Watching a show with such a consistently superb cast is so pleasant.
Season 2 of ‘The Family Man’ has been a long time coming. The season was originally planned for a late 2020 release, was postponed to February 2021, then finally came out on 3rd June, 2021. Thankfully, the show is worth the wait.
‘The Family Man’ doesn’t beat around the bush with recaps or catch-ups. It pushes you straight into the story – this time set in a Sri Lankan Tamil rebel camp preparing to fight for their freedom – and introduces the key masterminds in a beautifully blocked opening scene. Coming to the star of the show, Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee) has left his high-stakes job in favor of uneventful days at the corporate office, but his heart is still at TASC with JK Talpade (Sharib Hashmi). Political games between India and Sri Lanka push the scorned rebels to plan an attack with the help of a few familiar faces from season one. An investigation begins as a frustrated Tiwari yearns to be back on the field, away from his endless family issues. Lucky for him, TASC needs Tiwari as much as Tiwari needs TASC.
Now that the show has found its audience, the makers have approached this season with a lot more confidence. The team is showing off its technical artistry, and it is fascinating to see the details of the carefully constructed fight sequences, the perfect timing, the sounds, the stunning shots that catch you off-guard amidst the engrossing drama of the narrative.
‘The Family Man’ is bolder in terms of what it has to say this time as well. In one of its arguably riskier moves, the story deliberately refuses to assign the binaries of good and bad to the characters. No conflict is black and white, no matter how much we want it to be. The show masterfully avoids the traps of picking a side, even though there are several opportunities where it is almost expected. The stance of the narrative is clear: there is no right or wrong here, no winner or loser. Survival in these situations is not about picking sides, but about finding ways not to crumble under the weight of your own morality. This shouldn’t be a brave thing to say, but in the current world, it is.
Watching a show with such a consistently superb cast is so pleasant. Bajpayee, Hashmi, Priyamani and Shahab Ali are as solid as they were in the last season. New members Ravindra Vijay, Abhay Verma and Anand Sami perform equally as exceptionally. Ashlesha Thakur is a standout.
Samantha Akkineni has given a strong, nuanced performance as Raji, but unfortunately it is hard to focus on thanks to the distracting brown face she is sporting. Apart from it being offensive to dark-skinned Tamil women, the character design is so unconvincing. It is hard to believe that a team of filmmakers who gave so much importance to their character’s skin-tone completely ignored her out-of-character perfectly drawn eyebrows and manicured nails. Akkineni’s skintone was unsuitable for Raji, but the glistening, poreless texture of her skin – something that only comes with heaps of time and money – is somehow fitting. It is also hard to believe that the makers couldn’t find an actress dark enough for the role, considering there are multiple actresses with similar skintones as Raji already in their cast.
Decisions like Akkineni’s brown face don’t just happen. They aren’t a matter of circumstance. This was a conscious choice made every day on set. Akkineni willingly sat for an extra 30 minutes to an hour while makeup artist Sadhna Singh painstakingly painted the insides of her ears darker. An AD or two must have been hovering near their trailer, waiting for this process to be done every day. Cinematographer Cameron Eric Bryson saw her through his lens. Directors Supan Varma, Raj and DK analyzed each take on their monitor along with other department heads present on set, live as it happened. None of these people – during the several weeks of shooting – paused to think, maybe we shouldn’t do this? Maybe this is unnecessary at best, offensive at worst? Even putting moral questions aside, this decision costs filmmakers time and money, with significantly more unusable shots, time wasted on touch-ups, and post-production corrections than usual. But having a big name like Samantha Akkineni will more than recoup those costs, I suppose.
‘The Family Man’ gets so much right, it becomes hard to look past this one major decision that it clearly got wrong. Watch the show, enjoy it, and hold them accountable for their mistake. Urge them to do better.