‘The Family Man 2’ Review: A Decent Sequel, If Not As Bulletproof As Season 1. But Let’s Talk About Its Women, Shall We?
Did you also binge watch The Family Man 2 over the weekend or are you normal? If this statement feels too much, you can blame it on FOMO (Srikant Tiwari would know!) and peer pressure. Everyone around you is watching it, because of the consensus the Season 1 was amazing. And you gotta watch it too, in time, to dodge any spoilers and be a part of the conversation. So what is the conversation? Is TFM 2 breaking that sequel curse or not? Well, I’m here with my two cents. The Family Man 2, created by Raj & DK and written by written by Suman Kumar, Suparn S. Varma and Raj & DK, stars Manoj Bajpayee as Srikant Tiwari, a senior analyst of TASC (Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell), which is part of the NIA (National Investigation Agency). The series returns with Sharib Hashmi, Priyamani, Vedant Sinha, Ashlesha Thakur, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Sunny Hinduja, Dalip Tahil, Shahab Ali, Darshan Kumar and Sharad Kelkar. There’s also some new blood joining in, led by Samantha Akkineni, who plays the main antagonist Raji, alongside Seema Biswas, Vipin Sharma, Mime Gopi, Ravindra Vijay, Devadarshini Chetan, Anandsami, N. Alagamperumal, Uday Mahesh, Abhishek Shankar and the late Asif Basra.
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The conversation around TFM has been tinged with controversy since its first season, which centred around a fictional terror plot involving Pakistan and Kashmir. I personally dig the fact that the show’s creators are touching political scenarios that most other show runners wouldn’t with a ten-foot pole. Season 2 has been also had its fair share of controversy, primarily because of somewhat irresponsible speculation based on a 2-minute trailer that the new season hurts Tamil pride and portrays Eelam Tamils in a defamatory light. And then there was also the blatant brownface that actor Samantha Akkineni sports in this season. After The Family Man 2 dropped, however, the former controversy was left with zero merit, because the portrayal of Tamil pride is handled sensitively and is not likely to ruffle anyone the wrong way. While the latter controversy was diluted by Samantha’s powerful performance.
What’s happening in The Family Man 2?
Season 2 begins in the middle and tells us about the fate of the characters at the end of Season 1 over the course of the episodes. But we don’t really need to do that. Srikant Tiwari has quite TASC, because he wants a job that lets him spend time with his family and doesn’t endanger his life. Or so he thinks. He’s being a good husband and father, and has even begun working at an IT startup at a desk job that he hates more than any bad guy he has ever chased. But he does it, in the hopes that he can fix what is broken between him and his wife, Suchi, and provide his kids a safe environment to grow in.
Suchi, however, after that emotional affair with her coworker and friend Arvind, has left her job. But while Srikant is doing his bit to be ‘the family man’, Suchi seems withdrawn into a shell emotionally. Their eldest, Dhriti has a secret boyfriend that gives you fishy vibes from the start. And their son, the ever curious Atharv, tries to tell his parents about it, but nobody takes that or his attempts at practicing hypnosis or playing musical instruments seriously. Luckily, nothing tarnishes his pure soul and he remains my favourite character in the show!
Meanwhile, knowing that his former work wife, JK Talpade, is now on a new case in Chennai, gives Srikant major FOMO, and his normal job suffers a lot. You realise that it is only a matter of time before he is back in TASC, focusing on the task at hand. What’s that, you ask?
Bhaskaran, the head of the Sri Lanka Tamil liberation movement is trying to amass support for his Government In Exile, from Indian politicians as well as France and UK governments. However, his plan hits a major snag, leading him to resort to a Plan B, involving Raji, a capable guerrilla soldier he had recruited in his militant army. Their plan involves sabotaging a meeting between the Indian PM and Sri Lankan PM in Chennai. Meanwhile, nursing wounds from the failed bioterrorism attack from last season. Major Sameer of Pakistan puts an ingenious revenge plan in motion.
Also Read: 5 Thoughts I Had About ‘The Family Man’ Season 2 Trailer. Mainly, What’s With Samantha Akkineni’s Brownface?
Is the curse of the second season broken? Erm…
For me, the biggest appeal of Season 1, and something that I looked forward to seeing more in Season 2, was when Srikant Tiwari would juggle being a normal, middle-class husband and parent alongside a spy who saved the country in a thankless job. It’s a side to espionage and patriotism that we haven’t seen before, and offers a lot of scope to talk about these government servants, their families, their financial struggles, and their own moral and political beliefs.
Now, I came across multiple reviews that claimed that the curse of the second season was indeed broken, and that The Family Man 2 was a worthy sequel to Season 1. If a show or a film were to earn this praise from me, it would have to stand unwavering on three front. First, is the production value scaled or at least as good as the predecessor? Two, is the storytelling just as engaging and smooth, or shifts into another gear? And three, is there convincing character development backed by consistently strong performances that take the central story forward?
The answer to the first question is actually the most straightforward of them all. I really think TFM 2 looks and feels better than Season 1, absolutely no complaints there. I enjoyed the tempo at which this plot progresses, which makes Season 2 a decently engaging watch. But it’s not without its road bumps, which for me, mainly arise from flaws in the story and unnecessary subplots that seem forced, and in some cases, rather uncharacteristic even. The second season misses some of that finesse from Season 1, where even if there were holes in the logic, I didn’t care about poking them because the story still held up.
For example, the entire subplot of Srikant’s daughter, Dhriti, meeting a random boy online, falling in love with him, and trusting him enough to not even keep her BFF in loop disappointed me. No, not because teenagers don’t do shit like that. But because the random dude turned out to be a honeytrap set by a Pakistani terrorist to avenge his failed mission. It’s the most clichéd plot ever, and that’s not to mention that I think Dhriti’s character is way smarter than this. Instead, I would’ve bought it more readily had this been a regular adolescent angst thing, where the trouble in her parents’ marriage causes her to act out, and eventually land up in a mess that finally requires both her parents to deal with the worsening situation. It easily seems like this subplot was introduced to tie up the fates of some side characters from last season. And you’ll see a lot of those wasted moments, when some past season characters return for 1-2 scenes, or to eventually get bumped off.
Some more obvious loopholes occur when a possible attack on the Prime Ministers of two countries is dealt with a tad lightly than I would’ve expected. You can’t help but wonder, why, despite this level of danger, TASC and the local cops are the only law enforcement agency with people on the ground, trying to catch these militants. Similarly, it is remarkably easy for these militants to travel across international and state borders, even after their identities are evident. In one particular scene preceding the climax, Samantha Akkineni’s Raji very easily gets past a police checkpost. I mean, if you have her picture and know that she is travelling these routes to kill the PM, why aren’t her pictures broadcast to every cop in town so they can look for her actively and identify her? What gives?
And finally, let’s talk about character development, shall we? There’s literally none. For a while there, you see Srikant trying hard to be the family man that he left TASC to be. But the at the first sign of friction in his personal and professional life, he runs. But the thing that bothered me the most was his apolitical stance. At one point in the season, Srikant says that he doesn’t care who is running the government, he just wants to do his duty. Admirable sentiment, but it completely negates his reaction in the flashback, at the moment when he decides to leave TASC because he somewhere doesn’t approve of the politics that is played to run the organisation.
At a time when law enforcement the world over is being berated for not taking a stance and carrying out their orders blindly, no matter how problematic they are, the subject of this season was near perfect to unravel what a soldier in the king’s army might think of the king’s decisions because the current political climate demands it. But this was a missed opportunity to show how law enforcement following bureaucratic orders without question inadvertently result in an unnecessary loss of life and resources.
Also Read: Samantha Akkineni Used To Have Sleepless Nights Because Of Trolls. But Not Anymore, Now She Laughs About It
The Performances: Nobody’s being a minimum guy here!
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This is one department where I don’t have any complaints whatsoever. The Family Man has quite a cast, and when their capstone is pure gold, like Manoj Bajpayee, there’s no way it’s going to not shine. Bajpayee makes playing the ‘ordinary hero’ looks so effortless! And he’s ably supported by his fellow cops, starting with Sharib Hashmi as JK Talpade, who keeps up with Bajpayee in the humour department. I ship their bromance!
Vedant Sharma as Atharv will be a perennial favourite, but I would like to add Uday Mahesh to the list of favs, because he is both hilarious and awe-inspiring as the paranoid as Chellam Sir, who the Internet is now claiming, is better than Google. I dare anyway to disagree.
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The breakthrough performance, without a doubt, is Samantha Akkineni. Her Raji is a complex women and the writers peel off those layers of her personality one by one. You’d think she is a ruthless assassin, but how and why she became one is a painful story of unbearable loss and trauma. And the way she forms emotional connections is what lends her the strength to fulfil her missions. Samantha embodies these complexities brilliantly. But…. The brownface is problematic as hell. And it cannot be overlooked. Because it is literally there, on her face, all the time.
Also Read: Aahana Kumra Wears Dark Makeup To Look Like Cricketer Jhulan Goswami In Her Tribute Post, Gets Severely Criticised
The women of The Family Man 2
The Family Man 2 is chiefly a testosterone fest. But it has its moments when it comes to its female characters. One of the recurring themes of this season was the treatment and perception of women by the men around them. And this would include characters across the board—from Seema Biswas playing Prime Minister Basu of India; Priyamani as Suchi, a wife and mother returning to work after a sabbatical; to Devadarshini Chetan as Inspector Umayal; and Samantha Akkineni as Raji.
There are several instances of men underestimating women from appearance, and women having to shun their inherent traits and take on more masculine ones to appear competent. Whether it is PM Basu, Umayal or Raji, their demeanour has a near-constant touch of being more aggressive so as to display confidence that they can do they job they’ve been hired for. No sign of weakness is permitted. In a similar way, when Suchi returns to work, she’s clearly a little uncomfortable being friendly with the guy she almost cheated on her husband with. But there’s a hesitance to maintaining the distance because she is grateful to him in so many ways.
The most overt issue pertaining to women in the workplace, of course, is sexual harassment, which we see in Raji’s case. There’s the more obvious one, where her manager at the factory she works at makes sexual advances against her constantly. But there’s also indirect harassment, in that she tries to remain silent in the face of sexual assault because she doesn’t want her cover blown and the cops to be involved, a byproduct of the life she has committed to.
I initially was annoyed with Suchi’s character, because she felt very one-dimensional. She just strutted around the house, looking disgruntled, despite Srikant making the big gesture for her and quitting his TASC job. But it dawned on me eventually, that this is pretty much the kind of confusion that a lot of women undergo when the illusion of a happy marriage shatters. Clearly, there is something missing in her relationship with Srikant, despite her maintaining distance from Arvind. Her struggle to return to a job she loves but knows might hurt her relationship with her family is another dilemma that women today are all too familiar with. I am hoping Suchi gets more to chew on in the next season, because it’s headed in an interesting direction.
And finally, to just drive the point home, depicting a woman, in this case Srikant’s daughter Dhriti, as a weak link that can be exploited to get to a man to drop his duty and run to rescue her is just so frustrating.
Okay, I’m going to go ahead and say it, I kind of liked TFM Season 1 better. The Family Man 2 is decent, but it doesn’t exactly blow my mind like the first one did. And it also expects me to overlook a lot of holes in its logic and some weird subplots to which, I’ll quote old man Steve Rogers from Avengers: Endgame—”No, I don’t think I will.”
That being said, I do applaud Raj & DK for attempting to touch this subject, and for keeping the overall essence of The Family Man intact through this season. There are no dull moments, per se, even when you can predict the outcome. Watch it for Manoj Bajpayee, his chemistry with Sharib Hashmi, the thrill of the ride and for Samantha Akkineni’s performance (if you can separate the brown from the gold, that is).
All episodes of The Family Man 2 are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.