The subtitle of the newest web-series on Amazon Prime -- The Family Man -- says 'Middle class guy. World class spy', and considering the initial episodes of the Manoj Bajpayee-starrer, one can safely say the series suffers from similar issues.
Act -- Manoj Bajpayee is no stranger to challenging roles, and in the said series too, the talented actor plays the character of a middle-class man caught in a rut of the life of a spy to the T. He sinks his teeth into a character which is very shabbily written -- a testament to what can be done with a actor who can act. We would have liked to see more of the man's early days -- how and why he married his wife (played by Priyamani), how the marriage eventually turned loveless, and he landed up as a proffesional at TASC.
TASC (Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell) is a fictitious offshoot of the real National Investigative Agency (NIA) and RAW. It doesn't pay its officers much, as for most part of the series, our protagonist is hankering for a home loan.
The protagonist, a street smart Srikant Tiwari, is a serial-liar. He lies, uncontrollably and almost without any remorse, to save himself from situations he get caught in due to the nature of his job. For his family, he is a government employee who needs to focus more on them and buy a new car -- because they think he does nothing more than pushing files at desk.
What the family doesn't know is THE Srikant Tiwari who, since is the hero, calls the shots at most of the encounters his team gets into.
The wife, Suchitra, nags. The teenage daughter has a supposed boyfriend and the son is annoying. The man of the moment is caught in this rigmarole where he cannot, even if he tries to, escape the responsibilities of either the household or his "desh".
The Family Man, hence, is no family man. He is self-centred, and self-sufficient with a horde of lies at his behest -- with shades of toxic masculinity (without, however, becoming emblematic of it). And Manoj Bajpayee carries every emotion on his shoulder, and face, with ease. It's kind of unfortunate that we don't get to see more of him in Bollywood.
Craft -- The series is written and directed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, better known as Raj and DK, and much like their filmography, the series stumbles every now and then. For example, their handling of the ISIS recruit issue. Every Kashmiri youth is not recruited in the ISIS. And every terrorist cannot be humanised. But the web series focusses too much on appealing to the Indian sensitivity that sometimes it forgets and forgoes logic.
The tagline of the show is 'Inspired From Daily News Stories' and going by this, mob lynchings, cow vigilantism, anti-nationalism, and most importantly, ISIS and its methodology are all interwoven into the narrative. Now that does make for some confusion. Sometimes. Too many plots.
The Family Man also tries to venture into a comic, and distinctly satirical, zone every now and then with its one-liners. Sharib Hashmi, who plays Srikant's close aide JK Talpade, tells TASC's new recruit Zoya (played by Shreya Dhanwanthry): "Privacy is a myth; like democracy." Lines like these work, but in parts. Sumit Arora, the dialogue writer, has made discussions on topics, conversational not preachy -- that is the good part.
The series becomes more fluid in its narrative as it approaches the fagging end -- with its first three episodes being the weakest. That is the bad part and might not work in its favour.
The Family Man delivers at most of its targets, and engages the viewer till the very end. Manoj Bajpayee is effortlessly brilliant and so are the other members of the cast -- Priyamani, Hashmi, Dhanwanthry, and Gul Panag. What it fails at is thrill. The shots are long-drawn, and Srikant's daily struggles are been-there-done-that-kinda repetitive with respect to other shows on the same theme.
The series, with all its gaffes and Manoj Bajpayee, is still likable and must be watched for the talented star cast.
Our verdict: Three stars
(The web series is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.)