A familiar terror plot, but a gripping screenplay and fine performances, led by Manoj Bajpayee, make the espionage, action drama a must watch for the entire family
By Mayur Lookhar
The Family Man. An Indian web series on Amazon Prime Video. With a title like that, many would have expected it to be just another Indian family sob drama that’s now seeped its way onto the digital medium. Don’t let the title mislead you for Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s The Family Man is anything but a soap opera. It does have its family woes, but the Amazon web series is a gripping espionage, action drama. A concept conceived by Raj and DK, co-written by Suman Kumar with dialogues by Sumit Arora.
To his family and friends, Srikant Tiwari is a simple, middle class man working as an analyst in a state government department. That’s just a mask as Tiwari is a secret agent of the government’s terror action cell TASC. Tiwari and his team work tirelessly to save the nation and the city from any terror threat.
The capture of two Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) trained Malayalee terrorists in the backwaters of Kochi leads Tiwari on the trail of a sinister terror plot, one that’s planned, backed by a Pakistani General Ansari and Major Sameer [Darshan Kumar] with support from the Kashmiri terrorists.
Another action drama hinging on a serious terror plot orchestrated across the border. There’s no novelty attached here, but it’s the fine narrative, gripping screenplay, the impressive cast that separates The Family Man from the rest.
The simple, linear story telling leaves no scope for any confusion. Albeit predictable, but the drama keeps you hooked throughout its ten episodes of the first season.
Srikant Tiwari is no James Bond, and quite frankly the real world has no 007s. Tiwari doesn’t wear fancy clothes. He doesn’t sip fine wine/scotch and he is committed to his wife Suchitra aka Suchi Iyer [Priyamani]. There is no high-octane action. No adrenalin pumping fancy car/bike chase sequences. Tiwari’s biggest asset is his instincts that help him sense danger and it leads him to one revelation after another.
He thrives in winning trust of not just his superiors, colleagues but also his enemies. The first episode sees an unarmed Tiwari convince the terrorist Moosa [Neeraj Madhav] into dropping his gun and surrendering to TASC. The secret agent often throws up emotional stories to talk his way out of trouble.
Secret agents going through tough marriages has been explored before [Netflix’s Fauda]. Tiwari’s efficient at work, but perhaps, his tricks are not really working with his wife or kids. He’s suspicious of his wife’s friendship with her colleague Arvind [Sharad Kelkar]. Unwillingly, he starts tapping his wife’s phone and is left upset to see his wife have coffee with Arvind in a plush Mumbai hotel. It’s his humility, his caring attitude, also his suspicions that make Tiwari the true ‘Family Man’. Bajpayee carries off this role with his typical confidence and panache.
The family drama is believable due to the stellar show by Priyamani and the two child actors – Mehek Thakur and Vedant Singh. Having the luxury of a fine cast, The Family Man produces quite a few long one take scenes. Some of them feature the child actors, Thakur and Singh. The teen artistes floor you with their confidence.
Despite their differences, the family still co-exists as one. Rarely do we find a show where the emotional content is not a drag but it compliments the prime plot. It’s this neat blend of action and emotion that makes you like The Family Man.
Among other respectable performers are Sharib Hashmi, who plays JK Talpade, Tiwari’s colleague and best friend. Shreya Dhanwantary, who plays Zoya, the newest recruit in TASC. Veteran actor Dalip Tahil, too, shines as Tiwari’s boss Kulkarni.
Where the web series falters is in having feeble antagonists – Major Sameer [Darshan Kumar], Moosa [Neeraj Madhav] and Sajid [Shahab Ali]. Kumar’s seldom convinced in any role, but there is nothing menacing, intimidating about Moosa and Sajid. Moosa still has few shades to him, but Shahab Ali largely cuts a sorry figure.
Moosa is a Malayalee Muslim but he speaks Hindi without much difficulty. The Malayalee accented Hindi is not evident in Moosa’s tone. Also, for an ISIS trained terrorist, it’s bit baffling to find such thin security for a terrorist who is being treated at plush city hospital.
Based on true news stories, The Family Man surprisingly pins the terror blame on a few rogue elements in Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistan army. Remarkably, the Pakistani prime minister here does what no Pakistani prime minister has done in the history of that nation – act on India’s terror input.
It’s wrong to demonise an entire nation for the evils acts of a few, but history tells us that how democratically-elected non-army Pakistani presidents, prime ministers simply toe the line set by their all powerful army chiefs.
In an interview to Geo News few years ago, veteran Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi had made some sensational claims about the Kargil war of 1999. According to Sethi, the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had no inkling of what his army chief was planning, but once he got whiff of it, he hauled up General Pervez Musharraf. However, according to Sethi, Musharraf’s colleague General Aziz Khan had cajoled Sharif into backing their military plan. The image that Raj and DK that have created of a Pakistani Prime Minister, is hard to believe. The Family Man even gives the benefit of doubt to Pakistani army chief, who traditionally tend to be very hostile towards India.
Largely set in Mumbai, Raj and DK do well to shift the action to Kashmir and then Delhi. It adds much needed freshness in the latter episodes of the first season. It’s hard to recall any film or show, that gave true sense of alienation for Indians in Kashmir.
With the terror plot all but nearing its conclusion in the first season itself, you do question how long will the second season be? That though is for the future. For now, Raj and DK have given Amazon its first Indian web series that is truly worth bingeing. And with no gory violence or explicit scenes, this one is for the entire family.