The OTT platforms have been able to which television failed to do for a long time – get mainstream film actors on board to be a part of fiction shows. While most film stars preferred hosting non-fiction/reality TV shows, they stayed away from doing fiction based content. There are a few major actors like Amitabh Bachchan (‘Yudh’) and Anil Kapoor (‘24 India’) who tried but soon, they realised the kind of content they were trying to churn out did not find resonance with the traditional TV watching audience. The digital boom happened shortly thereafter and gave filmmakers the voice and the freedom to tell unique, offbeat stories on a medium where there was no censorship. Among other actors, ‘The Family Man’, a show created by Raj & DK (‘99’, ‘Shor In The City’, ‘Go Goa Gone’, ‘Happy Ending’ and ‘A Gentleman’), marks the debut of Manoj Bajpayee and popular Southern actress Priya Mani, into the digital space. The promos indicated that this is a story of a man who struggles to juggle between his duty as a senior officer in National Investigative Agency (NIA) and his responsibilities as a ‘family man’.
Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee) works with the National Investigative Agency. The stories revolving around his dedication towards his job and the way in which he has nabbed dreaded criminals and have foiled the plans carried out by several terrorist organisations have travelled far and wide across different crime fighting organisations in the country. That is the reason why we see a newly recruited officer (Zoya; Shreya Dhanwantry) arriving at the office and telling Srikant all the wonderful things she has heard about him at the very first instance she meets him. His wife Suchitra (Priyamani) and children have a fair idea of where he works but Srikant tries to conceal the fact that he is also somebody who goes out in the field and fight the most dreaded criminals across the globe. Suchitra, of course, knows better. Because of his highly-demanding job, Srikant often finds it difficult to shoulder the responsibilities he has as a father and a husband. A bomb goes off in the city which leads to Srikant and his team discover that a terrorist organisation is planning a major attack on the city. The team gets into action immediately.
Throughout the show we get to see Srikant and his team tracking criminals who are playing a part in the big terror attack that has been planned. While doing this, Srikant also have to manoeuvre through his familial responsibilities. Doing this is not easy and it often coerces him into lying to his family and getting into trouble. As a title, ‘The Family Man’ has a good ring to it but it does not do complete justice to the story that is being told here. The show is just not about Srikant; of course, he is one of the primary characters here but most of the characters have been fleshed out very well and their stories take centre-stage at different points in the show. Each and every member of the family – even the children – are shown as strong-headed individuals who have a lot going on in their lives. There are also those slightly complex parts of their lives which they have kept away from the members of their family. Suchitra is grappling with the task of managing her job and looking after the children as Srikant has very little time to spare for the family. Also, deep down, she is a lonely woman who finds solace in the company and friendship of a man (Sharad Kelkar) who she keeps away from Srikant for reasons even she is not sure about. Their teenage daughter Dhriti (Mehak Thakur) is going through the kind of issues most teenagers go through and she does not have anybody around to confide about them in. In their son Atharv (Vedant Sinha), we see somebody who is craving for his parents’ attention and time but is not getting much of it. The characters, who form a part of Srikant’s team, including JK (Sharib Hashmi), Zoya (Shreya Dhanwanthary), Milind (Sunny Hinduja), Ajit (Vijay Vikram Singh) and Saloni (Gul Panag), too play a pivotal role in taking the narrative forward.
The 10-episode series has some standout scenes/sequences which stay with you long after you have finished watching the entire season. In the first episode, the chase sequence involving Srikant’s team and the terrorists is one of the best choreographed action/chase sequences one has seen in a long time. The tension is almost palpable and the action is realistic and vastly engaging. Raj & DK use long takes to maintain the momentum and it comes across wonderfully on the screen. Also, in this episode the fact that the show, apart from aiming to be an engrossing thriller, tries to delve deep into the interpersonal relationships of its characters. In the second episode, there is another entertaining chase sequence – this time on a scooter! The subtle humour, the glimpses of which we see in several scenes throughout the show, comes across well in this sequence as well. There is another dexterously executed action sequence in the fourth episode which is executed using long takes. In another scene in the same episode, we see an overtly hyper news anchor named Anurag Pandey modelled on a popular real-life journalist. The best long-take sequence is definitely the one we get to see in the sixth episode where a bunch of terrorists barge into a hospital late in the night and go on a killing spree in a bid to free one of their own.
While the screenplay (Raj Nidimoru, Krishna D.K, Suman Kumar and Sumit Aroraa) throws up a plethora of interesting twists and turns, there are times when certain plot twists seem very commonplace and do not make the desired impact. The ease with which Srikant disguises himself as a local Kashmiri and reaches a place where a suspected terrorist could be present comes across as too convenient. What happens next, though, is interesting and manages to arrest your attention as a viewer again. The subplot involving the friendship between Suchitra and Arvind is largely predictable, at least from the way it plays out in the first season. The season ends with a brilliant cliff-hanger and the episode, as a whole, manages to hold your interest too. Having said that, the way in which the terrorists put their plan in action come across as a bit stilted.
Manoj Bajpayee sinks his teeth into this character and does complete justice to the wide variety of emotions he is expected to bring to the fore here. He is as convincing as the NIA officer dealing with extreme pressure as he is as the man who is trying his best to fulfil his familial responsibilities. Priyamani has some interesting layers to her character and she delivers a splendid performance as always. Sharib Hashmi brings a fine mix of humour and valiancy to JK’s character and delivers a rock-solid performance. Shreya Dhanwanthary, who made her film debut earlier this year with ‘Why Cheat India?’, leaves a huge mark in the first episode where she gets ample scope to show her acting chops. Her character gets side-lined in a couple of episodes after that but she does well whenever she gets an opportunity. Sunny Hinduja has a very good screen presence and leaves an indelible mark as Milind. Neeraj Madhav is terrific as Moosa. He does complete justice to the multiple layers we get to see in his character throughout the show. His flawed diction works very well for the part that he plays here. Gul Panag delivers a first-rate performance as Saloni. One hopes to see her playing a pivotal role in taking the narrative forward in the second season. Darshan Kumaar plays his menacing character very well. With the kind of work Sharad Kelkar has done, especially in television, one would have hoped to see him take up a more substantial part in his digital debut. One wishes his character has a better graph in the second season of the show.
An inconsistent box-office track record notwithstanding, Raj & DK have constantly churned out out-of-the-box content in the mainstream space, first as directors and now as producers (‘Stree’) as well. They have made a solid debut on the web with ‘The Family Man’ and this is a medium where one expects their creativity to thrive without them worried about box-office returns.
Now, one waits with baited breath for season 2 to arrive!