Raj and DK on Amazon series The Family Man, casting Manoj Bajpayee as a 'relatable' spy and Go Goa Gone sequel
The Family Man creators Raj and DK open up about creating a middle class, relatable protagonist and infusing humour into a spy thriller in an exclusive chat with Firstpost
Director duo (Raj & DK), who started off as independent filmmakers, and known for their edgy drama - Shor In The City, and the Saif Ali Khan-starrer zombie horror comedy Go Goa Gone (not to forget their humongous success horror-comedy Stree they wrote and produced) are out with The Family Man, an action spy thriller Amazon Prime Video series with Manoj Bajpayee as the protagonist who they describe as the “middle-class guy and a world-class spy”.
Srikant Tiwari, played by Bajpayee, on one hand is a middle-class family man from Mumbai performing his family duties of taking his kids to school, or applying for home loan, and on the other hand is an undercover agent at the NIA (National Investigative Agency) while his wife is unaware of his 'other job'. In an exclusive chat with Firstpost, Raj & DK, also the series' producer and co-writers, decode the character of Srikant Tiwari, the challenges and the research that went into the making of the series which was shot in Mumbai, Kashmir, Kochi, Delhi and Ladakh.
How did the idea of creating The Family Man come about?
DK: The genesis of the idea was to show the lives of these people – the middle class heroes who don’t really get the spotlight, so they are not out there in uniform. We may not realise their importance and that the person could be standing right next to you, or travelling with you but you wouldn’t know his identity. Actually, they are doing the task of saving and protecting the country; but if you look at the person he is just like us, having the same middle class problems. He needs a home loan, but is not getting it. A lot of the times they are not allowed to tell everybody what their job is. So people think he could be in some government job, or a clerk in some department.
Raj: Also, it goes back to my childhood where I had an uncle who was an intelligence officer and used to make up stories, sometimes funny to cover his identity even as he didn’t have to. All those stories remained in my head for a while. Later, when we were discussing that we should have a common man who looks as if he was doing a common job but actually doing an extraordinary one, I derived a few characteristics from my uncle and put it in the character Srikant Tiwari.
What kind of research went into the making of series? You must have also picked up from many real life incidents?
DK: We interviewed few people before we started writing the script. There is one ex-RAW chief, whose life provided a lot of inspiration. To this day if you talk to him he will never reveal the operation details of what he did. He can give you the banal facts of his day- to- day life but he will never talk about an operation.
Raj: And that is what we were interested in. As a regular guy how do you travel, what do you eat — for us this was more important because you don’t get to see the person behind an intelligence officer. We wanted to see how common is he, how relatable is he to people like us. He's a family guy. He's got kids, he's got money problems, he's got all kinds of problems like any of us, so we were more interested from that angle.
Then, there were many incidents, like we hear about lot of stories of brainwashed students being picked up by ISIS and taken to Syria to enrol them. We sourced from news stories and had collected many newspaper clippings, like say, bomb disposal squads don’t have enough money to fix their suits, so these guys, doing one of the most dangerous jobs, have to patch up their suits with duct tape. Then, a story like a Pakistani spy pigeon getting apprehended in India. We fictionalised all these, so that the story is fact-based but not factual, and at the same time, could very well be facts. Literally every plot point has been derived from a real life news story. Sometimes what we wrote became true after we wrote it. If you watch the show you could think that what you saw here may not be true but it could happen.
What made you opt for Manoj Bajpayee?
Raj: He represents the common man very well and looks very shrewd and intelligent as well. He looks like a guy who can solve big cases, he has that personality. He also fits as a family man, a husband and a father. It is not a regular way you play the character, like talking to wife and kids pyaar se (sweetly). He was this old school father, the old school husband and we kind of saw that coming in from Manoj.
Also, Manoj has this very dark shade to him which is very easy to believe. He can be the nicest person and suddenly, if he flips, can become nasty also, and that is something makes you more believable. So when he is talking to the bad guys, the way he deals with them, you can see that he means business. So that worked very well for us. We wanted to play it real and that was the only way we could be differentiating the series with some of the cop dramas or gangster movies, perhaps. The show required the protagonist to play just the way you would play if you were a cop and that was easiest thing for Manoj to do.
What were the challenges though it can't be called a completely new genre for you?
DK: It is a new genre and that was the idea. We like to challenge ourselves every time, we don’t want to make it easy on ourselves. Be it a horror comedy, Stree that we produced, or an edgy city drama like Shor In The City, we try something new. So this time we wanted to go a little further away and get into geopolitics.
Raj: ..which is the variation, the spirit is still the same. It has a similar pitch and tone as Shor In The City, which had serious undertones, but there was always an element of dark humour on top. In The Family Man, the nature of the subject is even more serious because you are talking about terrorism and the nature of the humour is even lighter. So it has a broader spectrum because the lighter moments in the show are lighter and the darker moments are darker than anything that we have done before.
Was getting humour out difficult?
Yes, because humour doesn’t have much space in serious themes usually. But humour was abundant in our eyes because of the way things are, like the way we do jugaad (life hacks). The fact that this guy is balancing work life and family life, there is humour in that. His son is blackmailing him half the time because he knows what his father is doing, so there too humour was possible.
In real life yes, your partner would know, but kids will not know because they can’t keep a secret until they grow up. Also, a wife may know that her husband is doing this job but she possibly would not know that you are working on this particular terrorist attack. He may play it down by saying that he does only the desk job but he might be chasing goons somewhere, so bringing out humour in such situations was challenging and interesting.
What’s the difference you found in directing series from the movies?
Raj: The negative of shooting a series is you have to put in lot of effort. It is like making four films; there is lot more shooting, lot more writing. But on the positive side, it allows us to get deeper into a subject or a character. You get to see this character and this world for about eight hours, which allows us to comprehensively present the world to you, as opposed to movies where you have two hours to do it. That is a very liberating thing creatively.
DK: Otherwise direction is the same. For us writing, directing, producing is part of the process because we started like that as independent filmmakers, we do everything from A to Z. We wrote our own stories, produced it, directed it. So it'll be good to know that if it fails, it's our fault, and if it works, it's to our credit. It was an exciting experience because you are the master of the domain. And, of course, it is always a team effort. This story was written by us, and Suman Kumar, it is his first.
What next? What’s happening with Go Goa Gone sequel?
We are making couple of more series. We have another film coming up, we should announce by next month. Go Goa Gone story is ready, we just have to figure the timelines. It would be probably sometime later next year.
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