In a scene in the first 15 minutes of the first episode, Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan), son of the PM Devki Nandan Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia), is seen quoting the lyrics of Hrithik Roshan’s Agar Main Kahoon from Lakshya in an answer to a question. It seems the writing needed the crutch of references to form a coherent plot, and that is all you need to know about Tandav, Amazon Prime Video’s highly anticipated web series.
In contemporary India, JDL is on its way to form a government for the third time in a row, but tensions among the party members are rife. But the PM dies of a heart attack the night before the results, and all hell breaks loose. It seems everyone is aware of the PM’s son’s ambition of becoming the PM, but there is also the PM’s trusted friend Gopal Das Munshi (Kumud Mishra) in line for the kursi. Then there is the late PM’s closest ‘friend’ Anuradha Kishore (Dimple Kapadia) and her drug snorting son Raghu, both inching closer to the throne. There are aides lining up to form coalitions and distributions of the ministry. Elsewhere, farmer protests and college students have banded together while chanting Azaadi, where young blood named Shiva Shekhar (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub) becomes the face of the revolution.
So much is going on, and so much more could have happened, with the writer of Article 15 and the director of films like Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai coming together. But alas, all the stories and the star cast in the world cannot save a series if it doesn’t know where it is going. Just when we think issues like blaming Muslims, farmers, or student protests might give the show a different spin, the director chooses to gloss the entire incident over, and move on as if the plot points hold no particular importance.
Samar Pratap Singh catches our attention in his first scene, where Gopal Das Munshi tells the PM that his son is dangerous and ambitious, but saying is it one thing, and showing us another. Samar is so dumb that he literally has one person investigating everything, has no backup plans, and quickly crumbles in the face of a simple problem. He is shown to be a hardened politician, how can he not know it’s nitty gritties? Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub shines in even the lowliest roles he is given, but here, even with the josh of youth and chants of azaadi, he falls flat as a bumbling idiot who doesn’t know what he wants and quickly becomes a pawn.
Kritika Kamra, Sarah Jane Dias, Anup Soni, Gauahar Khan, and Shonali Nagrani try to make the most of their roles, but ultimately seem like they are as detached from the script as the people they play are detached from their surroundings. Dino Morea needs serious lessons in acting, but the gem here is Gurpal Chauhan (Sunil Grover), Samar’s right-hand man who brings out amazing nuances within his character, so much so that we are more immersed in watching his actions more than anything else.
When you play the game of Indian throne, you either win, or you live long enough to see yourself embroiled in petty level politics that undermined everything you worked for – Samar learns this lesson, and we, for all the flash and intrigue, end up with mindless and disjointed plot points.
Image via: India.com