Family Man 2 creators on Samantha Akkineni: ‘She took extreme risk to play this role, it’s a brave choice’

After almost two years and thousands of requests from fans later, Manoj Bajpayee-starrerT e Family Man returns for its second season. The adventures of Srikant Tiwari, who struggles to be a family man in between saving the world, goes live on Amazon Prime Video on June 4. Already on a tightrope between middle-class life and all the challenges it brings, and being a super-spy, the precarious balance of Srikant’s life goes completely wrong with the arrival of his new nemesis, Rajji, played by South star Samantha Akkineni.

In an interview with indianexpress.com, Manoj Bajpayee and the creators of The Family Man 2, Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, talk about what changed the second time around and why Srikant looks so confused. They also weigh in on whether the second season has borrowed from various fan theories and why Samantha Akkineni’s decision to do the show was a brave one.

Are you feeling the pressure of fan expectations or is there just excitement in the room ahead of the second season?

DK: (Laughs) There’s pressure. Nobody wants to answer this question.

Manoj: I’m sure Raj and DK, Suparn (Varma, writer), Suman (Kumar, writer) and all the team feel the pressure because they are the initiators, they have been with the project from start to finish. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s necessary (laughs). They did such a fantastic creative piece with season one, and the second season was unaffected and unaffected by the success of the first season because we were already shooting the first schedule by the time the first edition came out.

The family has moved on, Srikant has moved on and he has new challenges on the work front and I am restlessly curious how people will receive Srikant in these new circumstances, how they will welcome this explosive character like Samantha’s. This way I know for sure that we have a nice product in our hands.

DK: Luckily, when we were scripting, developing and even filming season two, the weight of season one wasn’t on us. We went into the second season organically.

Although only the first schedule of The Family Man 2 was complete, audience reactions for the first season started pouring in. So, was it easy for you as makers to disconnect the filming process from the reactions? Or were there times when you thought you might be influenced because once a season becomes a hit, there are fan theories and predictions like how season two should start, what Srikant Tiwari should do next…

Raj: We’ve seen some really credible theories and at least three were shortlisted. And we realized we weren’t doing any of the three. Now, we’ve done good or bad, we don’t know. But we had thought about it differently, how we should proceed and we stuck to that. All we did was tweak some little things here and there that we might have forgotten and the audience made us realize how much they loved a certain part of it and we realized we weren’t paying attention to it. So 5-10 percent of the post-response adjustments, but rest, we went down a different path.

DK: The thing with a sequel is, like you said, everyone makes their own stories. Like everyone else, we also created our own story and we are lucky enough to get to show it.

What was it about Samantha that you thought she should be part of the show?

DK: We had written a Tamil speaking character. The first rule we’ve followed since season one was to find a Tamil-speaking actor.

Raj: What’s funny is that someone asked us what is the last Samantha movie we saw and we said Rangasthalam. It was a good, fun movie, but her character had nothing to do with what we were casting for.

DK: We also saw Super Deluxe. And she’s never done anything like that. In fact, I don’t think anyone has done a character like this. But you have to go with confidence in the actor.

Raj: Samantha’s choice to do The Family Man 2 is extremely risky, especially considering how passionately her fans follow her work. There are already few reactions that say: ‘What have you done with our beautiful Samantha?’ I said she’s still beautiful, just in a different role. Someone like her playing this role is very risky. It’s brave to say, “I’m going to let go of everything that people see in me, in my character, and I’m going to embrace a very different, contrasting character and try to do my best with it.”

Manoj, you have repeatedly made and broken images over the past few years. You play one character and the next would be a complete departure. But interestingly enough, The Family Man 2 is the first time you’ve played the same character again, in the same setting but in different circumstances. So, were there times when you felt like you were literally competing with yourself?

Manoj: The first witnesses of the changed Srikant Tiwari were Raj and DK. They observed and came up with their suggestions. But this time I needed their control much more than in the first season. I needed much more response from them.

Raj: I could see his effort and struggle. He’s just going to drink water and do a great scene (laughs). But we had this conversation where he told us he was trying to do something different. “I know it’s the same character, but I’m trying to do something different here,” he said. And we could see that clearly. So, whoever watches it closely – it’s very nuanced because you can’t leave and start talking like someone else. You’ll see a lot of that if you closely observe his acting style in seasons one and two. He did make a subtle but challenging shift.

Manoj: I also feel like Srikant Tiwari looks a bit chaotic at times in the second season. You don’t see that in the first season because you feel that he has an answer to everything.

DK: Yes. The stubbornness and confidence of the first season diminishes a bit here. He’s a little insecure.

Manoj: Yes, he feels really helpless for a while. As an audience you sometimes have the feeling that he is being sucked in, that he is surrendering. But in the end he is Srikant Tiwari. He finds an answer. But in those moments you feel that this is not the Srikant Tiwari you knew in the first season.

Is that a risk?

Manoj: It’s never a risk. The audience also wants to see him go through all those ups and downs and enjoy the complete journey of Srikant Tiwari instead of sticking to one species. The element of Srikant Tiwari will never disappear. But keeping that element intact, showing him how to deal with different circumstances, breaking every now and then and then picking it up very quickly and coming out victorious is Srikant Tiwari. He’s like a cockroach.

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