Taking viewers inside the dark lanes of Indian politics, Tandav had rich fodder to work on but it barely scratches the surface. The cast is its saving grace and makes the web series unmissable, especially if you want to watch some of your favourite actors in never-before-seen avatars.
Tandav follows a bunch of ruthless, scheming and conniving politicians who would go to any lengths for power. Their motto is simple – the only relationship you should care about is the one with the throne.
The story takes off when two-time Prime Minister Devki Nandan (Tigmanshu Dhulia) passes away under mysterious circumstances just one day before the election results.
The vacuum caused by his death leads to a scramble for power in his political party. On one hand, there is his son, the popular but dictator-like Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan), and on the other is his close associate and a party veteran, Anuradha Kishore (Dimple Kapadia).
The stage is set for Samar to take the reins, or so he thinks, until Anuradha gets hold of a secret that could ruin his career and threatens him into making her the next PM.
Thus ensues a tussle for power between them. There are no rules in this game, no right or wrong, and most importantly, no one you can trust too much.
Running parallel to national politics is University level politics, where Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub’s Shiva Shekhar inadvertently emerges as the leader.
Tandav explores how politics at the two levels intertwine and contribute to make Indian polity the messy affair that it is.
Tandav boasts of a talented ensemble cast and truly lives up to its hype in this aspect. It seems as if each and every cast member had been carefully picked for their roles.
Saif Ali Khan portrays Samar Pratap Singh well, but leaving the victory walk and the strong persona aside, his character doesn’t have much to offer. There aren’t many layers to Samar, he doesn’t come across as an ambitious person who knows what he wants and seems rather lost. But Khan manages to give his character more depth than the story provides.
Dimple Kapadia is perfect as Samar’s nemesis Anuradha. Her character is a firm and headstrong woman who makes the rest of the party members, as well as the audiences, watch out for her every move. It’s safe to say that Tandav makes for a good digital debut for Kapadia.
Kumud Mishra, Gauahar Khan and Tigmanshu Dhulia also deliver convincing performances. But the real stars of the show are Sunil Grover and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub.
As Gurpal, Samar’s right-hand man who does all the dirty work for him, Grover proves he can very well go beyond comedy roles. For the most part, Grover’s Gurpal maintains a straight face and doesn’t speak much, but that works for him because even his silent gaze feels heavy and says a lot.
As for Ayyub, he lives his role of a student activist and is so compelling, you almost can’t tell that he isn’t a political leader in real life. The firmness with which he delivers his speeches hits you, even through the screen.
Tandav’s strengths don’t lie in its writing or storyline, but in its performances. All actors, no matter how big or small their roles are, put their best foot forward.
The political drama, which is otherwise slow-paced, does throw some twists your way. One particularly intriguing moment is when Anuradha distributes portfolios.
The University-level narrative of the web series is much inspired by the present scenario and some scenes are quite impactful and engaging. Moreover, the interplay between two different political worlds brings an element of freshness.
Tandav takes a good number of episodes to gain momentum and not everyone would have the patience to continue watching till it gets there. The story takes interesting turns every now and then, but on the whole, it is banal and obvious.
Although the nine episodes have been kept short, they can seem like a drag because of how slowly the plot progresses.
Towards the second half of the web series, the narrative becomes more scattered, making it difficult to connect the dots and understand the bigger plot.
Moreover, the writing is not as powerful and crisp as you would expect from a show of this stature. The ending seemed vague, but that is probably to leave scope for more seasons.
All in all, Tandav had a lot of potential considering the theme it chose, but it failed to tap it.