India is presently having its fair share with thrillers and especially spy thrillers like ‘Family Man’ or the upcoming ‘Bard of Blood’ on the OTT channels. Netflix, Amazon has tasted the success with the release of Sacred Games, Ghoul, Mirzapur, Breathe, among others.
Today talking about Family Man the first maiden web series of Manoj Bajpayee, is now streaming on Amazon Prime. The story revolves around the dual life lead by Srikant Tiwari (Bajpayee)as a mundane underpaid ‘middle-class guy’ who is a loser according to his children and a ‘top spy’ for the intelligence agency TASC.
This 10 episode show directed co-written and created by Raj Nidimorou and Krishna D.K. of the Go Goa and Stree fame is heavily inspired by real events, including the Islamic radicalisation of south Indian youth, and the logistical and financial constraints and restrictions faced by India’s intelligence agencies.
“When I was offered the role, I immediately felt that I should start my debut in web series with this one because it was so relatable. It is talking about a middle-class guy and his struggle. The spy thing was an added bonus. For me, his relationships, his conflict, and being completely torn between family and duty, that is something I really loved,” says the two time National Award-winning actor.
The theme of family is the underlying tone of the show besides fighting crimes. From the title of the name (how it gives away that the series is somewhat is linked to the base of a societal man, to which they always come back to ‘family’) to different characters, all in some way or the other are influenced by their family.
The main antagonist, for instance, or someone like the tough commando Pasha (played by Kishore Kumar G) who tells the story of how he was shaped by his family in another way: when told by his father not to join a profession that might mean hunting down fellow Muslims, he coolly told his dad to go and f@#! himself.
The family man is a quirky espionage thriller where Srikant shuffles between his family life with a neglected, nagging wife and sassy children and on the other hand, his office day involves in shooting, interrogating and busting terrorists. The nature of his job – concerning national security – demands that it must remain a secret. Srikant complies, letting the professional win over the personal.
The larger plot of the show is obviously the Indian masses’ love for Kashmir(Indians equivalent to Syria or Afghanistan), ISIS terrorists and various bombings in Mumbai that centre around hyper-nationalism. A certain “Operation Zulfikar” takes Srikant to Kashmir, where he meets Gul Panag, an old friend and his Commanding Officer. From this point in the series completely ignores the “family angle” only interspersing the show with small anecdotes for a change in pace.
However, if you have noticed properly the capriciousness of the place or on where the plotline is based, most scenarios are of the newspaper headline that we read every day. A group of people have fled to Syria to join ISIS, a man gets beaten up in a cinema hall for refusing to stand for the national anthem, persons suspected of transporting beef are lynched. We also see a fictional equivalent of JNU in Mumbai, where students are deemed “anti-nationals”.
The presence of humour, the other chunk of the show impresses the audience and also provides cathartic relief from the dread and serious situations of the crime and unstable world. The portrayal of his character as the inherent funny contradiction between being a hardened spy and a vulnerable family man is quite comical.
One moment, Srikant is figuring out the modus operandi of a terrorist organisation, the next he’s a nervous wreck on phone, fielding his wife’s queries: about resolving their fights, picking up kids from school, meeting the principal.
Also, the scene where the cultural conflict between Srikant’s north Indian mother and Tamil father-in-law (each making a case for their language being superior) ties in with the larger conversation about the diversity of this country and how that diversity is under threat today is humorous.
As one would expect, Manoj Bajpayee’s performance is minimalist, his humour straight-faced. Our man isn’t a hardline patriot. Instead, he’s critical of extremism of any kind. In fact, Srikant is not your average trigger-happy action hero. He isn’t even a part of the major action scenes. He is essentially the brain that puts everything together.
So go on and check out the series if you haven’t and see if it comes down to your expectations. Actually tell you what, sometimes you should leave your expectations in your laundry bag and enjoy the creativity of such talented writers and directors and other people behind it who put so much effort to make it and serve before us.