Tandav Review: Saif Ali Khan Plays to the Gallery in This Entertaining Political Thriller
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Sunil Grover, Kumud Mishra, Zeeshan Ayyub
Creator: Ali Abbas Zafar
Blame it on the successful Amazon Prime Video model in India that most of their Hindi thrillers follow a certain template. Be it Mirzapur, Inside Edge, Breathe, Paatal Lok or its latest outing Tandav, the streaming giant relies mostly on set pieces. But it’s not a bad thing as these shows have mostly been entertaining and know a thing or two about their potential audiences.
Tandav, created by Ali Abbas Zafar and headlined by Saif Ali Khan, is the latest noisemaker in the Hindi OTT space and definitely plays to the gallery, and along the way, gives the viewers ample hints about how Bollywood sees a web series as a 9-episode extension of a typical film rather than a separate entity. Zafar (Gunday, Tiger Zinda Hai) also adds his touch to the production, and as a result, the twists-laden narrative keeps shifting goalposts.
Though the makers could have chosen a less stereotyped name than Samar Pratap Singh (Khan) for their anchor, a conniving yet vulnerable scion of India’s most powerful political family, they give the actor a nice arc to work with. Some may find similarities between Tandav and Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti, but to be honest, mainstream Hindi filmmaking has hardly shown any will to make sensible and serious political drama till date.
Tigmanshu Dhulia plays Khan’s father a la Wasseypur style but the new JP Singh is better carved out. Then there are other players like political rivals—Dimple Kapadia and Kumud Mishra—revolutionary students—Zeeshan Ayyub and Kritika Kamra—and a henchman—Sunil Grover in an image-changing role.
There are some tricks and treats and how Samar battles at many fronts also contribute generously to the dance of fury.
Written by Gaurav Solanki (Article 15) and Zafar, Tandav owes massively from the perception that you have to be dirty and somewhat criminal to be successful in electoral politics, so we keep meeting corrupt leaders, trigger-happy cops and derailed media bosses. It may not look good in principle but it spices up proceedings quite a bit, and thanks to the overdose of blood and gore OTTs are filling us with, Tandav appears familiar and tolerable, meaningless though. But who cares till it is glossy and everyone’s cheeks are trembling with anger and fear. Am I missing Hrithik Roshan here!
To me, Khan seems more genuine whenever he plays negative characters. Maybe he should do more of such roles. Not calling it villainous because it’s not totally black in the first five episodes that were provided for the review purpose. He knows his territory and is continuously evolving as an actor. Isn’t he experimenting more than his contemporaries lately?
Dimple Kapadia is good despite hamming but the same can’t be said about Kumud Mishra. I wish I hadn’t seen Ram Singh Charlie and Thappad before his forced laughter in Tandav.
The show may pick up in later episodes but first five display all the trappings of a ‘masala’ Bollywood production with absolutely nothing to ponder about once it’s over. Before you tag me pretentious, I would reiterate that Tandav is entertaining, provided you have a high appetite for projected punchlines and audacious behaviour.