Family Man Is An ‘Unputdownable’ Web Series

The  Family Man(Amazon Prime Video)

Starring Manoj Bajpai,  Sharib Hashmi,  Priyamani

Directed  by  Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK

Rating: *** ½(3 and a half stars)

 The idea of a dull white-collar   office-goer moonlighting as  an undercover agent is  not  new.  Arnold Schwarzenegger did it  in James Cameron’s  True Lies 25 years ago. Now it’s  Manoj Bajpai’s  turn in a 10-part series that  is as irresistible as streetside gol gappas.  I couldn’t stop binging  until it was  all done.

 The directorial duo Raj and DK have  a reputation of doing the  unexpected, whether is  India’s first  zombie film(Go Goan Gone)  or a game-changing comic chudail film Stree which the  duo wrote  to  super-success. In Family Man they are on much firmer ground. The material  is strong and  constantly  interesting .Issues such as  mob lynching and anti-beef attacks or  covert operations overreacting to  terror  threats,  are raised organically  in the plot as  Srikant(Bajpai) grapples with home and terror(and sometimes  terror-at-home) issues to the   best  of his abilities.

And  to be honest, Srikant’s best is plainly inept. He  lies  to his pretty and smart(much more than he , for sure) wife Suchitra (Priyamani) and yet somehow manages  to get some  respect from his two clever  children(“If Dad works  so hard in his office shouldn’t we be rich by now?” asks the  little boy)   more for  his ability to wriggle  out of  sticky situations than any parental virtuosity.

It’s  refreshing to  meet a screen  hero  many sizes smaller than the  larger-than-life  heroes  we’ve been watching all this  year.Bajpai specializes  in playing a cornered Everyman with a  dark secret (even  in Aligarh  he played that)   . It’s even more refreshing for  the hero’s  friend  played by the very talented   Sharib Hashmi , to get some of  the best lines  .

Indeed  the  spoken lines are  not just pithy and pungent they represent the colloquial  cosmopolitanism  and  the  cultural conundrum  of Mumbai in striking yet subtle shades. There are  some brilliant chase sequences on the  streets of Mumbai shot with a keen eye for  the crowds  that disperse  magically when  trouble  hits the roads.

 Some  of  the non-pivotal characters such as  the  Kashmiri radical Qarim(played by  a Kashmiri new actor Abrar Qazi) or  the Malayali terrorist Moosa (Neeraj Madhav) wounded in ways  that cannot be reified, are so memorable they tend to overshadow the main characters.

What I found unconvincing was  the protagonist Srikant’s wife  Suchitra’s  friendship with her  colleague(Sharad Kelkar). She exchanges  what-ya-doing-miss-ya  messages with her secret friend while her children sleep next to her, meets him on the sly, hides him  from her husband.But when the husband follows her  to a rendezvous he’s made to look like a worm.Because, hold your breath,  she hasn’t slept with him.

Adultery is  not just about the bed. It is also in  the head. Luckily for us  A Family Man has  a   wealth of  well-written,  deftly shot episodes  that  manage to merge the  themes  of  workingclass conflicts   and terrorism  seamlessly. If you  like binge-watching this one is  for you. Like many of the characters  in it, The Family Man leaves us  viewers with no choice.

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