The Family Man 2 Review: “They are not terrorists. They are soldiers,” Raj and DK’s The Family Man 2 clears the entire controversy around its story with this single statement that an officer makes in front of Manoj Bajpayee’s Srikant Tiwari in an episode. If the first season of the show was an edge-of-the-seat thriller, the second one allows you to be sensitive and compels you to be educated about the struggles of Sri Lankan Tamils to get their share of freedom. With its popularity after the first season, the makers had to give something that went beyond the jingoism of India vs Pakistan.
In an episode of the first season, Gul Panag’s character explains to Srikant that people in Kashmir feel threatened and there’s a sense of mistrust in the valley. The same lack of trust is seen in its graver form when politics dominates the sensitivity of the right decisions, and the security agencies are called in to clear the mess afterward. Srikant quits his ‘perfectly corporate’ job and his struggle to not be the ‘minimum guy’ to get back to his calling when rebels plan an attack on the PM by teaming up with Sameer and Sajid (from season 1). In between all of this, the ‘family man’ deals with an unexpected trauma at home but never steps off his duty.
We know the brilliance of Manoj Bajpayee and what his pairing with Sharib Hashmi’s JK Talpade could bring on the screen, but what we probably didn’t know was what Samantha Akkineni was capable of as Raji. As the Sri Lankan Tamil rebel, Raji is almost like the smoldering coal in a fire, a wholesome of both darkness and light, capable of burning anything to ashes despite all the burning that she has dealt with in the past. Her past: quite dreadful, and unimaginably haunting. It’s to the credit of the makers that they use only a glimpse to show what Raji had to go through in the past and nothing else is required to establish more. When Raji and Srikant come face-to-face for the first time, he tells her a story, and she too tells him the one. Except, as she says, her story is the true one.
In The Family Man 2, the hero and the villain look alike. By now, we know Srikant as the man who speaks less, thinks more, observes better, and never forgets anything. Raji, as the villain in the show, is the same. Her eyes communicate all the time and she rarely speaks. Samantha, who has been a darling of the Tamil and Telugu film industry as the pretty, lovable girl, making the hero fall for her from head to toe in a snap, is a whole treasure trove in the show. You have never seen this Samantha before who matches Bajpayee’s prominence and acting brilliance in the show like no one else has in the past.
Another woman who leaves a solid impact is Seema Biswas in her fabulously designed extended cameo. From the very first frame she is in, she reminds you of the stubbornness, the solidity, and the hardheadedness of Mamata Banerjee. As PM in the show, Seema represents the strength and confidence that most politicians boast, but don’t really own. What is also interesting is to see how the writers try to balance the gender roles here by bringing in a female Prime Minister and a female villain where they, in most stereotypical ways, could easily be men.
The strength of the show lies in seeing two people, who feel outcasted by their lands, teaming up and sharing the most unexpected bond. Sajid, the Kashmiri rebel, asks Raji if Sri Lanka is as beautiful as Kashmir. And there, in that moment, you understand that they have housed too much pain and severity inside themselves to talk about the beauty of the lands they were thrashed from. In each episode of The Family Man 2, there are new questions with Srikant finding the answers and justifying them throughout the show. However, in all of the business, entertainment doesn’t take a backseat. We are introduced to new characters. Most interesting of them is one Chellam – who comes and goes like a swift breeze, a mysterious helper to Srikant who adds the right amount of relief in between all the thrill and anxiety in the story. Arvind, played by Sharad Kelkar, appears a little less in season 2, and you wish to see him in a stronger character knowing his acting valour and what he can add to the story.
The Family Man 2 could just be that rare series that appear better crafted than its season one. Adding entertainment in the story that deals with the complexities and the challenges faced by Eelam Tamils is a tough decision, let alone a riskier one. But what are the storytellers there for if not for taking such risks and giving their audience something really meaty and solid to think about. And while you do your thinking, Raj & DK prepare the field for another season. Watch out!