When asked whether their new series engages with the popular and oft-visited espionage genre, Raj Nidimoru, one half of the writer-director duo popularly known as Raj and DK, says,“We didn’t want to be derivative by making another spy show like another spy show”. Raj’s partner-in-film, Krishna D.K. asserts that there are in fact no examples in popular culture to draw direct parallels to, “I don’t think there is another show like this, with this tone in this subject.” Raj clarifies that rather than a conventional spy show, their 10-episode series is a take on the geopolitical scenario in the subcontinent today. Author Suman Kumar who has a keen sense of the geopolitics of the country, assisted the duo with research and plotting and was a great addition to how they usually write, he tells The Hindu.
Down to earth
For their show the creators did not want to rely on technologies which are so commonly used in spy thrillers. “I don’t even know if some of them exist,” says Raj, “Where you could type on your laptop and open a bank vault somewhere.” The idea instead was to add a local, native flavour and use the jugaad system to find solutions. “There’s no hero-giri in the show,” insists DK. “These are normal, somewhat trained people, rising to the occasion and figuring out what to do.” Moreover, Raj remarks that the biggest draw is the humour, an element not traditionally associated with an anti-terrorism show.
At the centre of The Family Man is someone who, as DK puts it, “You see on a train or standing next to you at the vada pao stall.” He is the common man with the regular job. Except, in this case, it is that of fighting terrorism. “It’s an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job,” he states. The show brings to the fore the stories of these middle class heroes who go unnoticed and almost never get the credit they deserve. “The only time that these characters would be in the news is if they screwed-up. If they do their jobs well, their names won’t even be mentioned,” observes DK.
While research involved meeting with real-life agents and even an ex-RAW chief, what interested the duo more than the classified information about operations was their personalities, especially how they functioned in their daily lives and how their families dealt with the reality of their professions. “We were interested in them besides the plot,” says Raj. Contrary to popular representations, the creators wanted to highlight the mundaneness and the unglamorous nature of these government agents’ lives.
When it came to casting, both Raj and DK declare that Manoj Bajpayee was the first actor who came to mind, and happily recall how excited he was to play the part when they approached him. While Bajpayee represents the quintessential common man, he has also played complex, menacing characters, for instance, in films like Aks and Gangs of Wasseypur. “He can switch shades within a scene and that was perfect for the role,” says DK, expressing that the actor is so adept at presenting this kind of duality that he was surprised that he had not experimented with it before.
On their maiden venture into the digital space, Raj says, “You have been playing one-day matches and now you’re getting to play test cricket.” They share that they had signed on to do the show with Amazon almost three years ago when the service was just setting-up shop in India. “We were waiting to do a long format,” says Raj speaking of the attention the space has been receiving in recent years while DK points out that the exacting task of writing an almost eight-hour screenplay was perhaps the only negative. Having gotten a taste for the medium the duo admits that there is more to come. Their approaches however have not changed all that much: “We still think we are making a movie, just slightly longer,” they both assert.