What is the story about?
A year after the explosive events of Season 1, Srikant Tiwari has turned his back on the TASC and is trying to fit in at his new corporate job. However, his relationship with his family has strained. Srikant also misses being in the thick of action, and tries to vicariously relive his days through his interactions with JK. But when the Indian Prime Minister Basu decides to aggressively court her Sri Lankan counterpart Rupatunga in order to ward off Chinese influence in Sri Lanka, the Tamil rebels fighting against the Sri Lankan government are angered and decide to hatch a plan to assassinate Basu and Rupatunga in Chennai. The plan is led by fearless fighter Raji, with surreptitious backing from Major Sameer of the ISI. With no other way out, Srikant is forced to get back to his earlier avatar, as he attempts to stop the plot.
Love him or hate him, you can't ignore Srikant Tiwari. A year after that chemical attack in the finale of Season 1, something has changed in him, however. He's hurting, and he tries to brush away the pain with his humdrum corporate job, having quit TASC. His wife, Suchitra, cannot still bring herself to tell him the truth about "Lonavala mein kya hua tha?" His relationship with his children Dhriti and Atharv is also strained. In its initial 4 episodes, The Family Man S2 doesn't feel like the cult show we've all grown to love. But don't let that fool you.
Creators Raj & DK, and co-writers Suman Kumar and Suparn Verma, know which buttons to push and when, and they cleverly blend the rumblings in Srikant's domestic life with bigger events in South Asian politics. This season sees the writing team focus on China as a threat, and they decide to mash up China's growing closeness to the Sri Lankan government, with its decades-long conflict against the Tamil community. But there's a point to note here: the Tamil movement for a separate nation is itself ridden with factionalism, and one of the factions decides to activate a long-dormant cell of rebels to hatch an assassination plot. There's also the Indian Prime Minister Basu, whose sharp tongue and bustling ways remind you of a mashup of two real-life politicians. But this is a season where there is a lot of focus on Srikant's family, and how they rally together when one of them is kidnapped.
If the sluggishness of the first four episodes confuses you, it is a deliberate ploy to suck the viewer into a new story and a brand-new setting. Even though Mumbai is the base, the fast-paced narrative constantly shifts between, Mumbai, Chennai and London. The gallows humour is very much there, with Srikant and JK constantly exchanging wisecracks, but there is an undercurrent of melancholy all around. There's also sadness surrounding Raji, the main rebel. She's a hardened fighter who believes in her cause, but there are multiple moments in the story where your heart goes out to her. At particular moments, you find both Srikant and Raji, on opposite ideological ends, internally debating whether their sacrifice for others even has a meaning.
All of this lends a quiet gravitas to the otherwise-bonkers narrative, which absolutely grips you from the fifth episode onwards. The action sequences are stylishly choreographed, and there are two insane set-pieces in the season that almost seem like a tribute to that seven-minute single-take action sequence in True Detective S1. The dialogues are snappy and full of zingers, but in the end, it's Srikant's scrappiness and Raji's determination which actually make this season a worthwhile watch. Grab a chair and binge on.
Manoj Bajpayee is effortless as Srikant. This is a role he has fun with, even though he seems to rein in his usual acerbic wit this time. Samantha Akkineni is the find of this season, bringing ruthlessness and pain to her portrayal of Raji. Also, she performs some insane stunts to watch out for.
Priyamani's Suchitra is quite downbeat in this season, and it is to the veteran actor's credit that she underplays it very well. Ashlesha Thakur and Vedant Sinha lend able support as Dhriti and Atharv. Sharib Hashmi is forever the life and soul of The Family Man as JK. Ravindra Vijay leaves an impression as new TASC face Muthu. Mime Gopi is menacing as Bhaskaran, the former commander who lives in exile and itches to get back to war. Shahab Ali makes a return as the dreaded terrorist Sajid from Season 1. Darshan Kumaar reprises his role as the wily Major Sameer of the ISI, who decides to offer backdoor support to the rebels. Seema Biswas and Vipin Sharma are okay as PM Basu and her National Security Advisor, Sambit. Dalip Tahil is okay as TASC chief Kulkarni, though we don't see much of him. Shreya Dhanwanthary and Sunny Hinduja are decent as Zoya and Milind, who are psychologically scarred by the chemical leak in Season 1. The rest of the cast pitches in with decent performances.
Music & Other Departments
Saini S Johray's production design is outstanding. Cameron Eric Bryson's cinematography is terrific, and has some jaw-dropping shots in the action sequences. Aejaz Gulab and Yannick Ben's action sequences can be watched for hours on loop. Ketan Sodha's background score is alright.
The action sequences are terrific, and coupled with the solid performances, are the major highlights. Personally, my favourite is the sequence at the Veeraranyam police station in Episode 6.
The initial portions of the track involving Srikant's family feel sluggish and seem to slow down the story a bit.
Did I enjoy it?
Yes. The tone is darker, but that does not make the story any less gripping.
Do I recommend it?