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Tandav review: Political intrigue clichés and bravura performances!

Saif Ali Khan is dependably good in a surprisingly straitjacketed role

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday 16 January 2021

Movie Title

Tandav review: Political intrigue clichés and bravura performances!

Director

Ali Abbas Zafar

Star Cast

Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Kumud Misra, Tigmanshu Dhulia,

Farmers protesting, university students attacked, protestors arrested— Tandav takes references from several real-life incidents but chooses to just scratch the surface. 

The first episode begins with farmers protesting over their land being given to a chemical factory. Ambitious politician, and heir to ruling political party, Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan) gives instructions that lead to cops killing young men from the protests.  

One of the protestors is later picked up from his university “VNU”, which leads to fellow students demanding his release. Student leader Shiva Shekhar (a fantastic Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) gets embroiled with wily politics leading to murder and mayhem. 

For a while, the series focusses on student politics to the tune of AR Rahman’s Dhakka Laga Mukka (from the film Yuva), only to find its way back to Samar and his quest for power.

Samar’s father Devki (Tigmanshu Dhulia), set to become PM for a third term, and his long-term associate Gopal (Kumud Misra) often discuss how Samar’s ambition and ruthlessness could threaten the very democracy of the country. The story progresses with each character motivated to topple the other for the coveted throne. 

Samar himself gets played by an even more shrewd politician who in turn has the rug pulled from under their feet. These cat-and-mouse games continue till you realize the series could have elevated far beyond this loop of political intrigue. 

Tandav thrives on the cliché of politics being a Machiavellian game populated by immoral monsters that will eat up anything that stands in their way. The one time we see a semblance of depth is when the story humanizes Samar in his younger years. When he objects to a particularly cruel decision by his father, he is lectured on how nothing matters more than the ‘kursi’ (throne) and the power it holds. We realize Samar is the way he is, because that’s how he’s been groomed by his father (an irony, as the series reveals).  

Meanwhile, we see real life-inspired incidents of cops attacking students (including hitting girl students), the state of farmers in the country etc, but the series touches upon them only briefly and usually as an aside.  

The cast is the highlight of the series. Dimple Kapadia is a treat as the politician who has to walk a tight-rope in the middle of frail egos and big ambitions. Saif Ali Khan is dependably good in a surprisingly straitjacketed role. Sunil Grover as Samar’s trusted associate, conveys the character’s menacing and sociopathic tendencies perfectly and walks away with some of the best lines. 

While the story has a good representation of female characters, sadly none of them are positive or inspiring. Most of the central female characters (looking like they’ve stepped out of a beauty magazine) are devious, untrustworthy, and let their ambitions get the better of them. And then there’s this unintentionally hilarious dialogue where a professor says she’s with her high-ranking politician boyfriend because “he’s powerful enough to control me”!  

Written by Gaurav Solanki and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, Tandav is yet another sordid tale about political intrigue with the expected betrayals, surprises and secrets. You’ve seen it a million times before. What elevates Tandav is the stellar cast and some masterful performances.  

(Tandav streams on Amazon Prime Video) 

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

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