'The Family Man' Review: Raj & DK attain a new level of technical mastery

By Murtaza Ali Khan

The Family Man, Manoj Bajpayee, Amazon Prime Video
Towards the latter part of the Amazon Prime Video espionage series The Family Man, an Indian spy masquerading as a Pakistani soldier tells a dreaded terrorist in his custody to leave Pakistan for good and get settled in Saudi Arabia. The terrorist pleads, “Can I go to Sudan? I don’t like the climate in Saudi.” Unable to control his curiosity, the spy inquires, “Is the climate in Sudan good?” The terrorist nods in approval. Such little bursts of humor that occasionally punctuate the constantly brewing tension in the narrative elevate The Family Man above any run-of-the-mill spy thriller.
Written and directed by the filmmaker duo of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. (popularly known as Raj & DK), The Family Man offers a John le Carré-esque sneak peek into the lives of Indian intelligence officials and the dichotomy that dictates their existence. While for the whole world, including their own families, they are underpaid government employees, they actually are daredevils who put their lives at risk, day in and day out, in order to protect their country from all kinds of threats and dangers. The Family Man stars Manoj Bajpayee in the central role of a National Investigative Agency (NIA) field agent named Srikant Tiwari who is a part of a special unit setup to thwart all kinds of terror attacks on Indian soil.

In the recent times, spy thrillers have tremendously grown in popularity as far as Hindi cinema is concerned. Now, Raazi’s success has certainly revived the trend of period films revolving around espionage but we have had some very interesting period spy thrillers films in the past as well such as Ramesh Saigal’s Samadhi, Ravikant Nagaich’s Farz, Ramanand Sagar’s Ankhen, and S. S. Vasan’s Shatranj, among others. But we have been witnessing a revival of sorts in the recent years with films like Baby, Naam Shabana, and Aiyyary. And most recently we have had Romeo Akbar Walter. All these films, along with Raazi and Uri, can be seen as an offshoot of a strong nationalistic fervor that seems to have captured the youth’s imagination in the recent years. And it now seems to have rubbed off on the web as evident from the back-to-back releases of The Family Man and Bard of Blood on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, respectively.
The Family Man needs to be watched for Raj & DK’s unique ability to effortlessly handle a complicated narrative with multiple storylines. Whatever the duo lacks in terms of budget here they more than compensate it through innovative visual storytelling and sheer technical brilliance. The Family Man features some of the best chase sequences ever seen in Hindi cinema. Raj & DK perhaps even succeed in surpassing Anurag Kashyap on this front. Also, they seem to have attained a new level of technical mastery over the long take. The ten-episode series feature two breathtaking sequences shot entirely using long takes. This is really is the closest a filmmaker can get to attaining what Hitchcock referred to as pure cinema. What elevates it further is a deeply nuanced performance delivered by the inimitable Manoj Bajpayee who is ably supported by Sharib Hashmi, Priyamani, Mir Sarwar, Sunny Hinduja, Neeraj Madhav, Dalip Tahil, and the rest of the cast. It would be safe to say that spy thrillers are here to stay.
Rating: 8.5/10

A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian.

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