Tandav: This disappointing watch lacks focus

Before Tandav was released, many subscribers might have thought of binge-watching the series. Halfway through the second episode, the same lot would change their plan.

Tandav: This disappointing watch lacks focus
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Biswadeep Ghosh

The PM is dead. The election verdict will be declared the following day. The world’s biggest democracy is in a state of shock. Disbelief hangs in the air.

Such is the start of Ali Abbas Zafar’s political drama Tandav streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The nine-episode series will attract viewers who either like the genre or are tempted by the possibility of watching a talented ensemble cast in action. The other truth is that the majority will abandon the series well before the halfway mark.

The Prime Minister is Devaki Nandan (Tigmanshu Dhulia), who has a power-hungry and ruthless son Samar (Saif Ali Khan). The son wants to be where his father has been twice earlier, which is, become the PM of the country. Both of them offer a study in contrast with the shrewd and calm father critical of the son’s mindset. But Devaki Nandan would die, opening up possibilities of surprising the viewer, the key ingredient of a well-written political drama.

Tandav starts brilliantly, but patchy writing by Gaurav Solanki, and Zafar brings it down to its knees soon. Brilliant in Sacred Games, Saif as Samar fails to convince not because he is not sincere but since his character is the main casualty in a half-baked screenplay.

Tandav has a fine ensemble cast. But only Dimple Kapadia as Anuradha Kishore, Devaki Nandan’s companion who has grand aspirations of her own, has a well-written role. Of course, she does justice to it, which is not surprising.

It also has Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, who, after impressing us in Chhalaang recently, is seen as a student leader. His story arc is poorly developed, making it a victim of unexplored possibilities.

Sunil Grover is particularly disappointing as Gurpal, Samar’s go-to man, and so are other gifted actors like Kumud Mishra as Gopal Das Munshi ( a senior party leader), Anup Soni as Kailash Kumar (a leader from a lower caste) and Sandhya Mridul as Professor Sandhya Nigam(whose character suffers the most because of bad writing like nobody else).

The screenplay packages too many relatable modern-day happenings and tries to present them in a racy manner, an objective it fails to achieve. There are subplots on everything right from student politics (with a campus named VNU reminding of JNU) to farmers’ protests. The treatment is highly superficial, which lets the talented cast down.

Ali Abbas Zafar is also the ‘creator’ of the series, whose making has a lesson for anybody wanting to create a political drama in the future. A political drama needs a focus, which means attention to the rivalries, conspiracies, and ambition that determine the subplots. Trying to ensure topicality by introducing happenings in the news can work, but these must contribute to the main track meaningfully.

Before Tandav was released, many subscribers might have thought of binge-watching the series. Halfway through the second episode, the same lot would change their plan.

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