The premise of the new Amazon Prime Original series, Tandav starring Saif Ali Khan, is indeed very enticing. They have built this political drama based on the reality in which we are living in. The farmer’s protest, JNU issues, the family politics, and several other things that are mentioned in this series give it a feel that it is somewhat a commentary on contemporary politics. But after setting up a universe that feels believable, Ali Abbas Zafar couldn’t take it to a level where you would be interested in knowing the mind games between the characters.
Samar Pratap Singh, the son of the three-time Prime Minister Devki Nandan, is our main protagonist. He is like the party’s face, but his father doesn’t have much faith in him, and he believes Samar will become a ruthless dictator if offered power. To grab power from his father, Samar decided to do something extremely despicable, and the series Tandav shows us the aftermath of all that.
Things that have been there in Indian politics and things happening now are depicted in this political thriller very interestingly. And one can’t deny that in almost every episode, there is something that will make us curious about the development that will happen in the next episode. It’s just that the show’s trajectory to make Samar this kingmaker figure ultimately didn’t look like a unique one. It felt more like one of those options that might have crossed our minds while watching those nine episodes.
As Samar Prathap Singh, Saif Ali Khan uses his grace to a great extent to make him that power-greedy persona who is also a bit puzzled about the unprecedented situations. From around the time of Omkara, Saif has often proved that he can play those grey shades much effectively, and here also, he has done a pretty good job. In my opinion, the major beneficiary of this Ali Abbas Zafar project is none other than Sunil Grover, who, as Gurpal, delivered a really charming performance. The expression spectrum of Gurpal is minimal as he is doing ruthless things. But yet he manages to portray his intelligence, loyalty, and intimidation very effectively through his performance. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Shiva was fine, but the character felt more like an extension of some of the roles he played off late. Kritika Kamra was really impressive as Sana Mir, and it was perhaps the most complicated character in the entire series.
Dimple Kapadia as Anuradha Kishore and Kumud Mishra as Gopal Das Munshi might well get to play a significant role if a second season happens. Tigmanshu Dhulia, Dino Morea, Anup Soni, and Gauhar Khan are some of the other memorable performers in the cast.
The writing credit of the series is given to Gaurav Solanki, who had previously written the widely appreciated Article 15. Solanki indeed plays with tricky topics like caste politics, right-wing propaganda, biased media, etc. But ultimately, this is an Ali Abbas Zafar product, and it has to be a hero driven drama. That’s where Tandav starts to feel not so amusing. When Gurpal talks about the Banyan tree before killing someone, we think that an extremely intricate plan is there in the making. But what we see at the end feels more like a masala movie. The series has well-defined characters for sure, but the content wasn’t really going beyond the surface. High-key lighting that offers a contrast to visuals has definitely helped the series in setting the mood. Julius Packiam’s score also plays a key role in maintaining the eerie mood of this political thriller.
Tandav is more like an extension of a hero driven popular cinema. It has a premise that is definitely tempting, and the characters are modeled after or are an amalgamation of some real-life characters. But the character dynamics and the internal politics of the series aren’t as captivating as its premise. Samar’s plans felt more like a result of coincidence rather than the result of his relentless desire for power. I hope they will invest more in characters if a second season happens.
It has a premise that is definitely tempting. But the character dynamics and the internal politics of the series aren't as captivating as its premise.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended