'Family Man' 2 review: Manoj Bajpayee, Priyamani and Samantha stun in a fine sequel

Season 2 retains the treatment and tone of season 1, but one can’t help but feel that the show grew up in the two years that went by.
Samantha and Manoj Bajpayee in Family Man Season 2 poster
Samantha and Manoj Bajpayee in Family Man Season 2 poster
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What made The Family Man’s first season unlike any other show on major streaming platforms was its refusal to take itself too seriously. The stakes were high, the threat was real, there was heartbreak and guilt and loss. Yet the series, created by the maverick duo Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru, balanced the patriotism with playfulness and an organic sense of humour that emanated from the uncomfortable situations the characters found themselves in. Season 2, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, retains the treatment and tone of season 1 to a large extent, but one can’t help but feel that the show grew up in the two years that went by. 

While women are constantly questioned about how they balance work and family responsibilities, The Family Man subverts this age-old problem by putting a man in the crosshairs of work and home. Srikant Tiwari (played by the stupendous Manoj Bajpayee) is an analyst and field agent working with a secret task force that deals with threats to national security. However, on the home front, his marriage and his relationship with his kids are under threat too, thanks to the nature of his job and the many lies he has to spin to keep his family safe. 

As season 2 begins, Srikant has finally quit his ‘government job’ and joined the 9 to 5 rat race with a company cleverly called CacheMe (a definite pun on catch me because catching bad guys is what Srikant really wants to do.) He is hoping to make amends to his increasingly distant wife Suchi (an impressive Priyamani). The couple is in marriage counselling, and though he has now become the ‘family man’ his wife and kids wanted, no one at home seems to be truly happy. 

Srikant is battling guilt from the death of Kareem in season 1 and the unfair treatment meted out to his team members Milind (Sunny Hinduja) and Zoya (Shreya Dhanwanthary) whose valiant efforts were never acknowledged. Suchi is feeling guilty about what transpired between her and Arvind (Sharad Kelkar) at Lonavala last season. Though what happened is never spelt out, it seems quite obvious that she has had a transgression. Unhappy with his job, and the state of his marriage, and motivated by a new threat looming on the horizon, Srikant returns to the task force. 

Mirroring Srikant’s character in exile is Raji (Samantha Akkineni) who works in a factory and keeps her head down at all times. She tolerates sexual harassment by the foreman and the random groping of a creep on the bus, just so she doesn’t draw any attention towards herself. Quite like an animal in a cage that goes about its business until it's poked and prodded by annoying visitors, Raji’s suppressed rage is ignited after days of suffering silently. In a brilliant scene, she transforms from a frightened victim to a bare-handed killer in just seconds. Just when she feels she will never get a chance to prove her patriotism towards the Eelam, she receives a call she has been waiting for. There is a mission and an opportunity for vengeance. 

Watch: Trailer of Family Man Season 2

After last season’s somewhat stereotypical threat from Islamic fundamentalists, this season Raj and DK work with the internal conflict of another nation and its ramifications on India.  Problems begin when a sleeper cell of Tamil rebels is activated to join hands with the Pakistani ISI to orchestrate an attack on the Indian and Sri Lankan Prime Ministers. Exiled Tamil rebel leaders in London and France plot the details, with support from old rebel loyalists in India and Sri Lanka. 

The rebels are provided assistance by Sajid (Shahab Ali), the scooter bomber from season 1. Despite their best efforts, and Sajid's frighteningly personal attack against Srikant, the rebels find the Indian intelligence and local Chennai Police hot on their heels. What follows is a cat and mouse chase that ends with a brilliantly filmed climax unfolding in one continuous shot. 

Contrary to the concerns and protests that were trending on social media before the launch of season 2, the makers show tremendous empathy towards the Tamil rebels and their movement on the show. The atrocities faced by the minority Tamil community at the hands of successive Sri Lankan governments and the Sri Lankan army, are mentioned multiple times as characters share their horrific pasts.

Though they never justify the violence, the backstories serve to give us an understanding of what drove people to pick up arms and join the struggle for a separate Tamil Eelam.

My only quibble would be that perhaps Raji’s character deserved more nuance and layers. While Moosa in season 1 could be charming, soft spoken and yet frighteningly cruel, Raji spends most of the season channelling just one or two expressions to convey her smouldering rage. Thankfully Samantha, who is cast against type and given a generous coat of brown face, brings a poignancy to the character whenever she can. Since Raji is a woman of few words and fewer emotions, Samantha focuses on the physicality of the part, and convinces us of her being a trained and completely indoctrinated fighter. 

Continuing the show’s commitment to authenticity, all the other characters from Tamil Nadu have been played by Tamilian actors. It’s refreshing to see an authentic portrayal of a community that has long been stereotyped by mainstream Bollywood. 

There are nice cinematic touches the makers create throughout the series. In the first episode of the season for example, Srikant is frequently seen against a glass window or door, where his reflection is looking one way and he another. It’s a brilliant way to visually portray the split he is feeling within. 

A special mention to the cinematographer Cameron Bryson whose camera work takes us quite literally into the path of flying bullets, and editor Sumeet Kotian who does a fabulous job of stitching together so many parallel narratives and creating balanced and entertaining episodes. 

The Family Man season 2 is a fine sequel to the first season. Go binge watch it as soon as possible.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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