When he is called to report to work, he is not sipping martinis somewhere in a luxury hotel bar, instead, he is getting a talking-to from his teen daughter’s school principal. He’s not holidaying in the Bahamas but entertaining guests at his son’s birthday party before he has to rush out to attend the matters of national security. He meets the demands of his job alongside the expectations of his family that are hard to manage given the size of his pay-cheque. He switches between grocery bags and semi-automatics as he executes household duties as well as high-stakes covert operations. Meet Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpai), a secret agent of Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (TASC), an anti-terrorism agency under the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), operating in a world away from typical Hollywood spy fare.
The series opens with a view of the Arabian Sea south of Kochi. A fishing boat is intercepted by Indian Coastal Guard and the three men captured are identified as ISIS agents. In Balochistan, an officer of the Pakistan Army meets an ISIS terrorist who is on CIA’s most wanted list and briefs him on Mission Zulfiqar – an elaborate plan to provoke India into declaring war on Pakistan which will help the army to conduct a coup. Something big is about to happen, that’s all TASC knows and Srikant and his team have to outsmart the terrorists, some of whom are the brightest of the top academic institutes. Every piece of intelligence is crucial and Srikant is keeping an ear to the ground, and the other, well, to his wife’s phone. Priyamani portrays the character of Srikant’s wife, Suchitra, who is stuck in a job void of challenges and a dull domestic life. Brimming with comic doses of everyday challenges of the middle class, the espionage drama has fresh surprises in store at every turn, many hiding in plain sight.
The series indulges in a fairly large array of thorny issues of the contemporary political climate. Muslim students of a college are nonchalantly labelled as anti-nationals by a local cop who seems to know a lot about ways to acquire written confessions. Enraged by an incident of mob lynching, a group of students plans to get even with a politician. When perceptions drive the course of action and innocent lives are lost in a police operation, it’s heavy on the conscience of everyone in the department.
The narrative uses its backdrops effectively to enhance storytelling. Scenic beauty is in abundance, be it the beautiful landscape of Balochistan or the lakes of Kashmir valley. The subplots, some of them just too mundane to be part of any spy flick with a double-oh agent, have added an authentic texture . The creators, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, have scored a winner with The Family Man by pushing the boundaries of spy drama and bringing it closer to the everyday lives of its characters. The many shades of this compelling narrative underline the driving principle of the life of a common man, and a soldier – They have to win once but we have to win every time.
Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Video