Archita Kashyap - 15 weeks ago
Beyond whipped up hype on it’s content, The Family Man is an effective web series about dedicated Indian intelligence officers and their lives.
(A still from The Family Man)
A recent debate on national news TV got me interested. I rarely subject myself to these inchoate scream fests on live television that play out day in, day out without offering insights or perspective of any kind. But, Amazon Prime Videos’s new series The Family Man was on trial here, as responsible for glorifying jihad and terrorism. Not quite used directly, that this web series verged on being ‘anti-national’ was being widely hinted while chaste, serious sounding panelists debated this crucial matter, which I suppose, seemed worthy of prime time news in a year when so much else seems to be worthy of questioning and debate (slow economic growth rate, slowdown not lifting despite corporate tax rate cuts, terrible pollution levels in Delhi and other metros and a PM state visit to the USA with little to show for it). Provoked by an RSS article in it’s mouthpiece about a dialogue from the series, female actor Gul Panag on the Defence Forces and their conduct in Kashmir, everything from vulgarity, obscenity and violence on streaming platforms has come under attack in this propaganda publication.
Notably, none of the show’s makers or the streaming giant was part of this debate. And one assumes, with good reason too. For the Family Man is anything but provocative. Raj and DK, creators of the under rated Go, Goa, Gone and popular Stree, have successfully humanized the life of an Indian intelligence agent with this series. Unlike the appetite of sleekly dressed, gun totting, super fit FBI agents and cops that populate American, British and European shows, their Indian counterparts have to deal with common challenges of over crowded local trains, painfully long commutes and perennially rising costs of living. Amidst humdrum of living in an Indian city, in this case, Mumbai, an agent has to be focused, razor sharp and tenacious in fighting crime and terror. Manoj Bajpayee, despite his dense diction, does a stellar job of playing The Family Man, and the series’ cast delivers convincingly in creating this world.
(A still from The Family Man)
Yet a sense of dissatisfaction emerges in it’s treatment of terrorists, those trained by ISIS and in league with rogue ISI and Pakistani Army. The key terrorists that plan to wreak havoc on India here are driven, smart and super efficient. Their ability to dupe India’s intelligence, police and military, despite technology and data analytics supporting them, feels off key at times. One notices just how fallible India’s various protective intelligence and allied organisations seem. Spoiler alert here, but a visit to a factory where a major terror attack is being planned results in intelligence officers returning back and wondering on their drive if something fishy was going on. They return to the scene only to leave audiences with uncertainty about their ability to prevent an attack. At times like this, and a few other moments of mistaken decision making, The Family Man leaves the viewer wondering - will these smart terrorists who are willing to die on the job actually beat India’s brave soldiers, intelligence officers and police? Will they succeed in destroying lives and cities?
Second guessing the intents of writers are not an ideal task. Perhaps while writing this series, its team (Sumit Arora, Raj Nidimoru, Krishna DK and Suman Kumar) aimed to highlight the multifaceted and complex challenges that Indian intelligence agents face. Dealing with terror in the world’s most densely populated cities while ensuring that no leaks emerge from their investigations, and managing regular family life seems insurmountable. But in this process, somewhere, ISIS trained terrorists and insurgents came across as passionate and capable of beating the system. This isn’t re-assuring to say the least. It is also a writer’s natural right to be able to tell this story without any interference from authorities. So despite reservations, The Family Man can tell it’s story as it sees fit.
(Manoj Bajpayee during the shooting of The Family Man)
The series’ biggest victory is it’s adaptation to current Indian realities without fuss and confusion. Sacred Games goes overboard in it’s self indulgent over analysis of everything; in the end of season 2, muddling up it’s Spartan and rock solid storyline. Bard of Blood is a filmy mediocre narrative. But The Family Man is Indian in character and universal in purpose as the fight against terrorism is a constant reality for nations across the world. It costs money, effort and lives and can still fail at times as it reaches disgruntled youth so effectively. The Family Man offers an overview of this situation efficiently.
Beyond the banality of the 24 hour news cycle, perhaps TV debates on it’s content is the much needed PR push that this series could have gotten. It’s organic publicity of the right kind. And for Manoj Bajpayee, one of our finest acting talents, this is the best opportunity for global visibility; hopefully bringing suitable opportunities for him to shine in future.
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