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Tandav review: Mohammed Ayyub, Sunil Grover shine in this predictable political thriller

Release Date: 15 Jan 2021

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Keyur Seta

The one-dimensional nature of Saif Ali Khan's character, the Machiavellian Samar Pratap Singh, undermines the series.

Director Ali Abbas Zafar’s Hindi web-series Tandav explores the depths that individuals are willing to plumb merely to accrue and wield power.

The show has two parallel storylines that are centred on two starkly different individuals whose lives are dominated by politics. Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan) is the powerful son of a fictional prime minister of India, Devki Nandan (Tigmanshu Dhulia).

Though Samar is the indisputable heir apparent. he doesn’t care for biding his time in the shadows and does his father in just as he is about to be sworn in for the umpteenth time. Though Samar believes the throne is finally his for the taking, Devki’s mistress — senior party leader Anuradha (Dimple Kapadia) — learns of the patricide and blackmails him in a bid to lead the country herself. But Samar is not one to back down in the face of adversity. 

Meanwhile, a popular student leader, Shiva Shekhar (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), is struggling to shatter the influence of right-wing elements in his institute, Vivekanand National University (VNU). Circumstances eventually force him to inadvertently get involved in the murky game of politics. And one day, he comes to Samar's attention. 

Tandav is a binge-worthy series that keeps you glued to your screen. The digestible duration of each episode also helps and the narrative doesn’t waste time on needless exposition. If you are a keen observer of contemporary politics, you won't miss the various allegories sprinkled throughout the show.

But despite all this, Tandav fails to impress. The biggest culprit is the screenplay, which is far from satisfactory. Nothing significant happens in the middle portion as far as Samar’s story is concerned. And while the show keeps promising an explosive denouement, the climax is fairly predictable while one has to, presumably, wait for the next season to learn the identity of an enigmatic blackmailer, who plays a major role in the proceedings.

Of course, a lot happens in Shiva’s subplot. But this portion of the show has far too many twists and turns and in the end, the narrative is all over the place. 

The show also paints an unintentionally hilarious picture of the media with reporters lustily applauding both government officials as well as leftist student leaders whenever they cover their speeches. 

One of the major factors that weaken the show is the absence of Samar’s backstory. There appears to be nothing more to the man apart from his evil and ruthless nature. Although Khan plays the character well, for the most part, the largely one-dimensional nature of the character takes a toll on his overall performance.

Ayyub is the main star of Tandav. Though he played an activist in Article 15 (2019), his take on this character is refreshing. Despite his actual age, he is not only believable as a student but also displays the myriad aspects of his character with ease. 

Sunil Grover is another actor to watch out for. In a never-seen-before role, he oozes ruthlessness and sarcasm.

Kapadia displays her vast experience, painting a portrait of vulnerability tinged with selfishness. Kritika Kamra is another member of the female cast that stands out. 

Tandav would have been a much better series if its story was on par with some of its actors' performances.

Tandav is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

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