The Family Man reviewed: The work vs family debate for a man

Parent-o-meter: 

Binge-o-meter: 1/2

It’s not easy – facing the balancing game as a working mum. However, few get into the realm of this debate from the perspective of the working dad – especially when it is an Indian working dad.

We’ve often seen our fathers return home late, drown their days in cigarettes, pegs and water cooler conversations. To see this reflected on the screen automatically makes this fast-paced drama a part of our lives. Add the extra layer of the inner dilemmas of a family man and father to the mix and play that with a gripping narrative on an OTT service – you have the ready recipe for a binge-watch.

ABOUT THE SHOW

Available on Amazon Prime, The Family Man is a 10-episode series of an ordinary family man, living (and trying to balance) an extraordinary work profile with his commitments at home. Led by Manoj Bajpai, the cast covers a diverse set of actors – from Dilip Tahil and Gul Panag to Priyamani Raj and the talented teen Mehak Thakur, who is every Indian kid growing up.

Inspired by a bitter dose of real-life news stories, the story builds on Gaurakshaks and mob lynchings, anti-Muslim sentiment and the ISIS, the Kashmir crisis and encounter killings to deliver a slice that leaves you at the door of the doomsday, without a break in the beat.

In the meantime, the show’s open secret is the all-consuming job of being an agent for a RAW-like security agency, where they discuss appraisals, Monday mornings, leaves and a pittance of a salary over Chai, Vada Pav or whisky, when not chasing a criminal mastermind or two. Their reporting manager leaves matters at the doorstep of that invisible, all-powerful office deity too – the HR!

Here are the 5 things that make it click for me!

1. Parental reality

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Things change. Things remain the same.

Even as the larger narrative of this tight-paced thriller remains focussed on saving India from the clutches of terror that’s absolutely evil, it does not ignore that we all come back to a family that needs us to be there and all the rigmaroles of daily life – repairs, groceries, kids, bills, home responsibilities and the like.

What better examples for this story then when Manoj Bajpai’s character tries to avoid road rage when with his kids, even as he is absolutely comfortable to beat up goons when they’re not around.

2. The Indian reality

family-man-reality

Believe it or avoid it – India is not a very happy place to be in 2019. Not to be a naysayer, doomsday seeker or ‘Iss Desh Mein Kuch Nahin Rakha’ follower, it’s tough to etch it out over here and often due to systemic problems that have become too big for us.

Intolerance is one, pollution another and lack of infrastructure that works a third. These realities are part of the environment in which ‘The Family Man’ operates as well. The beef over cow lynchings and the Hindu-Muslim divide, the frustrations for a Kashmiri are enmeshed seamlessly with road rage, being late to work and fractured family setups.

And it’s not just depicted through dialogue or scenes alone. It’s there in the backdrop, in gestures and nods and even with the way the Kashmiri Gul Panag whips up a scarf before heading into a tense Kashmiri household, ever mindful for the ‘lihaaj’ that she must maintain as a woman entering a conservative domain.

3. Bravado, negotiations and threat analysis

When it comes to most undercover/spy genre content, you normally expect high-testosterone action scenes, running after fugitives and compelling, high impact reveals. However, what about all that goes into the making of all of these moments?

The days of surveillance, the subtle art of threat analysis and even the basic level interrogations (without beating a suspect into bloody pulp). That’s all here and is one of the reasons why it makes me, a binge-watcher, glued to the screen when these chase scenes happen. Manoj Bajpayee and the cast of ‘The Family Man’ take you into the day-to-day for an anti-terror organisation – even recruitments and routine suspect transfers.

Do stick for the times when Bajpayee’s Srikant effortlessly plays into relationships and basic information in order to gain information or nullify a high-strung situation through the gift of the glib.

4. Research, research, research

At the end of the day, good acting, edits and twists will only take you so far along. It needs a strong foundation to be memorable indeed.

So, the ire that drove a techie, originally from Kerala, towards ISIS and their Syrian incubation hub is not contrived without a background. It has personal losses during Godhra in its wake. A younger sibling mistaken as a stone-pelter in Kashmir and caught in army firing, turned another into a Mujahid. When someone talks about how cow lynchings are being fuelled by political leaders, there is a lynching that’s shown in the foreground.

And that’s what makes it work. These are not just academic flavour. And the way they’re interwoven into the narrative is what makes it so gripping and so compelling.

5. The endnote?

***** SPOILER ALERT ******

The ending for season 1 is not one for the faint-hearted. It is also not a hurried reveal like it happened with recent Indian binge blockbusters like Sacred Games or Leila. It is a measured build, that brings the horror of chemical warfare to your face. It also brings to light a page from India’s recent history that most politicians and historians would gladly gloss over.

A page called Bhopal – Year 1984.

The best-laid plans and the best minds are seen racing against time to avoid a second Bhopal and seen missing despite their best intentions and efforts. What happens next is the season 1 cliff note, left to be resolved until season 2, though the sense of doom is really palpable.

*******SPOILER END ********

The execution is well-worth a repeat watch for Episode 10. Fast, compelling and yet one that takes you along – it’s all that I would have wanted the GoT finale to be!

I’m definitely waiting for season 2. And smiling every time I watch this mixup of some Amazon Smart Tech and Family Man publicity:

One thought on “The Family Man reviewed: The work vs family debate for a man

  1. Jasmit Kaur Sahi says:

    I recently finished watching this series and i am thinking to watch it again. Never came across such a nice intriguing web series.. forgot everything else i saw earlier.

    Manoj has pulled up the role effortlessly and everything seems realistic… much more i should say compared to others. Even during the shooting scenes, we are unable to recognize whether its an act or happened in reality.

    Claps

    Like

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