I feel like all I have watched in the past few days is an espionage show. Be it Netflix’s Bard of Blood or Sacha Baron Cohen starrer Spy. However, Amazon Prime’s latest offering, The Family Man, brings in a refreshing change of pace to the tired old genre. The series is humorous and it doesn’t shy away from making a few daring statements amidst all the action.
The fact that it is being led by the versatile and talented Manoj Bajpayee makes a huge difference. Even some sharp writing can look dull if not pulled off with a certain groundedness and style, both of which Bajpayee has in plenty.
Manoj Bajpayee plays agent Srikant Tiwari who has to deal with his domestic life whilst leading dangerous missions. Leading a double life can be hard on anyone, and The Family Man shows how tiresome and stressful the whole thing can get after a point. Srikant smokes cigarettes and eats chocolates when the pressure gets too much. He sometimes vents out his frustration on close friend and agent JK Talpade (played wonderfully by Sharib Hashmi).
Manoj goes from funny to serious in a beat. He is also aided superbly by the talented supporting cast comprising Priyamani (Manoj’s wife in the show), Kishore Kumar G (Pasha) and Sundeep Kishan (Major Vikram). Child actors Vedant Sinha (Atharv) and Mehak Thakur (Dhriti) do a great job as well.
Directors Raj and DK, had earlier shared in an interview that they always intended The Family Man to be a web series and not a two-hour-long film. And this makes sense, considering how, over the episodes, they have managed to develop the character of Bajpayee into a living, breathing human being. He is not reduced to the trope of a swashbuckling, gun-slinging hero — an image that we have come to associate with the protagonist of such stories.
The villains here are also to be feared, but not as moustache-twirling men of ‘enemy’ countries. They have a plan, strategise and don’t just kill blindly. Everyone in the bad guys’ team is portrayed as a thinking, intelligent individual. They are scary not only because they have weapons of mass destruction, but because of their loathsome ideas.
And as far as making statements go, The Family Man does so without making it too obvious. Not everything that is radical has to be on the nose, sometimes you learn to make a point by opening your mouth when the time is right. Mob lynching and the idea of an anti-national are a couple of the subjects the show highlights subtly. But because the scenes are executed well, you sit up and take notice of them. It is not jarring or jingoistic at all, and most importantly, it does not shift the direction of the narrative.
The only pitfall: you need to have some patience as this is a bit of a slow-burner.
The Family Man is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.