, and Ella Joyce gets cast. PROJECT REVIVED U.K.-based financing-production outfit Goldfinch has bought feature film rights to Nick Schuyler’s “Not Without Hope” and signed “The Fog” director [...]

  • Ryan Reynolds John Krasinkski

    Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski in Talks for 'Imaginary Friends' Movie

    Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski are in talks to board the fantasy comedy “Imaginary Friends” at Paramount Studios. Paramount recently won the bidding for the property over Lionsgate and Sony. Krasinski will write, direct,  produce and star while Reynolds will co-star if the deals go through. The story centers on a man who can see [...]

  • Willem Dafoe attends the "Motherless Brooklyn"

    Willem Dafoe Joins Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

    Willem Dafoe has closed a deal to join Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of “Nightmare Alley.” Collider had first reported that Dafoe was being considered for a role in the film, but sources now say the “Lighthouse” star has closed a deal to join the cast. The “At [...]

  • 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    Busan Film Review: 'To the Ends of the Earth'

    “To the Ends of the Earth,” the story of a young Japanese journalist’s experiences in Uzbekistan filming a report for a Japanese TV travel show, was originally commissioned to celebrate 25 years of cordial diplomatic relations between director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s hyper-developed island homeland and the less affluent, landlocked Central Asian nation. As such we might [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content