The Family Man recently premiered on streaming site Amazon Prime Video. Starring Manoj Bajpayee in the lead role of a world-class spy, who has a hard time balancing his domestic issues, the ten-part series has been helmed by filmmaker duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK.
The Family Man is Raj and DK’s debut digital venture. The action-packed drama revolves around a middle-class man, who is fighting to save his country from terrorism, while protecting his family from the impact of his secretive, high-pressure and low-paying job.
The writer-directors recently completed a decade in the industry, having worked on films like 99, Shor in the City, Happy Ending, Go Goa Gone and Stree among more.
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Raj and DK open up about venturing into the digital space, experimenting with different genres, their quirky storytelling process, working with Manoj Bajpayee and more.
How did you develop the idea of The Family Man?
Raj: We have been wanting to make a series for a long time, at least for four years now. We were just waiting for the right platform and the best time to make this cool series. It’s also interesting for us to try another genre which is a little more serious. It was the best way to explore the idea and the series is very relevant and contemporary.
Tell us more about the show.
Raj: The core of it is this middle-class husband and father who is a spy. We have equated the high-risk job with any other government service. The idea is to explore what actually drives these people to fight for the country. It’s a spy story but we have taken away all the glamour associated with it- be it the dashing suits, slow-motion sequences, etc. Instead, he eats a vada pav while on his way to a mission. Yet, he is also doing the same high risk and highly important job. We have approached the otherwise serious subject with a satirical and dry humour.
Having done some quirky films, does that humour come naturally to you both?
DK: It’s more of an observational comedy. Our film that you can relate to this series would be Shor in the City, where humour is laced into a serious topic. The Family Man deals with issues like terrorism and you cannot take that lightly. But at the end of the day, spies are also human beings. So the humour is organic and very day-to-day.
Raj: Yes, unlike our features, the humour is not in the plot. We didn’t want to make a crazy quirky project and so didn’t force any comedy. It’s just the way we are.
Has it become important for you to attempt different things so as to not be boxed in a specific genre?
Raj: Otherwise, it wouldn’t be exciting at all if we keep doing the same kind of film. That’s not why we started doing this.
DK: It’s also why we have kept away from making sequels.
Raj: It’s also exciting to work on a new genre. That’s the only way we would evolve as filmmakers. We would be just doing business otherwise.
Films on nationalism/patriotism tend to be successful. What made you helm The Family Man as a web show?
Raj: We are not trying to cash in on any of those sentiments. We required a bigger canvas to showcase a more detailed story, that goes to showcase some geopolitical scenarios in the country. It’s also a very pan India show as we have gone beyond Hindi, and used many regions and languages. All that required a longer time period and so we chose to make this as a show.
Since you have infused some geopolitical issues, did being on the web also help, as there’s no pressure of censorship?
DK: We didn’t think of it consciously. But the amount of material we had and since Srikant Tiwari keeps moving to different places, we couldn’t get stuck in a two-hour plot. The medium came naturally to us. And the focus is on the family man, who represents the middle class, someone who works hard for his family.
How easy or tough was it to get Manoj Bajpayee to make his digital debut with your show?
Raj: It took just about 20 minutes. The concept was very exciting for him, even when we had just pitched the idea to him.
DK: Once you see the show, you will realise how Manoj is a natural fit for Srikant Tiwari and vice versa. We are surprised that he hadn’t done anything like this before. Guess, it was just waiting to happen.
Not just Manoj, but the show flaunts a stellar star cast. As filmmakers too, you have always impressed with the bunch of actors you take on board. What is the casting process like, for you both?
Raj: We actually write the script without anybody in mind. We let the story become the lead character. Sometimes we do have to break our heads for the story is already set and we need to find the best actors. But fortunately, we have a great pool of actors around. Sometimes they have surprised us. They kind of gave us more than what we expected. So, we just write and cast actors, hoping they’d do justice to the script.
The Family Man has an ensemble cast and with two directors at the helm of things. Didn’t it turn out to be a madhouse while shooting?
Raj: It was a madhouse because of the different languages being spoken around.
In a time when sex and thrills sell on the web, why do you feel people will watch your show?
DK: Because of the plot, characters and the story. We are not selling any kind of bad language, violence or sex. Whatever expletives you will see is all in fun. Never does any character say it out of anger, it’s either natural or sometimes in humour.
Having lived a large part of your life in America, where digital medium has become the name of the game, what difference do you see in the Indian market?
Raj: Right now there is an explosion of content. But the first thing that comes to your mind is quality. Since it’s in a transitional period, there would be a lot of stuff that’s not going to be high in quality. But it will get better, that’s a natural process. What’s most important is that not just web but because of films without stars also working, the focus has now shifted to writing. And the other great thing is that everybody who is connected to filmmaking has a job. One just has to do their best.
Your actors keep mentioning how you both are always in sync. Isn’t there any disagreement between you two?
DK: There is bound to be disagreement when any two people work together. But we have our own way of dealing and fixing it. It would be a lie if we say that we don’t fight.
In an earlier interview with us, you shared that you wanted to start with a Telugu film but moved to 99 when that didn’t happen. Do you still plan to venture into the regional space?
Raj: Of course, Telugu is always a draw as it’s our mother tongue. The good thing is that we write a lot, and by that we mean, a lot. So there is always a good story waiting to be made. We do plan to enter the space but don’t know how and when. We will need to figure that out logistically.
A decade in the industry, how satisfied do you both feel?
Raj: There is indeed a sense of pride when we look back at what we have done. We have no one in our family who was into films, and we tread our own path, step by step. But there’s still a burning desire to make the next film better.
What’s next for you?
Raj: There are two other series, each of a different genre, that we are working on. We are very excited about the same. We also have two films happening. So we are presently trying to figure the timeline of how to go about it.
Apart from Manoj Bajpayee, The Family Man also stars Priyamani, Sharib Hashmi, Neeraj Madhav, Sharad Kelkar, Sunny Hinduja and Shreya Dhanwantary among others.
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