The Family Man 2 starring Manoj Bajapyee and Samantha Akkineni is all anyone can talk about these days! The Amazon Prime Video show created, produced and directed by filmmaker duo Raj & DK has not only managed to impress the critics with raving reviews but has also managed to stay on top of the trends on social media thanks to a gamut of memes. Why you ask? Because of many reasons but mostly because the creators have given the character’s a lot of layers, coupled with quirks and eccentricities that only alleviate the material. If you’ve watched it, you’d know how they’ve used Srikant’s trait of dishing stories to diffuse the situation in the final nail-biting episodes and it’s a pay off to watch out for. But the best part is that the makers have paid equal importance to every character, their arcs and not just the leads. And the finest example is that of JK Talpade played by the versatile Sharib Hashmi who has been receiving a lot of adulation for his performance in the second season.
Which is why we decided to catch up with the actor and check what has changed and what has not. In a candid conversation, Hashmi opened up about his character in ‘The Family Man 2’ and his bond with Manoj Bajpayee on and off the screen. He also recounted his experience working with Samantha Akkineni and director duo Raj & DK. Not just that he also opined about the ‘I am offended’ brigade who jumped the gun and called for a ban on the show. Read excerpts from the conversation below:
Did you expect the kind of reaction that The Family Man 2 got? It was a whirlwind of reactions and overwhelming amazing reactions…
I won’t deny that I didn’t have any expectations from the second season. In fact, I had very high expectations but usually second seasons don’t click with the people in India. Even if it is a well made show. I thought Mirzapur 2 was really good but it got mixed reactions and responses. Because audiences are also more aware and are out with a magnifying glass. However, Family Man has surpassed itself, apna hi record tod diya…which is such a beautiful thing. Second season ka jinx tut gaya hamara!
What has been the best reaction or compliment that you’ve heard for your character? Because JK has become quite a favourite.
I’ve been hearing such nice and cute compliments, I can hardly express it. “If Srikant is the heart of the series, JK is the heartbeat!” Even family and industry members have given me such nice responses. Mujhe laga isse pehle maine kuch kiya hi nahi hai (laughs)!
Is there a sense of relief? Since the trailer evoked all kinds of reactions.. There were calls for boycotts and whatnot. Did it ever bother you?
It was a huge sense of relief for me! Because I wanted the second season to come, we had worked really hard for the series and people were saying a lot of things without even watching it. And now that it has been released, all the noise has almost stopped. So, they just had to watch the show. But I was really scared at one point of time worrying about further delays and postponement, and even a ban for that matter.
I think the ‘I’m offended’ brigade should take a chill pill. They should relax and widen their thoughts and hearts but not everything is out to get you or has been made to target you. This way nobody can make anything; we will have to go back and make saas-bahu serials and usmein bhi kisiko bura lagega ki maaon ke baare mein aisa kyun bola?! Some mother’s union will be out to protest, these days any absurd thing can happen.
How was the experience of reuniting with Manoj Bajpayee? Do you guys share the same rapport off the screen too? And what was working with Samantha Akkineni like?
(Laughs) I can spend the whole day with Manoj sir! We talk a lot about everything under the sun including cinema and there is never a dull moment when he is around. He enjoys my company and I enjoy his! We share the same bond off-screen too; we have a lot of fun! I won’t call it Jai-Veeru because he is still my senior and he is like a big brother/guru but I joke around with him a lot! And enjoy the most while we are working together!
Meanwhile Samantha is making her Hindi debut and even though I don’t have a lot of scenes with her, it was great working with her. Unhone meri bahut dhulaai ki hai; I even got hurt once. Utni chot lagi nahi thi jitni baar unhone sorry bola, she would say sorry every time she would see me. She has done her stunts on her own and she has done it with so much grace and effortlessly. It truly felt like she has been trained for a long time and is a seasoned soldier. Hatts off to her!
JK brings comic relief thanks to your timing. But was it written and conceived that way by Raj and DK? Or did it become this along the way with your creative inputs about JK’s arc?
When I auditioned for JK, Raj & DK hardly said anything. They just said, ‘tereko sur milgaya hai us character ka! We don’t have to explain anything else to you! You have got the pulse!’ Having said that, they have created the character with Suman (Kumar) and I’m thankful to them for considering me in that beautiful role. Aur phir saath, jab scene hota hai..add karna and improvise karna..woh ho jata hai. It depends on the chemistry and it develops organically. So, I wont say I have done this or that, it was written beautifully and it fell in my lap. I’m happy that I managed to pull it off and that people have connected with the character.
I’m also elated because Raj & DK took JK to the next level in season 2. Because Srikant had left TASC, so I am on missions and there is a subtle romantic track with Umayal, if you can say so. There is also this banter with Muthu with North and South, Hindi and Tamil. So, they have added a lot of elements to JK’s arc and they came out beautifully. I always looked forward to shooting Family Man because I knew this would pay off; a lot of times we work on projects but we aren’t sure of the execution and outcome. But there is no place for such doubts on Raj & DK’s set! They know exactly where to let us lose and where to tighten the reins; they know it precisely. Many actors say ‘I’m a director’s actor’ but Raj & DK are ‘actor’s director!’
Because there is this particular scene in the lock up with Bajpayee. It felt so real and improvised. I don’t know if that can be rehearsed or planned?
(Laughs) yeah, the jail scene was mostly improvised! Because you can’t write these things down; we are not listening to each other and are busy abusing each other. “Suchi, sahi bolti hai” and it goes on and on! We actually did try to improvise more, when we sat down together for readings, so there would be suggestions and then that would translate into a collaborative effort. But it’s only because the material on paper was strong. If it’s not there on paper, enhancing it would actually make it crumble.
You mentioned how it’s seeming like people have suddenly discovered you. But that fact is that you’ve been around for some time. Do you think TFM2 has put you back on the map? And was it too long a wait to get your due?
It has, really! I’m getting calls from people who have moved on and even forgotten me. And I think maybe I’ve done good work. I’m really overwhelmed. Everybody has their own journey, I’m just glad that people have found time to appreciate my work. I’m not here to impress anybody or get validation that way (though), I’m here to do good work with commitment and if that garners adulation, nothing like it.
And honestly, I have no qualms. Somebody asked me the other day if any kind of bitterness has seeped in, it’s just not me. It never came and I consciously never let it in! It is very important to have a positive approach in our profession because we go through rejections on a daily basis. Aur woh ‘no’ ka joh kandhe pe bojh hota hai na woh bahut bhaari hota hai, aur uska uthane ke liye bahut himmat aur courage chahiye hota hai. You have to become thick-skinned and that is all I have tried ever. And I have no reason to complain; I’ve gotten such beautiful films like Filmistaan and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I have never had any regret because there are so many talented people in the industry, more talented than me…kabhi kisi ki kismat chamakti hai, kabhi kisiki nahi chamakti. Kuch log himmat har jate hain, maine himmat nahi hari!
What can you tell us about the next season? Where does it go from here? Lonavla main kya hua tha?
(laughs) Dekhiye Lonavla Arvind aur Suchi gaye the, main toh gaya bhi nahi tha! Woh unka puchna padega ya toh next season dekhna padega. But I don’t know what will happen next! Which route will Raj & DK go? What will happen to Srikant’s journey and what will be the new missions? Will JK get married or not? No idea about that, but I’m sure they will come up with something great.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India