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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Family Man Web-Series Review: Mission Accomplished by Manoj Bajpayee

The Family Man, Amazon Prime Original series, is the first-ever Indian show to be showcased at The Television Critics Association in Los Angeles.

Starring Manoj Bajpayee, the series chronicles the struggles of a middle-class family man named Srikant Tiwari, caught between the duties for his nation and his family.

Srikant is a middle-class man working for a government intelligence agency while trying his hardest to balance his family and professional life.

How will ‘The Family Man’ manage to keep his family happy while doubling up as the nation’s undercover hero?

This 10-episode series has been directed by Indian-American director duo Raj & DK who have previously helmed path-breaking films like Stree, Go Goa Gone and Shor in the City which has disrupted the film content space in India.

The show marks their digital debut on a streaming platform and retains DK & Raj’s uniquely traditional and quirky humour, yet transitioned into a serious genre.

As the series promises, it prominently showcases the dual responsibilities of Srikant.

From dropping his children to school to his wife’s constant nagging, we see him switch roles effortlessly and this works very well.

Unlike other espionage thrillers in the Indian entertainment industry, this does not portray spies as glamorous or depict them in a heroic manner like Ek Tha Tiger.

The ordinary and realistic representation of them helps us to understand India’s unsung heroes and what they go through in their personal lives.

It is mentioned that the series itself draws inspiration from daily news stories and that is evident in some of the events which take place.

There seem to be references to terror attacks including the 26/11 massacre, Batla House incident, Balochistan insurgency and militant operations in Kashmir, amongst others.

Interestingly all of these major news headlines are weaved into a narrative with key antagonistic characters aka the terrorists.

Raj and DK, as filmmakers, present the terrorism aspects with sensitivity. They do not indulge in excess gore and violence, which is what makes this stand out from other Indian Espionage thrillers.

Despite the creative freedom, they steer away from overt profanities and unnecessary explicit scenes, which other web series are overloaded with.

Up till now, we had never really seen much about ISIS recruiters operating in India, so this is quite a new insight.

Given that this is their take on geopolitics and counter-terrorism, one can at least appreciate the endeavour.

However, The Family Man, as a series is effective in places.

Unlike other Amazon Prime Video series like Made In Heaven and Inside Edge, this is not really a ‘binge-watch’ due to some weak aspects.

Firstly, the duration of 10 episodes is just too long and could’ve been concluded within 7/8 episodes.

In the middle, when it comes to the fourth and fifth episode, Srikant’s dual lifestyle becomes quite repetitive and the story itself seems to get stuck.

The pace does not help either. It begins as an intriguing watch but then it drops in between which disengages the viewer. 

Also, the character writing is not as strong.

Srikant is quite an experienced and smart agent… Him making some ridiculous decisions and choices (just to make it into a ‘thrilling’ watch) is difficult to digest.  

Speaking of decisions, there are some extreme steps that he takes which happens rather quickly/swiftly.

This just seems larger-than-life and hard to believe given the series’ overall realistic premise. 

The saving grace of this series is the performances, especially by Manoj Bajpayee.

He is magnificent in essaying both the ‘espionage’ and family man. He manages to switch between the two personalities with such ease and that’s what works best.

Plus, the biggest plus point is by him adapting the similar mannerism and speech style of a common man. He comes across as effortless and it’s a job well done.

Sharib Hashmi is great too as JK Talpade. His screen presence is solid as an agent and it comes across well on screen.

However, the actor who really packs a punch is Gul Panag. Though she is seen briefly, it is empowering to see a female in a powerful, authoritative role.

In addition, the performances of actors playing the negative roles are also brilliant.

Specifically, Neeraj Madhav, Shahab Ali, Darshan Kumaar and Mir Sarwar evoke the sentiments of rage whenever we see them on-screen. They are very talented.

Priyamani does well as Suchitra, Srikant’s wife… She competently displays the shades of a mother and wife. Sharad Kelkar as her colleague and ‘friend’ compliments the cast too. 

On the whole, The Family Man is Raj and DK’s decent endeavour to explore the espionage thriller genre.

Whilst the series might be far from a masterpiece, Manoj Bajpayee is the true comrade who accomplishes his mission as an actor.

Give it a watch for his sheer brilliance.

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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