Creators Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK have brushed aside criticism of painting actor Samantha Akkineni in brown face, in the recently released second season of Amazon Prime Video's The Family Man. They said that every decision was made in service of the character, and that they are responsible filmmakers.
In an interview, the director duo said that it isn't like they got an actor of a different race to play Raji, the Sri Lankan Tamil rebel who takes on Manoj Bajpayee's Srikant Tiwari in season two.
Raj told Film Companion, "This whole thing comes in the context of beauty, when you're trying to say dark skin is not beautiful and fair skin is beautiful... This is not that context, number one. There is no context of skin beauty in this. We are all shades of brown. Now, the idea is that if each one is a shade of brown, so it's not about getting a different race to play this (character). It's not a race thing either. These are the two contexts where it should be looked down upon, and that's where the main problem is. And we are well aware of it; it's not like we are irresponsible filmmakers, to propagate something of that kind."
He added, "Here, we are trying to get the character of Raji right. We want her to speak it, we want her to look it, we want her to be that action girl who can land the punch; someone who can be physically fit and take on a guy double her size. That's our main challenge. So if you look at what she wears... She's a soldier, she's a weather-beaten girl, there's no time for worrying about self-care. If you're a solider in the Himalayas, your face is going to be red, that's the makeup."
DK said, "In a way, it's the character, right. And the character demanded that she had to be fit, because she's a military person. And what did Samantha do for the role? She actually trained. For three months she did intense training and got these biceps. She learned martial arts from the choreographer, and took classes, and that's why the action is good. She learned this particular dialect of Tamil, which is not her usual Tamil. Now add to that the concept of hair, makeup and costume, that is the complete character that we are presenting. This is the character of Raji; she looks a certain way, she walks a certain way, and she's a killing machine, and that's all there is to it."
The second season of The Family Man explores Srikant's inner conflict, as he balances his personal life with his wife and two kids, with his professional life as a covert spy. Through the course of the season, he uncovers an assassination plot against the Indian prime minister, at the centre of which is Raji.
In an Instagram post, Samantha said that she took a 'balanced, nuanced and sensitive' approach to playing Raji. "I was particular about Raji's portrayal being balanced, nuanced, and sensitive. I want Raji's story to be a stark, much-needed reminder for us, more than ever before, to come together as humans to fight hate, oppression, and greed. If we fail to do so, countless more will be denied their identity, liberty, and their right to self-determination," the actor wrote.