Tag Archives: #PrimeVideoIN

Family Man 2 Poster

The Family Man Returns: A Must-Watch Macabre Drama

Manoj Bajpayee returned as Srikant Tiwari, an undercover intelligence officer, in the much-awaited The Family Man (Season 2) on 4 June 2021. If you are still unfamiliar with the series, this is an Indian action thriller streaming on Amazon Prime Video and is written and produced by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. The riveting screenplay and quick-witted dialogues were compiled by Sumit Arora and Suman Kumar. The series exposes the national security dangers faced by India because of her rough and complex geopolitical terrain. Security is made more challenging with disparate attitudes, language, lifestyles, tensions, cuisine, economy, bureaucracy, foreign threats, and fatalistic humor. How the seemingly ordinary hero Manoj Bajpayee navigates danger with an extraordinary sixth sense makes The Family Man special

Sri, as his family and friends call him, a middle-aged man with a small-town air (born in Belwa village) is sharp as a whip. He gets under one’s skin with his sensitive, emotive face, deep smoldering eyes, and sinewy body language. He is the arch-nemesis of terrorists but under his tough-guy persona, he is only a family man. His interactions with his kids, especially his provocative precocious little boy Atharva (Vedant Sinha), are authentic.  Sohaila Kapur, the School Principal is constantly summoning Srikant for meetings. His attempts to understand what his wife, the conflicted psychology professor, Suchi (Priyamani) is thinking, expose his vulnerability. He is worried like any man in his shoes that his wife is having an affair with her co-worker Arvind (Sharad Kelkar). Despite all this, the family man that he is, keeps reassuring the family that better days are ahead of them to compensate for his low-paying job. They don’t give him the time of the day because they are not privy to the workings of his day job. At the end of season 2, when he is being celebrated by PM Basu (Seema Biswas), the only favor he can think of is asking for a “no interest” home loan. Which is, of course, denied. 

The Family Man still (Image from Amazon Prime Video)

When I think of men on the silver screen, there’s nothing more attractive than their ability to engage, unless it’s also coupled with dazzling looks. Can he look smart in an old T-shirt, shirt sleeves, and can he clean up in a suit and tie? And Bajpayee does all that as Srikant Tiwari. One can’t deny that guys fighting crime with beautiful eyes, high cheekbones, and a dazzling smile are easy on the eyes. The name of  Benedict Cumberbatch comes to mind as the star of the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. I cannot look away from the glittering eyes of Dame Christie’s Hercule Poirot, played superbly by David Suchet. Although the performances in the Family Man are not as sophisticated as BBC and don’t display exotic locales as the Bond movies, the raw appeal with Indian accents, and absurd humor feels closer to home (Muthu ko hindi aati hai).

The first episode, of the second season, exposes Sri’s discomfort with his IT job. His manager is an insufferable mealy-mouthed man, who incessantly reprimands Srikant for not performing. In a melodramatic showdown with the manager Sri quits and returns back to Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell. This time to investigate another potential terrorist attack in the southern tip of India by the Tamil rebels in Chennai. He comes face to face with a Srilankan guerilla fighter pilot Rajalakshmi Chandran (Samatha Akkineni). Her dark, utterly fearless character development and backstory is intense, sad, and unsettling. Also disturbing but ominous are the shenanigans of Dhriti Tiwari, daughter of Srikant Tiwari, with a young boy she met online. A possible romantic spark may develop between Devadarshini, as Umayal, Chennai Police, and Srikant’s apparently indestructible colleagues Jayavant Kasinath Talpade or “JK”. The inscrutable, paranoid but surreptitiously reachable old intelligence officer Bhaskaran Palanivel comes to Srikant’s rescue when he is unable to unravel the cryptic clues.

Season 1 was the most-viewed web series on Amazon Prime Video and won five critic awards. I am sure if the macabre violence can be overlooked as necessary for the sake of drama. Samantha Akkineni, is masterful in her first digital debut. She outshines the others hands down!! This season ends with Sri asking his wife what is actually bothering her… which will be uncovered in Season 3.  


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

A Holidays Must Watch: Brand New Dawn

Putham Pudhu Kaalai (PPK), the Tamilian short story anthology, is the sine qua non of the 2020 emotional roller coaster.

“Memories of a brand new dawn” are five short films completed during the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown in March, in India.Five short stories by five accomplished filmmakers take us into the homes of people locked in the early days of the COVID pandemic in India. It was released on October 16, 2020, on Amazon Prime.

The stories are a lyrical peek into love, family, despair, and friendly shenanigans. To me, they bring back tender memories of Malgudi Days.

In my zoom interview with Rajiv Menon for India Currents (find it at the end of the article), I was hesitant to say the name out loud for the fear of mispronouncing it but ever since then, I have been happily recommending Putham Pudhu Kaalai to everyone! I love the “skirted” Tamil script, the dialogues, and the music!

Rajiv Menon said it reminded him of “film institute” days. All of them brought their inherent creative talent and expertise to stories of new beginnings, bruised relationships, and dreams with a buoyant playfulness.  

#1. Ilamai Idho Idho: Directed by Sudha Kongara with Jayaram as Rajiv Padmanabhan and Urvashi as Lakshmi Krishnan, is an effervescent champagne cocktail! How two quinquagenarians are transported to their teenage years with the chime of a doorbell is endearing! Like their squabbles over domestic chores over “spoons, dishes, and wet towels.” I wonder if Kalidas is developing Parkinson’s because he drops cups and saucers while offering tea to his girlfriend! Composer GV Prakash’s music of this short inspired by a Kamal Hasaan song is lilting! Will their kids approve of their rendezvous after the lockdown is the question.

#2. Avarum Naanum / Avalum Naanum: Directed by Gautham Menon with MS Bhaskar as“tatta” grandfather and Ritu Varma as “Kanna ” granddaughter. Kanna visits her estranged tatta, a nuclear physicist but is pleasantly surprised by him. I cried with the octogenarian in a checked shirt who can dice mangoes, fix routers, berate rude managers, and pine for his daughter’s melody! Art deco mirror, gramophone, family photos, and the Bodhi tree tie into the narrative. The flashback of two girls in their silk skirts holding sweets reincarnated childhood. I think of this and singBachpan ke Babuji the, acche acche babuji the..

#3. Coffee, Anyone?: Directed by Suhasini Mani Ratnam. On the eve of their mother’s seventy-fifth birthday, two daughters come home to a mother with a pontine stroke and a father is treating her at home!  Suhasini has opened a Pandora’s box of family dynamics, aging parents, fertility, and dyslexia. The mother reminds me of my mother with a “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth”  but stronger in her resolve as a cup of potent filter coffee! The home with a mango tree, a wrought iron gate, and swarming feminine energy is familiar too! Squabbles, selfies, kumkum, birthday wishes at midnight will make us all sing Tu kitni acchi hai, tu kitni pyari, hai, bholi bhali hai. O ma, o ma…”

#4. Reunion: Written and directed by Rajiv Menon with a cast of Andrea Jeremiah, Leela Samson, and Sikkil Gurucharan is wonderful! Rajiv Menon was surprised that I had not watched the anthology but once he knew I was a physician, he shared the backstory that prompted him to write the script. Carnatic musician Sikkil Gurucharan is a doctor who after being exposed to a COVID-19 patient is quarantined with his mother, an elegant Leela Samson, and an old school friend Sadhana (Andrea). He discovers that she is a drug addict! The feng shui of the sloping red-tiled Kerala style home with black and white photographs of palm trees, temples, and fishing nets is beguiling. There is an echo of a popular song “Ooo la la…  by the director, and lyrical poetry reveals Rajiv Menon as an incurable romantic. The best poems are always those written to our childhood sweethearts. I want to wear a Kerala saree, drink deep from the fresh mint mojito, and dance on the blue-tiled courtyard! Rajiv Menon writes in English/Tamil but his dialogues are in Malayalam, his matribhasha.

As a physician, I give him full marks for taking cues from his own arthritic mother, Apollo hospital’s ICU is packed with patients suffering from alcohol withdrawal in lockdown, and doctors treating patients without proper PPE. Rajiv Menon got this right! Once a doctor- always a doctor at home or in the clinic! An unexpectedly tender love story of redemption and joy. I remembered “ Taare hain baraati, chandni hai ye barat

#5. Miracle: directed by Karthik Subbaraj with Bobby Simha as Devan K. Muthu Kumar as Michael is about an Indie filmmaker and two hoodlums who want to make quick money inspired by a spiritual “Baba” with a scripted message: Miracles do happen! This quixotic comedy of errors crescendos to a climax with rolls of crisp rupees rolling out from proverbial Sheikh Chilli’s imagination!  Who loses, who wins is the question? Karthik Subbaraj has certainly won my applause with an uncanny knack to conjure a hilarious tale with an iPhone with awesome night scenes! This last short is radically different and perhaps that makes it more memorable. The fact that I was able to narrate it to my grandson in India in one breath says a lot!  These “Do deewane shahar mein.., may not have found their biryani but they are content in eating puliyodharai and hoping to catch reruns of Mahabha…rat on a stolen laptop.

I have watched the PPK anthology on Amazon Prime thrice, to familiarize myself with Tamil words, music, and the ambiance of Chennai! I am indebted to the wonderful personal advice given by Rajiv Menon about making good stories! Putham Pudhu Kaalai is relatable like dishes created from a snake gourd-like pachadi, raita, curry and sambar, similar but deliciously different! This analogy does make me hungry! 


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.