I’ve always admired India’s security infrastructure. We live in one of the toughest neighbourhoods on the planet, a modern equivalent of the pre-WW1 Balkans. But somehow our intelligence and security agencies keep us safe from the nation’s enemies. And I’ve often wondered how they manage to do it. Yes, we’ve had a few terrorist incidents in the past, but that’s because only their failures are known to us. Their successes are shrouded in secrecy, with only glimpses revealed on the silver screen.
Of late, we’ve had quite a few ‘spy-stories’ portrayed on screen. But most of them have been masala-ridden and a chip off the old Bollywood block. But that’s where The Family Man stands out.
Released on Amazon Prime last week, The Family Man is very much like its western cousin, Jack Ryan. It shows the people behind the security infrastructure of a modern state and the sacrifices they have to make to keep us safe. The protagonist, Srikant Tiwari (played by Manoj Bajpayee), is an officer who works for an agency under NIA. Over the course of the first season, we are introduced to the complexities associated with maintaining peace in India. What makes things even more interesting is that the story, though fictional, is inspired by real-life incidents.
But there’s one more thing about the series that made the Malayali within me sit up and pay attention. In the very first scene of the series has Dinesh Prabhakar (as Asif) and Neeraj Madhav (as Moosa Rahman)! And the two of them instantly grab your attention for they are terrorists sent by ISIS to carry out a ‘mission’ in India. We see them getting caught and for a moment, it looks like that’s it. But let’s just say that there’s more to their story.
I don’t want to give out much but since Neeraj is on the poster, I can safely assume that anyone starting out with the show knows that he’s in more than just one episode.
Neeraj’s performance stands out not just because it is one of the rare times that a mainstream Hindi entertainment has cast an actual South Indian as a South Indian character (talking about Deepika from Chennai Express), but also because of the scope of the role given to him. And Neeraj pulls it off brilliantly. His portrayal of the Malayali boy who goes to Syria to fight the Jihad is extremely convincing and generates empathy for the character. And I liked how Neeraj has actual conversations in Hindi, proving to the rest of India that we can speak Hindi if and when we want to.
Saying anything more would be giving out spoilers as the story is filled with unexpected twists and turns to keep you interested. But safe to say that Neeraj gives a stellar performance and deserves appreciation.
Neeraj has been quite choosy with his roles and has delivered some good performances in Malayalam. So if you’re someone who liked his previous works, you should definitely watch The Family Man as I feel it is one of his best performances till date.
P.S. If, like me, you are wondering if Malayalis have joined the ISIS, it looks like some have. Kerala Police says that over the years, around 100 Keralites have joined ISIS, and there are reports of Malayalis joining ISIS even in March 2019.