A genre like espionage thrillers in India usually comes with a unidimensional plot device, the overused India-Pakistan tussle with a dash of Kashmir militancy and ISIS. Add this with Akshay Kumar in lead, a female officer with a fight scene and you get Neeraj Pandey's Baby. Even as Amazon Prime's latest original series, The Family Man has an India-Pakistan plot, the protagonist here, is nowhere close to the ones we have seen before. Manoj Bajpayee's Srikant Tiwari is a middle-class, 'vada-pav' eating, home loan seeking special agent who lives dual lives. While on one hand, he is a capable agent for Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (TASC) in Mumbai, for his family he is a boring, paper-work burdened government employee with a poor pay package. The Family Man Trailer: Manoj Bajpayee Is in Rollicking Form As He Struggles Being Both the Meek Husband and India’s Best Agent – Watch Video.
Srikant's wife Suchitra Iyer (Priyamani) is fed up of his incompetence in handling household responsibilities, particularly towards their children but luckily, there's more to her than being a nagging wife. The Family Man begins not with Srikant's story but a boat being apprehended by the Coast Guards at the Arabian Sea. The three men on the boat, conversing in Malayalam are former ISIS recruits. Evidence gathered from their arrests points to an impending terror attack and thus the premiss is set.
Consisting of ten episodes, the series starts off a bit slow, but there's enough fodder to keep you hooked to the entire season as it progresses. Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK do what they are known for best, pack this show with comic brilliance in some of the most mundane scenes. What sticks out the most though is Raj and DK's attempt at throwing light on all the relevant issues surrounding India at this point including lynching, gau rakshaks, the radicalisation of Islamic youth (JNU-esque reference), the current Kashmir situation and in a slightly foresighted manner, even the Hindi language issue. What's commendable though is the fact that they don't try to get too preachy with these things even as they play safe. Although, every once in a while, they leave you impressed with lines such as "Privacy is a myth just like Democracy." I swear, I would love that on a T-Shirt! Also, the scene where Srikant's mom (Tiwari aunty) and Suchitra's father (Iyer uncle) get into the "Hindi is/is not the national language" banter, will give you a feeling like you just switched on the Lok Sabha channel.
In the past few years, there has been awareness and even dialogue surrounding the stereotypical representation of Muslims or for that matter making them the face of terrorism in cinema. With, The Family Man, the makers don't correct any of it but almost at every juncture, try to either humanize its perpetrators and lightly touch upon the ill-treatment of Muslim youth in India and how loosely they are termed as "anti-nationals" at the drop of a hat. The main narrative change here though is the fact that these terrorists are Indians, they are not Pakistan-bred militants but well-targeted ISIS recruits in India. After the first episode, the makers even present paper clippings of ISIS recruits from Kerala, and make sure to leave a disclaimer suggesting their story is carved out of several news reports. A few scenes such as the lynching of two Muslim men alleged of carrying beef and a few other scenes seem like attempts to balance the narrative and I could give them credit for trying to pull that off more than once in the ten episodes.
The Family Man keeps upping its pace episode by episode as the story moves from Mumbai to Srinagar to Baluchistan to Delhi. Nigam Bozman and Azim Moollan deserve full credit for doing a great job on cinematography. The lighting is absolutely spot on. The dialogues are crisp and the supporting characters such as Sharib Hashmi's JK, who is a partner to Tiwari particularly gets all the good punchlines. The makers shuttle between Tiwari's personal and professional life even when he's on a mission as we see his wife Suchi almost having an affair with her colleague. Aravind (Sharad Kelkar). As for Srikant's plot, there's never a dull moment as the investigation keeps getting murkier with Neeraj Madhav's Moosa who is caught on the boat at the middle of it all.
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The story reaches its weakest points mainly when the narrative shifts to Baluchistan. Things look too easy for Srikant during this operation and it seems like a hurried attempt to get to the next plot twist in the tale. There's also the unnecessary angle of exes working together with Gul Panag's character during his Srinagar mission. It's no surprise that Manoj Bajpayee brings his best game to the table but it is Sharib Hashmi's amazingly played JK that surely leaves a strong impact. Neeraj Madhav's Moosa too puts up a riveting performance and particularly excels in the hospital scenes. Emraan Hashmi’s Bard Of Blood or Manoj Bajpayee’s The Family Man – Which Trailer Impressed You the Most?
The Family Man has all the elements to make an entertaining series and it does come through. The series does get a tad predictable but with our investment into Srikant's character, the journey remains interesting. With the finale being a major cliffhanger, season two is certainly in order.
[Rating 3.5 out of 5="3.5"]