FILM REVIEW: Family Man
By Ambar Chatterjee
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Priyamani, Sharib Hashmi, Neeraj Madhav, Kishore Kumar G, Asmith Kunder, Shahab Ali, Shreya Dhanwanthary
Director: Raj and DK
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 Out of 5 Stars)
Shrikant (Manoj Bajpayee) is an officer with the elite T.A.S.C force entrusted with stopping terrorist attacks before they occur. He is mighty good at what he does which is proved when he, after a crippling chase, is able to subdue a terrorist and get him to surrender using nothing but words. Things turn sour for him when he learns about something known as “Operation Zulfiqar” that as per the terrorists will bring India down to its knees. Even after a lot of effort, Shrikant is unable to learn anything more about the operation except its name. He pursues every possible lead and every lead draws a blank. Time is ticking for Shrikant and his team as the date of the operation draws near and they have no means of stopping the attacks.
In the family front, Shrikant’s life is no different. His wife Suchitra (Priyamani) is bored of her monotonous existence as a professor and wants to spread her wings. His two kids are constantly getting into trouble and Shrikant has to juggle between his work and turning up at school from time to time to bail his kids out of trouble. Things turn worse when he realizes that his constant absence from home and lack of connect with his wife might have turned her into taking comfort in another man who is her colleague, without a wife and has a kid. If that was not enough, Shrikant is transferred to Kashmir when his tiff with his wife is at an all-time worse and needs serious mending.
I was riveted by this show from the get-go. The Family Man is a series that has to deal with two aspects of its protagonist’s life and except for the last few episodes, it juggles between the two aspects flawlessly giving us enough to contain with in both his professional and personal life. The story involving “Operation Zulfiqar” which forms the basic premise of the series is intriguing and relevant. There are certain elements to it apart from the terrorist plot that makes one stand up and take notice. The portions involving the students of a University who are plotting against a Hindu leader, the mob lynchings and their effects on the Muslims, the state of Kashmir and how much they hate Indian intervention in their matters are all done with such subtlety they are bound to affect you if not shock you.
Similarly, how Shrikant’s family life falls apart is also done beautifully. It doesn’t happen in one go but gradually over the series. We are reminded of the dilapidating state of his relationship with his wife through the chit chats that he has with his daughter and son. I could relate to his state of mind in the scene where he is shown following his wife to a restaurant where she is meeting a colleague. That was a hilarious and heartbreaking scene at the same time. There are other lighter moments to it as well like when Shrikant uses the tracking application of T.A.S.C to spy on his daughter and wife. I also enjoyed the scene where he uses his clout in the government to save his daughter’s school from being demolished --- a problem that he had himself created in the first place --- and boasts off about it at the dinner table in the presence of his wife. Some of the funniest and saddest moments of Shrikant’s family life occur due to his inability to tell his family the truth about what he really does for a living.
You don’t need me to tell you that Manoj Bajpayee is a superlative actor but I cannot praise him enough for his rendering of Shrikant. He is the closest version to an actual Anti-Terrorist cop here and yet the best portions of his act come when he is playing the family man. His interactions with his family members, especially his children ooze humility. After making his way through a shopping mall --- where he spends the bulk of the time to understand from his son if his teenage daughter has a boyfriend or not --- when he reaches the billing counter and his children unload all that they had bought for the final billing, Shrikant shrieks - “Dacaiti daal dete ho tum log” I literally burst into laughter after this line for the reason that this is what most middle-class Indian parents would say. Credit has to be given to the writers and Raj and DK for making Shrikant’s character so real and yet so likable. If he is good in the family bits, he is equally proficient in the portions where he is a T.A.S.C officer.
This is the first time I am watching Neeraj Madhav in action and I am supremely confident that he is an actor who will soon find his footing in the big league. He plays the primary antagonist of the series and he so effortlessly toggles between being a “puppy dog” and “bulldog” that it is refreshing and shocking at the same time. For a very long time, I didn’t think him to be what he turns out to be and when he gets in his groove he does some pretty horrible things that will shake your senses. Neeraj Madhav essays the character with grit, gusto and a lot of shock value. Shahab Ali as Sajid is the next best antagonist. The fact that his character assumes greater importance towards the end makes his rendering of the character of Sajid that much more important to the plot. He has the kind of feel to him that would make you feel that he could blow people up.
Priyamani as Bajpayee’s wife is effective. If it was not for her act, the drama between the two would have fallen flat. I was surprised to see her in such a de-glam avatar. She is one of my favorite South Indian heroines but here she is completely stripped-off of any shine. However, it cannot be denied that it does her character a world of good. Sharib Hashmi has impeccable comic timing and his chemistry with Manoj Bajpayee is impossible to miss. It would be interesting to see what the makers do with the character in the forthcoming seasons. Kishore Kumar G as a commando is wonderful. The fact that he looks exactly like one makes the character that much more real. Dalip Tahil and Gul Panag chip in with proficient cameos.
Overall, The Family Man is the kind of series that can be enjoyed at multiple levels. It is well-acted, has an intriguing story to tell, is funny when it has to be and makes an impression with its nods to some important issues plaguing our society today. That I believe is more than enough fodder to garner the viewer’s attention and merit a view or two.