THE FAMILY MAN Review: A More Grounded Look At The Secret Spy Life
The Family Man is Amazon Prime Video’s newest Indian series starring Manoj Bajpayee. The series comes from the genius minds of filmmakers Raj & D. K. The duo behind the unique A Gentleman and Go Goa Gone.
In many ways, The Family Man is a spiritual sequel to A Gentleman. The series sees Manoj Bajpayee as Srikant, a special agent working for a unique anti-terrorist branch of the government. His line of work puts him directly in the way of harm, unbeknownst to his conventional nuclear family. The premise of The Family Man is a simple one; a spy who has to juggle the extremities of his work life and the mundane but very real problems of his personal life.
Going into The Family Man with preconcieved expectations was a mistake.
At first, when I thought of Raj and D. K. Doing a series called The Family Man, I expected elements of humor and stylized action, very similar to A Gentleman. That was a mistake on my part. The Family Man is much more grounded in realism than the smash mouth and fast cut style of the Siddharth Malhotra starrer. Once that sinks in, the show picks up.
In my defense, The Family Man’s marketing, with him holding a gun with grocery bags, set up that expectation of mismatched action-comedy for me. Which the show definitely is not.
The Family Man works sort of like a typical miniseries about stopping a terrorist. Bad guys want to incite a war between Pakistan and India, for their own ulterior motives. Their plans will see a lot of deaths and include two tense nations going to war with one another. It’s not really a unique plot in any way. It’s different. Sure. Instead of Pakistanis being the bad guys, the villains here are more independent bad guys whose actions will be detrimental to both countries.
This takes up most of the major plot points of the show. The storyline definitely has its moments of tension and suspense. But the best moments are less the government spy stuff, and more the family aspects of Srikant’s life.
The family angle is more interesting than the terrorism one.
Srikant’s wife Such (Priyamani) had had enough of his lies while trying to get more out of her professional life. He’s also got a young daughter Dhriti (Mehek Thakur) who’s going through the complexities of teenage-hood, while her parents are oblivious to it all. Then there’s the cute son Atharv, (Vedant Sinha) who is too smart for his own good.
Srikant’s biggest talents, as well as the source of most of his personal problems, are his natural charisma and ability to blatantly lie to anyone around. Ironically, the thing that makes him good at his job is making him risk his family.
There are moments of The Family Man that are laugh out loud hilarious. Bajpayee’s comic timing is excellent, and it makes me wonder how he would’ve performed as part of an ensemble back during the 2000’s run of Priyadarshan movies.
When did Manoj Bajpayee become the people’s hero?
Also, let’s talk about Bajpayee for a second. When did this older, more mature character actor become a bankable leading man? In the last few years, Bajpayee has reverse-aged, and become a charming, personable and conventionally viable Indian movie star. So much so that despite the occasional Uncle-ji jokes thrown into this show, he could easily be an action hero.
Getting back to The Family Man, the show is a slow burn. It’s unexpectedly dramatic, funny and righteous, but has trouble finding a balance between all these tones. While the drama is palpable, there are times that I found it difficult knowing what it was going for; dark humor? Awkward tension? Or just straight-up goofiness.
The Family Man’s biggest flaw is the episodic format of TV
The show’s biggest flaw is its inability to properly grasp the concept of long-form episodic storytelling. A method that other Indian originals on Amazon Prime Video, like Made In Heaven and Inside Edge, have perfected.
The episodes bleed into one another without any memorable ending or beginning. The side-stories feel clumsy and underdeveloped. Various subplots and plot points don’t go beyond the setup. Even when they seem as if they’re kind of resolved? It’s only when Bajpayee is on the screen that there’s a sense of urgency. That the story moves.
The performances are amazing though. The Family Man joins all the other Indian original streaming shows that have introduced us to wonderful character actors that we otherwise would never have been in the spotlight.
The supporting cast of The Family Man is superb!
Priyamani is a breath of fresh air. As Srikant’s wife, Suchi doesn’t take any of his crap and it’s kind of awesome to see a female character who’s not made to seem overly ‘modern’ or traditional, but just real. Priyamani plays the role with complete ease. She’s never made to come off as nagging, unreasonable or any of the other trite cliches that the wife of an Indian government man would forced into in such a story.
Sharib Hashmi as Srikant’s loyal sidekick is so perfectly balanced. He’s almost the audience’s proxy, just on this whirlwind ride through Srikant’s shenanigans. Gul Panag’s guest appearance is pleasantly surprising. She truly elevates any project that she’s a part of.
Neeraj Madhav commands every scene he’s in, even when he’s playing timid.
The standout of the show has to be actor Neeraj Madhav. The actor steals the show with his amazing performance. As a young man who is caught up in terrorism, Madhav is pitch-perfect. I’m hoping he does more in the mainstream going forward.
The Family Man is a good watch, but it’s not something I’d recommend to run out and watch right away. There are top-notch technical elements of the show. Bajpayee carries the whole thing with immense support from the other actors. The antagonist is pretty awesome and has an amazing future in the industry.
The show had a lot more potential, but maybe the episodic format was tricky for the otherwise amazing filmmakers Raj & D.K.
The Family Man is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
G HARINDRA KUMAR · December 31, 2020 at 9:42 AM
Excellent review. Apart from Sharib’s mind blowing performance, I concur your views on Neeraj Madhav’s performance. It was exhilarating and an unbelievable performance. He is in fact an actor who is underused in Malayalam Cinema. I hope the producers and directors will take note of this performance and offer him challenging roles in the future which he is capable of delivering!
Shah Shahid · January 2, 2021 at 4:03 PM
Hi! Thank you for reading!
I completely agree. I especially like it when an unknown (at least to me) actor’s performance is comparable, or better, than the known faces or stars in any project. And glad the makers of this created a character worthy of his talent too.
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