I got into watching The Family Man right after a marathon run of Agents of Shield and expected to see Manoj Bajpayee throw some mean punches as an intelligence agent. But that’s the thing with The Family Man, which thrives on keeping things low-key, even when there’s a bomb about to go off or the family life is unravelling.
There’s no question that Bajpayee’s character Srikant is a hero, as he goes in guns blazing or rather strolls into enemy territory as an everyman, ready to sacrifice his life for the greater cause of the country. But lest we — or he — get carried away, we’re reminded what a loser he is back home, by his immediate and extended family, who wonder why he can’t trade his government job for a private, more lucrative, one. Our hero is truly middle-class, as he appeals to his superior to pass his home loan, negotiates with his wife for the morning school drop-off for the kids — she’s working, he has a meeting, but he’s never available, so… We also see him rush to meet his daughter’s school principal even as his team await his return as terrorists are unloaded from a plane…will he make it back in time? It admirably service first, always.
When it comes to the home front, Srikant is definitely not winning. It’s his wife Suchi (Suchitra, played by Priyamani) who’s holding things together, but barely. She wants a challenge after years in the same job, but the two have an arrangement — she’s supposed to be the one with the routine hours, be available for the kids. Later, when she does go out one night for her startup’s boot-camp, we wonder what message the writers wanted to send out as everything unravels — her son finds a gun in the house and brandishes it about, turning it this way and that, even trying to fire it in vain (as you watch with some stress!) and the daughter goes for an off-limits party where she’s offered drugs. You feel for Suchi and all working moms…c’mon, it can’t all happen the one night she’s away? Makes one wonder at how many couples changed their social calendar after that episode and decided to stay home, just in case…forever.
There’s also that thing about her one-night stand or ‘affair’ with her new boss. When she calls her husband in Srinagar and tells him to come back as soon as he can, you can sense the panic…she can’t predict what will happen if he doesn’t. When he takes the call, saying the usual “busy with files, paperwork”, he’s hiding from gunmen, and the voice in your head is telling you, “You had an affair, while he’s out saving the country.” But, no, as a virtual single mother who is facing serious lack of communication in her marriage, aren’t her concerns valid? That’s probably the path the writers are leading us on, as the couple’s daughter questions her father, when he’s back: “Do you even know what’s going on with Mom? Or with me?”
It’s a good question as conventionally, for men in high-powered jobs, the wife is supposed to play a supporting role. Suchi wanting to change the rules may just throw everything off balance. As Sri’s senior, Dalip Tahil’s character reveals, after his skirmishes in a sensitive posting, he told his wife he was pushing files in his job, something she continues to believe decades later. In contrast, we’re shown Sri’s relationship with his ex, Saloni (played by Gul Panag), his commanding officer in Srinagar, which is more on an equal footing, with no secrets.
Season 1 ends with Jonali (Sanyukta Timsina) unearthing her dead boyfriend Kareem’s videotape, with Sri seen in the background, gun in hand, and the threat to the country nowhere near over. We know Sri and Suchi are not going to be taking that trip to Goa anytime soon and hopefully, Season 2 will take us deeper into the family dynamics and ask the hard questions, perhaps mirroring realities of modern life.