Review: TANDAV Is A Watered Down Political Thriller That Is Too Tame To Be Captivating

Published by Shah Shahid on

Tandav is Amazon Prime Video’s latest original Indian web series. And it’s all about the dirty, grimy, and terrible world of Indian politics. Except that it comes off as pretty, polished, and kind of expected when you really think about it. The new show had everything going for it, from a massive ensemble cast to a commercially acclaimed director behind the scenes. But everything kind of falls flat and becomes derivative of many other Indian political dramas that do a much better job. With similar ideas and concepts. But it’s still somehow entirely watchable. So here’s my Tandav review

Tandav Review Loses Itself In Exposition And Backstory

During its marketing campaign, Tandav boasted its huge all-star cast. It’s a drama about family hierarchy, political nepotism, greed, power, crime, idealism, and some other concepts that loses itself in the shuffle. But that’s okay if they at least do the other stuff good right? I wish. Tandav very quickly loses itself in exposition and back story, pretty early on. 

The series begins on the eve of a national election in India, with the incumbent party predicted to win. During the last-minute campaigning, Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan) graces the screen with his presence. During this, we have two older men, Devki (Tigmanshu Dhulia), Samar’s father, and his close confidant Gopal Das (Kumud Mishra) describing the character of Samar to, presumably, the audience. They describe him as ruthless and shrewd. Cool. I mean, we could’ve seen that unfold during the show, but thanks for telling us upfront? 

Tigmanu Dhulia Could Just Be The Narrator

Dhulia’s character then continues to explain the relationship dynamics between the major characters. Devki is Prime Minister, predicted to win again. Samar is his biological son. While Raghu (Paresh Pahuja) is the son of Anuradha (Dimple Kapadia), Devki’s unmarried lover of decades. So the seeds for a political family struggle are in place. But they never pay off. 

The rest of the show that follows is just as anti-climactic. Samar plans to usurp the throne from his father, but Anuradha’s last-minute plot twist prevents him from doing so. Samar then spends the rest of the series making confusing moves to reclaim the throne. Only to decide he doesn’t want it. But then does. But then gives it up anyways, right when it’s within his grasp. 

Tandav Review Is All About How Toothless The Series Is

On a whole, it’s these moments where nothing happens, that ruin what Tandav could have been. The show has incredible promise and potential but does nothing with it. A Prime example of this is Samar’s wife Ayesha (Sarah Jane-Dias). Jane-Dias, a commendable actor given the proper role, does absolutely nothing in this show. She’s in a lot of scenes, but utters, maybe 4 lines of dialogue during the 9 episode season. Her biggest contribution is glancing over at Samar during certain events, cueing him to act as the camera focuses on a close-up. That’s basically it. She is a human cue for Khan to emote. 

Another parallel story in Tandav is that of student politics, the backbone of the democratic system in India. Shiva (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub) is a student activist who goes viral over a fake-manufactured shooting of some innocent farmers. Don’t pull too hard at that plot thread either, because it will unravel pretty quick! Shiva acts as the chosen one, so Samar even targets him accordingly. However, things don’t go as planned (what plan!?). And so Shiva kind of just spends the rest of the season, reacting in confusion as he’s elected to power in his college. It’s supposed to be like a reluctant hero vibes, but it ends up being, not that at all. Instead, it’s a go-nowhere subplot where a lot happens, but all seemingly out of context or in relation to the larger story. 

Supposedly Setting Up Season 2 Of Tandem

The last line of the show is the most telling about Tandav’s lack of engagement. Right when he’s about to become the Prime Minister of India, getting everything he wanted, Samar switches gears again. When confronted by his wife about WTF he just did, Samar’s reaction is as is meandering as the plot of the show. “I’m just starting to have fun”. Well, we’re not Samar! And it’d be great if you could explain, instead of us now having to wait for another year-plus to understand what any of this has anything to do with anything. If Tandav is even renewed for a season 2 that is. 

Samar’s storyline is also all over the place. There are moments in the show where it looks like he’s remorseful. The guilt of his actions haunt him. Which is very Shakespearean in that regard. But like with everything else, it doesn’t actually go anywhere. He goes from ruthless murderer to insecure hero. From a powerful political tactician to an unfaithful husband and a helpless political figure. And none happen with any overt intention or direction. Things are just happening. 

Tandav Review Concludes With Other Recommendations

On a very superficial level, Tandav is a show that does make it conducive to the binge. It’s got great scenes, tense set up, lavishly shot and presented. Everyone looks great, despite phoning in their performances. The use of an A.R. Rahman track from a much better movie about political activism, Yuva, definitely holds my interest. Which was, sort of the point I guess. So points to Ali Abbas Zafar for that. But without the trademark action, explosions, and spectacle that Zafar’s built his career on, Tandav fails to be memorable. 

Tandav is important for Sunil Grover’s performance, which is remarkably surprising given his career in Bollywood thus far. I’m hoping we get more dramatic performances from him. But other than that, you’re better off watching other, better political dramas from Bollywood like Rajneeti, Sarkar, or the aforementioned Yuva

Tandav season 1 is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

What did you think about the latest Bollywood streaming series? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid

Featured image via Amazon Prime Video. 

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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