Note: This post does not have any spoilers
A secret agent living the life of a family man in a metro is probably the best character created in India in this century. The name of the show barely gives out its core narrative. It would probably make you think about a middle class guy trying to make ends meet in a big metro city. While that guess is partly true, the other half of the narrative is unexpected.
The lead character, Shrikant Tiwari, is the antonym of James Bond. He is neither muscular, nor a womaniser. He doesn’t drive expensive cars, nor does he fiddle with cool gadgets. His wildest dream is to get a cheap home loan and be a loving husband.
Suchitra Iyer aka Suchi (Priyamani), Shrikant’s wife portrays a typical working woman in a metro. Their kids Atharv (Vedant Sinha) and Dhriti (Ashlesha Thakur) are part of the ‘family’ in the show. Both of them have their own quirks and problems as they grow. These characters add a lot of value to the story of the Family Man.
Family Man absorbs all sorts of controversial real-life issues into its web of stories. Beef controversies, love-jihad (or the cases where my Muslim males hide their religious identity to lure Hindu females into relationships), taboos against menstruation, Azaadi slogans, Hindi imposition on south Indian states, freedom fighter vs terrorist debate and other contentious issues of the day have been inserted in the storyline. In spite of this, the show has managed to appeal to a large section of viewers in India. Barring the protest from Tamil supporters of LTTE, none of the major groups in India have pointed fingers at the makers of the show.
The writers of the show claim that they don’t want to take sides on any issue that has a political implication. They say that the show’s stories are inspired by newspaper reports. That’s quite amusing when you think about the lack of neutrality in the Indian media. Though one might question moral agnosticism of the show’s creators, one must applaud their adherence to the principle.
The show captures several other trends in modern Indian society. It portrays how teenage girls are challenging taboos in metros through Dhriti, Shrikant’s adventurous daughter. It also incorporates the new ‘startup culture’ through Suchi and her colleagues. The show normalises relationship counselling to some extent (this is on the border or a spoiler, so I won’t say more).
In spite of being a much loved character, I feel that the writers have messed up Shrikant’s core-identity. Sometimes, he claims that his job is very important and his work ensures national security. However, he keeps vacillating on this front.
Whenever mistakes happen, he wallows in grief and doubts the significance of his work. Mistakes are a part and parcel of a profession where individuals a forced to take quick decisions with limited information. If Shrikant is a mature guy he would have realised this aspect of being a secret agent.
The character’s dilemma portrays India’s security professionals in bad light intentionally or unintentionally. Anyway, I believe it’s a deliberate character-flaw to pacify human rights activists who would raise objections to the show.
Apart from all the serious stuff, one must acknowledge the comical undertone of the show. Manoj Bajpayee’s acting contributes positively to the humorous intent of the writers. Sarcastic comments are made about ‘privacy’ and ‘democracy’ at the right junctures in the show. However, action scenes of the show are still hovering around the standards set by unrealistic Bollywood movies. The hero never gets hurt but all sidekicks take bullets.
In spite of all the praise and complaints I’ve made about the show, I would still recommend this to people who’re looking for something interesting to watch over the weekend. FYI, I binge-watched two seasons without taking major breaks.