Dear Raj & DK Sir,
Sometimes, it takes just a ping to send shivers down your spine.
The date was May 19. Delhi was smoldering with the mercury touching almost 42 degrees. A young (ish) girl, in her late 30s, was huffing and puffing without electricity, yelling & whining at the rowdy temperament of the summers.
However, it was not the hot weather that was making her palms sweat.
It was the sweet anticipation of something else.
Suddenly her phone rings and it sends shivers down her spine. Her eyes widen, her face reddens and she starts screaming. But in elation!
The trailer of Family Man 2 was finally out!
She forgets the sweat & heat and starts jumping in joy! The anticipation is over.
Her family is back.
By now, you must have realized that the gorgeous sweltering woman is me ?! Like millions of others, I too, was dancing to the thrilling tune and the prospect of yet another captivating storyline.
Srikant Tiwari (Manoj Bajpayee) locking horns with a new nemesis Raji (Samantha Akkineni) in a series of fresh adventures! How could I keep calm?
After rewatching the first season (to refresh my memory), I was all set for the second. And when it finally released, I finished it in two days. Well, I could do it in one, but a girl’s gotta cook, sleep and work too! I wish I didn’t!
Before anything else, let me go on record by saying, I feel you guys are one of the coolest writer-director duos our nation has today. And definitely deviant. Your writing is unique, witty, innovative and your certain unconventional directorial techniques simply amaze me. Having said that, my open letter to you is not all peaches and cream, I’m afraid to say. Please understand I’m not just writing a film review. I’m taking the liberty to bare my soul to you here. So, here are my true, honest feelings, my excitements and share of disappointments, and the highs and lows I experienced after watching Family Man 2:
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All It Takes, Is A LONG Single Take!
In his classic thriller Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock captured single-shot sequences and rendered the entire film in just 10 takes. Although shot in an indoor location and the story was primarily dialogue-based with almost zero action, this was a ground-breaking technique in the history of cinema.
Decades later, you two did something equally insane. Shooting action sequences in a single take, with fast-paced movements, guns flaring, running & chasing, fighting…this requires some monumental levels of cinematic excellence. And you, Raj & DK Sir, proved yourselves to be a pinnacle in that area.
Not once, but you’ve pulled off single-shot takes thrice in season 2 and twice in season 1, seamlessly. The empty road shootout on Mumbai streets at midnight and Moosa’s escape from the hospital (Season 1), the five-minute-long opening sequence in Sri Lanka, the rebel attack on the police station to rescue Raji, and the final climax sequence where the Srikant’s team finally shoots at Raji’s airplane (Season 2).
The sheer audacity to even pursue such a daring endeavour and then accomplishing it with such finesse that the viewer doesn’t even realise it’s happening is worth a standing ovation.
Tamil Is Not Just “Yenna Rascala”
Just like any hardcore cinema addict, regional language has never been a barrier for me. In fact, I believe, use of regional phrases, tone, and dialect makes it more realistic, and less Bollywood-ish!
So, when I found out that half of the dialogues in Family Man 2 were in Tamil, it hardly made any difference to me. Pretty much like the use of Malayalam in the first season, but yeah, a lot more. However, what I did find commendable was your decision to not making everything easy for the Hindi-speaking viewers. “Hindi hamari rashtrabhasha nahin hai!”
It’s not about the language, and it never should be. A good cinema does not and must not be restrictive and aimed to please everyone. It’s not beer.
A good movie just has one responsibility and that’s, to tell the story right!
Having visited Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka, I know a majority of their population does not speak Hindi. Even if they barely do, they definitely don’t speak Hindi amongst themselves. Imagine how comically unrealistic it would be to watch Bhaskaran, Raji, Subbu, or Selva all conversing in Hindi with each other! Your commitment to the story and celebrating it as the ultimate Hero is truly commendable. And I salute to that! Because that’s what lacks in the Hindi film scenario right now! We need more of THAT!
The Humour Was Not “A Minimum Guy!”
You have always had great humour content in your films. And Family Man 2 wasn’t any exception. The tone-deaf, street smart blackmailing 9-year-old Atharv taking advantage of his father, cracked me up with his dialogues.
“Dhriti writes an essay even for true or false questions these days!”
Every time Srikant’s manager Tanmay Ghosh threw the “Don’t be a minimum guy” line at him, Manoj Bajpayee’s reactions were just enough to break the audience into laughter anticipating his final quitting act. The poor guy had it coming! And not to mention conversations between JK Talpade and Srikant had some of the most hilarious punchlines. Their jokes were so candid, it felt like coming from someone I know. Some of my own friends, maybe. Their delivery felt extremely relatable.
What I like most about your style of humour is the underlying sheets of satire that you tuck in. Your comic sense is layered, and the dialogues convey more than meets the eye (or ear, to be precise).
One of my particularly favourite scenes was when Srikant and Talpade spend the night in jail and JK wakes up with severe back pain. Srikant recommends “Bhujanga Asana” to JK to ease the pain and the camera shows them both doing a yoga posture behind the bars! The simple visualization of this scene is the genius of you Sir! To contemplate the humour in something that’s so ridiculous portrays a true sense of comedy!
And who can ever forget the epic conversation between JK and Muthu!
JK: “Mujhe South Indian khaana khana hai”
Muthu: “Kaun sa South Indian? Paanch states hain South India me”!
The ‘Could Have Beens’
I believe your writing and direction techniques have always brought something original, incredibly masterful to the audience. You’ve never shied away from experimenting and venturing into the lesser travelled paths of cinema (special mention: Stree, Go Goa Gone, Glitch). And I have simply adored and gobbled your movies like a voracious cinephile! Ever since your first creation. So, my question to you Raj & DK Sir is, what happened this time?
Sure, you blew minds with your top camera angles, humour, and single takes, but where was the fire? That yearn for brilliance. That courage to deep dive into the subject and discover the hidden gems.
Watching Family Man 2 felt like I’m snorkelling on the surface.
For example, the casting of Raji. I am not questioning Samantha Akkineni’s extraordinary efforts. Her hardcore 3-month training just to get into the character’s skin is clearly plausible. What failed to create impact was “her eyes”.
Throughout the series they kept talking about the fire in her eyes, the pain she’s had to live through all her life which transformed her into a rebel. I, on the other hand, couldn’t see the spark.
She fought well, her stunts were impeccable, she looked great too. But where was the fire?
A character like Raji should be inducing goosebumps while she spoke those words, I will kill them, I will kill them all. I kept looking for a Seema Biswas’ Phoolan Devi kind of agony in Raji’s body language, voice and eyes when she said that. Even the cold piercing gaze of Neeraj Madhav’s Moosa (Season 1) at the self-absorbed Gujarati truck driver and the subtle repercussion of it in switching off the stereo, created much more impact.
Unfortunately, Samantha’s Raji failed me there.
Second question to you, what were you afraid of?
This has to be my biggest disappointment with Family Man 2. It lacked the quintessential soul-stirring capability. Narratives that had the potential to shake us up were dealt like a quick lip-service.
The symphony ended before it reached the crescendo.
Take the kidnapping of Dhriti, for instance. She got kidnapped, got slapped a few times, managed to stab Kalyan, her father put the entire unit to work, and voila! They found her. Even before we can imbibe the tension. A bit touch-and-go, isn’t it?
Similarly, the way JK was found was just like taking candy from a kid. There were absolutely no jitters, no stress, no suspense building, not even a little dramatic effect. I kept hoping at least the kidnapping part of the plot would take a darker turn and make things difficult for Srikant. Make it difficult for me to watch. But it all ended like a fairy-tale.
Why did you feel the need to restrict yourself? Were you running against time?
Unlike season 1, where the cold-bloodedness of Moosa’s character literally gave me chills, Raji, Subbu, Sajid or any of the rebel characters didn’t move me to the core. I wish your innovative storytelling would reflect on every treatment. You wrote such hard-hitting dialogues, but unfortunately on multiple occasions, they failed to break the fourth wall.
All said and done, the teasing final scene filled me with hope. Hope for a more complex third season. I sincerely request you not to compromise on painting the darker themes using darker shades. I have been a fan of your work ever since your first film and you have refined with every story. Would love to see your boldness, novelty, commitment in not just a few episodes or scenes, but in every single frame of season 3!
Because, as Srikant Tiwari remarked, somebody has to step up and do this job!
One of your ardent fans.