How Amazon Prime's The Family Man rises above cliched middle class issues of roti, kapda aur makaan
The Family Man extends to larger socio-political issues that indirectly impact the average Joe.
There is a recurrent dialogue in Raj and DK's maiden Amazon Prime Video India Original The Family Man, "Unhe ek bar jeetna hota hai. Humey har baar" (they have to win only once but we have to win every time). Manoj Bajpayee, who plays an Indian spy agent in the show, refers to the terrorists vs spies intelligence game when he says this. However, his dialogue also rings true for the Indian middle class, a section of people his character fittingly belongs to.
The Family Man is an interesting espionage thriller show, which juxtaposes Bajpayee's risky turn as a spy agent with his normal life as a middle-class father and husband. Since he cannot disclose to his family that he is a spy, he lets them believe he is a regular government employee. Since he is busy tracking down terrorists and preventing them from executing their plans in India, Bajpayee is naturally a busy man. But both his wife (Priyamani) and children blame him for not spending enough time at home. Bajpayee's character, torn between his duty and family, finds it tough to juggle between the two roles. His struggle lends oodles of humour to the show, primarily owing to how relatable his character is.
Bajpayee's character Srikant is shown as a man with humble means, who is struggling to make a living and ensure a decent life for his school-going children in an expensive city like Mumbai. The show touches upon the ordeal of attaining, and maintaining, the basic necessities of roti, kapda aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter). But what makes The Family Man interesting is that it is audacious enough to rise above cliched middle-class issues, and explore the larger societal issues that snowball into middle-class lives.
These societal issues are extremely relevant and urgent in contemporary Indian society. For example, there's a scene where a man refuses to stand up for the National Anthem in a cinema hall. When asked, he attributes his action, or the lack of it, to the stressful situation in Kashmir. Though the Supreme Court has mandated that the National Anthem should be played before every public screening in a cinema hall, it has also clarified that standing up to pay respect is a personal choice. But, the mob immediately labels the man as a Muslim and he is beaten up black and blue. This adds fuel to his already agitated state of mind, and prompts him to hatch a plan to seek revenge from a Hindu community-appeasing minister.
Another issue, which turns out to be a major plot twist in the 10-episode show, is the prejudice both TASC (the agency Srikanth works for) and the audience harbour against a particular community, Muslims in this case. Raj and DK show us a group of three agitated Muslims planning some sort of an attack in Mumbai. According to the 'intelligence' of the spy agency, they were planning a terror attack and intended to plant bombs in the city. The three Muslims, dressed up as food delivery employees, were presumably carrying 'bombs' in cylindrical tiffin boxes stored in a delivery van. When the agency tracks them down and catches them 'red-handed', they try to flee. Srikant orders his team to shoot the three men. However, a close examination of the tiffin boxes reveals the men were carrying beef, which they wanted a Hindu-appeasing minister to consume. This turns out to be a massive misfire on part of the agency, who assumes a group of men, who were merely transporting beef, were planning a terror attack, only because they were Muslims.
Getting further into its socio-political themes, The Family Man depicts Kashmir prior to the abrogation of Article 370. The show, particularly in a sensitive time like today, does not gloss over Kashmir by presenting it as yet another conflict-ridden territory. Gul Panag's character is Kashmiri but employed in the same spy agency as Srikant. Her confessions to Srikant, of the state imposing curfews on the valley, brings to the fore her dilemma between her duty and her community. Her character lends an empathetic ear to the people of Kashmir, making them believe they are as much a part of the Indian middle class — and their struggles — as the rest of India.
The Family Man does not amplify the struggles of the majoritarian Indian middle class. In fact, it reminds that section of society how privileged they are, as they do not have to compromise their fundamental rights, and live perennially live with the fear of death.
All images from YouTube.
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