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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.


 

Pagglait Approaches the Insular Hindu Family With Humor and Heart

Pagglait is a Hindi dramedy film that released this past March on Netflix. The narrative follows the emotional reaction and circumstance of a young widow, Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra), after the death of her husband. The film is set in a small town near Delhi and chronicles the aftermath of the death of a breadwinner in a middle-class joint family.

This film, written and directed by Umesh Bist, is a winner! The producers Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga under the banners Balaji Motion Pictures and Sikhya Entertainment deserve praise.

The film plunges us into the middle of a drama. Astik has passed away. Sandhya is alone in her room, amidst a house full of grieving relatives, sifting through “routine” condolence posts on social media about her dead husband, Astik. Sandhya is very natural in her confusion and state of shock.

When asked, “If she wants some tea?” She says she would prefer a cola

Ghanashyam, a relative, suggests she has PTSD and Sandhya’s mother tries to ward off evil spirits by burning chilies. Sandhya’s attitude leaves the others puzzled but the viewer gains more insight into Sandhya’s character after her friend Nazia (Shruti Sharma) arrives. This vegetarian “chips” craving, Muslim school friend helps Sandhya process her grief. Sandhya admits that she is not feeling sad and sneaks away with Nazia for spicy street food while Astik’s brother is performing rituals for Astik on the river bank.

Ashutosh Rana looks sufficiently tired and hapless as a grieving father of a young son. Raghubir Yadav as the interfering orthodox uncle who orchestrates the funeral arrangements and thirteen-day right of passage of the deceased soul is natural. Another easy feather in Sheeba Chaddha’s professional cap as a traditional middle-aged mother who has no time to grieve. She just carries on cooking bland food for visiting relatives, massaging her mother-in-law’s ankles, giving her enema, offering support to her husband, and seeking guidance from her “guru”.

Sandhya admits that in the few months of marriage like any other arranged married couple, she was not very close to her husband. The loss of her pet cat affected her more than her husband. It takes time to develop feelings for someone…

The other family members are distressed but I think they are more concerned about the repercussions of the loss in their lives rather than genuine grief for the departed soul. Meanwhile, Sandhya discovers a photograph of Astik’s crush in his book. Sandhya is angry at her dead husband and is curious about Aakanksha, played flawlessly by the lovely and well-groomed, Sayani Gupta.  Aakanksha, who worked with Astik, came to offer her condolences with others from Astik’s office. Sandhya confides in Aakanksha and tries to gain more information about Astik from Aakanksha. She meets her a few times and tries to dress, act, and live vicariously through Aakanksha. Sandhya finds it hard to believe that Aakanksha and Astik were not involved after marriage and broods over it. 

The plot presents a twist when the family finds out who is the sole beneficiary of Astik’s life insurance. Questions arise. Will Sandhya remain in the joint family home or return to her parents’ home? Will she accept another proposal of an arranged loveless marriage? She has been craving soda and “gol gappas”, is she expecting? Can she find a job with her Master’s in English literature?

There are so many questions for Sandhya who is caught unawares at a crossroad.

But if you look closely, this ludicrous state is not Sandhya’s alone! This is the state of so many female denizens of a repressive society in which all decisions are made for them. From birth. Whether they have a right to be born to upbringing, education, toys, books, clothes, career choice, marriage, emotional and financial stability. Their ability to choose food, love, happiness is nullified by others. All decisions are made for them.

I highly recommend this film to everyone who supports gender equality. To quote the beautiful Sanya Malhotra, “Pagglait is a person who listens to their heart!”

A round of applause to Bist for hitting a home run with his flashlight on an insular Hindu family, the predictable characters with their hypocrisy (coming late to the funeral and drinking while making others abstain), warmth (treating the old dadi with respect and cuddling up in her comforter), jibes (at the in-laws), stress (of one bathroom), prolonged rituals (despite poor financials), every attempt to draw a line between a high caste Hindu and a Muslim, and the rather odd raunchy doorbell!

Death opens doors for self-realization in unexpected places.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Exclusive Zoom with Bandish Bandits

Bandish Bandits is a romantic drama series between two opposites:  Radhe (Ritwik Bhowmik) a musical prodigy from the Rathod Gharana of Jodhpur and Tamanna Sharma (Shreya Chaudhary), a young and beautiful rockstar.

Shreya fits the role to perfection because she is brimming with daredevil energy! Ritwik has a mischievous demeanor with sparkling eyes! Serendipity forces them to form a Rock band with an exciting name “ Bandish Bandits” which has so many connotations!  As they create exhilarating fusion music together, their pretend romance becomes a real thing! How lovely!  But will this love story hold up to family expectations or will destiny throw them a curveball? Set in the backdrop of picturesque Rajasthan steeped in ancient traditions and unique culture, the series is written and directed by the energetic young duo Anand Tiwari and Amrit Pal Singh Bindra and boasts a host of talented actors.

I really enjoyed chatting with Rajesh Tailang and Sheeba Chaddha. They talked about the process of selecting roles, being honest to their work, and letting the audience judge them on their merit. The actors’ commitment to acting and balancing their work on set with their personal life and hobbies is admirable. Both of them were very complimentary of the work ethic of their young costars and very impressed by their charming director, “ He likes to keep everyone happy while working together”. I could see that they all had a blast on set! I was intrigued about the roles they play but they skillfully kept that under the wraps and I think they were right!

The script of this ten-episode series is imbued in the exceptional music score handcrafted by the inimitable Shankar Ehsaan Loy! Be prepared to enter into a transcendental journey of love, adventure, and longing! Garaj Garaj Jugalbandi and Padharo Mhare Des are on my playlist now! I enjoyed hearing the backstory that just the preliminary practice session run of Raga Megh Malhar brought down torrential rain in the desert. That was helpful! I was heartened to hear that the actors were touched by the air, magic, and hospitality of Rajasthan. The desert never fails to cast a spell!

I am encouraged that this series aspires to showcase the cultural, aspirational, and musical diversity of the youth of our vast Indian subcontinent to the world. I have yet to converse with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in person but I kept hearing the same phrase repeated unanimously: “Naseer Sir is my guru and when he is on the set, everything changes for the better”!  I am more than certain that Naseeruddin’s role as a “Sangeet Samrat” will be rendered with the distinctive insight and finesse akin to Picasso. All in all, this is a delightfully curious narrative with a Bandish of stirring melodies! I can’t wait to binge-watch “Bandish Bandits”! I invite you all to tune in to the interviews and watch the show with us! 

The story is all about one exquisite thumri that twinkles in the heart of anyone who has ever experienced love!


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.