‘Tandav’, the new Amazon Prime Video show starring Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kumud Mushra, Sunil Grover and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub in the lead, is an idea that stems from the imagination of a coming-of-age teenager who has just finished binge-watching all the seasons of the Kevin Spacey-Robin Wright starrer, ‘House of Cards’. Inconsistent and frankly juvenile in its execution, ‘Tandav’ falls short even by the standards of the dismal finale season of the international latter.
Set in the power corridors of the National Capital, the plot is based between two parallel narratives. For youth leader Samar Pratap Singh (Khan), the quest for ultimate power is above and beyond family and legacy. He wishes to break away from the clout of his father Devki Nandan (Dhulia), the charismatic leader of Jan Lok Dal, who is all set to lead the nation for a third-term as the Prime Minister. The thorns that stand in his path are Anuradha Kishore (Kapadia) and Gopal Das (Mishra). On the other hand, Shiva Shekhar (Ayyub) is an emerging force within his campus. Idealistic and visionary, he hopes to be the face of change and lead student politics to newer dimensions.
Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar of ‘Sultan’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ fame and written by Gaurav Solanki of ‘Article 15’ fame, ‘Tandav’ superficially caresses too many subjects at once. Dynasty politics, student movements, farmers’ agitation, Islamophobia, police brutality, IT cells, the show could very well replicate our Twitter timeline. Which frankly, isn’t a bad idea. We would vouch for a story that dares to tell it as it is. Remember ‘Paatal Lok’? What’s disappointing is that these attempts are reduced to tick-mark exercises. The script is further weighed down by the presence of too many characters who barely have anything significant to contribute to beyond their mere introductions. As viewers, we are barely allowed time to invest or comprehend anyone’s character arc in particular because so much is happening at once. It’s equally damaging to see that except Kapadia, the purpose of the other actresses on the show is to occasionally appear in romantic scenes, while being dolled up in Satya Paul and FabIndia inspired outfits. Almost, an unintentional emphasis on marking politics, a territory for men. The charade does not end here. In an embarrassingly standout scene, Gauahar Khan who plays the PA to an influential political figure is seen dumping a bag of cash in a dustbin at South Block, Delhi, an area which is otherwise heavily-patrolled and scrutinised. The biggest letdown of the show is that it’s too predictable and offers nothing new that we haven’t witnessed before in Indian political dramas.
With an overweighed ensemble cast, the show hardly allows room for striking impressions. But Kapadia, Ayyub and Sunil Grover notably stand out. Kapadia is remarkable as Anuradha, a woman who eventually chooses ambition over love. Ayyub as the face of student politics offers an earnest act, despite the role being heavily reflective of his political ideologies off-screen. Grover as Samar’s trusted aide Gurpal Chauhan is the only character whose varied layers keep you invested. That’s also because it’s a welcome change from the funny man image, we’ve always associated him with. Saif is particularly misplaced here and is almost outweighed in some of the scenes by his more seasoned counterparts. It’s disappointing that an actor of his calibre is undermined given how he is the only actor in his generation to explore roles that defy conventions.
If executed better ‘Tandav’ could’ve made for an interesting watch. Instead, we get an inconsistent, Indian soap opera-styled web show that masquerades as a beginner’s guide on Indian politics.