What do you expect from a spy thriller? Kick-ass action, suspense, twists, smart dialogue, the spy’s heroics and some brilliant cinematic storytelling? Amazon Prime Video’s latest original The Family Man ticks all the aforementioned points. Created by the filmmaker duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK (Raj & DK) The Family Man is probably the coolest spy thriller coming from India.
Srikant Tiwari (played by Manoj Bajpayee) is an undercover analyst in the Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (T.A.S.C.) of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). As seen in any spy movie/series these men live two lives. They can’t reveal the nature of their job to their family and friends. They describe their work mostly as meetings or office paperwork. The man here is no different.
Srikant Tiwari is a highly-respected spy in the organisation but leads a dejected family life. His brother, wife, kids think that he’s a loser doing a ‘government job’. But unlike other ‘family men’ Srikant can’t remove his frustration on his family. Unlike other husbands/fathers he can’t tell what he goes through at work on daily basis. It’s agonising as well as heroic. Heroes do their jobs silently.
The show is aptly titled The Family Man with the tagline “Middle Class Guy, World Class Spy”. It is this family side of this ace spy that connects him with every man in the country. In a way, it is the story of all of them. Unlike many spy thrillers there are no men looking suave in suits, driving swanky cars and sipping expensive whiskies.
The Family Man trailer:
Tiwari eats vada pavs and idlis at the street stalls. He drinks at modest quarter-bars after a tiring day. He drives a Santro. Tiwari is asking his senior to approve his long due home loan. But this James Bond from Chembur (a Mumbai suburb) is way cooler than any other spy you would have seen.
Manoj Bajpayee plays Srikant Tiwari with such an ease that him alone is a good enough reason to binge watch the show. Gaalis (cuss words) uttered by him sound lyrical. He carries a certain pain on his face – that’s the dejection he faces as a family man. He swaps it with an endearing smile (almost childlike grin) when he accomplishes a mission. And this is captured beautifully in one scene where his daughter is telling her mother about how he saved her from getting suspended from school. What a middle class man yearns for is a sense of validation, at work and at home. Srikant at work is worshipped but struggles to find that validation at home.
The series is credited as based on news stories. The filmmakers’ (Raj & DK) 2010 film Shor In The City was also based on the news stories. The duo’s knack for showing quirkiness in the smaller-than-life scenarios has been evident since their debut feature 99. Here, they don’t have the limitation of censorship or the duration limit of a feature film. And they show what they can create when they have that freedom.
Raj & DK have crafted two outstanding one-take shots of assassination of terrorists. One of them is more than 10 minutes long. When was the last time you saw something like this in Indian content? Cinematography (Nigam Bomzan, Aziz Moollan) is spot on. Background score is hypnotic. The action looks more adrenaline than a choreographed set-piece. That’s a plus. Even the supers/title cards are done well. The screenplay (Raj & DK, Suman Kumar) and dialogues (Sumit Arora of Stree) capture the diversity of India blending all the flavours in one.
The Family Man is not only about the spy and his family. Through various sequences leading to the centre conflict of terrorism, the series touches upon the socio-political reality of today’s India. The cow protectors and mob kill two men carrying beef in their truck. Three college students involved in terrorist-like activities are mistakenly killed. Terrorism that is often linked to a religion has its roots going down to the places and people you wouldn’t imagine. Complexities are smartly woven together.
But it’s not just about terrorism and political secrets. The series explores the dynamics of interpersonal relationships at home as well as work. How quickly the kids are growing up rather getting exposed to the whole wild world. How modern day marriages are going through a transition. The creators here have managed to bring all of this together quite efficiently.
All of this wouldn’t have looked seamless on screen had it not been for its fine actors. Leading them is of course Bajpayee. Besides being a spy he’s a storyteller at heart. He can coin a story at any gun point. He’s a delight to watch. His Maharashtrian sidekick, his colleague at NIA, JK Talpade is played superbly by Sharib Hashmi (long time after his hilarious 2012 film Filmistaan). Priyamani as Srikant’s wife Suchi plays it subtle and simple. But she keeps you intrigued. Tiwary’s kids Dhriti (Mehek Thakur) and Atharv (Vedant Sinha) give natural performances.
Need to mention Neeraj Madhav here who plays Moosa, an ISIS trained terrorist. He portrays the complex emotions of a vulnerable son missing his mother and executing a terror attack with prowess. Other supporting cast of Shreya Dhanwanthary, Darshan Kumaar, Sharad Kelkar, Dalip Tahil, Kishore Kumar G, Abrar Qazi do their jobs sincerely.
To sum it up, The Family Man is a cinematic romance. Everything just falls into the right places and it’s the moments that make it an enjoyable journey of ten episodes. Drop everything else and binge watch it.