It is quite easy to see why director Abbas Ali Zafar’s Tandav has irked the BJP government and the bhakts. This nine episode series portrays many of today’s issues starting from the farmers protest to fake encounters. In the very beginning there is a scene where we see police officers killing three people in a fake encounter. You also have a Muslim youth who is arrested the next day for participating in the farmers protest. There is also the whole angle of JNU, though in the show it has been replaced as VNU for obvious reasons. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub’s character as the idealistic student leader is clearly inspired from Kanhaiya Kumar. Tandav is Abbas Ali Zafar’s boldest work to date. Yes there are times where the show slackens but it still deserves a watch.
The plot of Tandav runs along two tracks simultaneously. On one side of the coin you have Saif Ali Khan’s Samar Pratap Singh. Samar is a popular politician in the country’s biggest political party JLD. Samar is tired with the senior players running the party. He is particularly vexed with his father Devki Nandan played by Tigmanshu Dhulia in an extended cameo. Devki Nandan is about to have his new term as India’s Prime Minister. It is a turn that Samar isn’t too happy about as he believes that he deserves the Prime Minister’s position. Writer Gaurav Solanki adds a Shakespearean touch to the storyline. Sara Jane Dias plays Samar’s wife and Sunil Grover is the faithful aide Grupal. Dimple Kapadia plays Devki Nandan’s mistress and an important member of the party. At the end of the first episode Samar poisons his father to fulfill his ambition of becoming the next Prime Minister. However he doesn’t end up becoming the Prime minister due to a huge turn of events.
On the other side of the coin you have the character by the name of Shiva who epitomizes idealistic values. Shiva and his fellow mates capture the attention of the media when they bring the farmers protests to their attention in order to save a fellow student (a Muslim) from illegal confinement. Shiva is a UPSC aspirant but he doesn’t know that his destiny is going to change in a big way. He is pushed into college politics after persuasion from his friends. Another important member of this gang is Sana Mir played by Kritika Kamra. Sana comes with her own baggages which include an affair with college professor Jigar played by Dino Morea. What follows is a potent mix of Shakespeare and politics which keep you engaged.
The best thing about the show is how the writer integrates so many issues that are bothering our country. Yes, there is a downside to that as well but writer Gaurav Solanki deserves kudos for how he ties all the issues together.
A.R Rahman’s popular Yuva anthem from Mani Ratnam’s film has been used smartly by the director. The anthem is used at the right moment and it arouses in you anguish at the current state of politics.
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The interactions of Samar and his aide Grupal is a major highlight of the show. There is a scene where Samar asks him whether he ever feels guilty about the things he does. Grupal replies by saying that he erases his guilt by feeding his cat. He further adds that after eating the cat sleeps on his lap and he feels at peace with himself, a very symbolic comment on our many so called ‘philanthropists’.
The Shakespeare an angle has also been well used by the director. The scenes of Saif hallucinating about his dead father are used to convey Samar’s guilt and show that he is also a human being with emotions.
Where the show falters though is the treatment of certain subplots and certain characterizations. For example the whole track of the mystery caller who gives information to Dimple Kapadia’s character isn’t properly etched. The character of Saif’s wife also needed to be better.
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In this huge ensemble the actors who stand out are Sunil Grover, Dimple Kapadia and Saif Ali Khan. Known for his comic image Sunil Grover does a complete U Turn here. He is first rate in his portrayal of a powerful henchman. After Omkara Saif Ali Khan impresses yet again in another negative role. The actor blends well in the setting without overpowering it. Dimple Kapadia is also very impressive in all the scenes that she is in. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub fits the character perfectly and proves to be a good counterpart to the selfish character of Saif. On the whole Tandav is an inside look of how Indian politics works and about the different players involved in it.