It’s almost a pattern in itself. An emerging UP milieu, strong Hindu dialects, political conspiracies and corrupt cops with social and political commentary for good measure. With religious sarcasm and Hans Zimmer as background music, you have a budding thriller. Amazon Prime’s Tandav is not trying to hide his political leanings, on the contrary, the show is explicitly about politics.
As in any new premiere, there are a lot of moving parts as the characters are thrown at you without having time to shine. The strongest impression is left by Sanil Grover’s Gurpal Chauhan, presumably a police chief with a strong political allegiance. For now, he has chosen a side and will stick to it, regardless of his personal opinion. What seems like an odd casting choice turns out to be a phenomenal one, as Grover is able to effortlessly strip away his comedic nature and is serious, polite and stoic. And he’s wearing that beautiful panache hairdo.
As the elections approach, the plot of the pilot revolves around Samar Pratap Singh Saif Ali Khan, the heir apparent to Devka Nandan, who is on the verge of a major election victory. He definitely feels threatened by his father and has some father issues that get worse by the end of the episode. The complicated story says that her father had an affair with the mysterious Anuradha Kishore Dimple Kapadia. They also seem to have a son who frequently does drugs and is nowhere near as capable as Samar, but is used against the wishes of Samar, who has another promising young candidate.
An entire subdivision easily includes farmers protesting the allocation of their land for the construction of a chemical plant. The political commentary, which is not relevant here, talks about the nation’s double standards. The government’s initiatives in India will obviously involve investment in the manufacturing sector and require the establishment of huge factories, say two policemen on top. But how can we move forward if farmers want to hold on to the remnants of the past? The argument is quickly formulated, but viewers will not dwell on it because it simplistically explains the great dilemma of a nation struggling with tradition and progress.
In this regard, another scene that has angered online TV reporters is the one in which the Hindu Lord Shiva is deliberately mocked. I won’t go into the semantics, I’ll just say that it’s first-rate irony that the scene in question is about what a man dressed as Shiva can do to create a certain buzz on social media. It was a subtle dig at the tandava that followed online, and I’m sure the presenters were fully aware of the implications this scene would have. It simply made viewers aware of the series, and any commercial that piques curiosity is good publicity in the studio’s eyes.
Tandav is filmed in abundance, not least because the lead actress has made her home available for filming. Saif Ali Khan’s Pataudi Palace is the most famous setting for the show; it automatically brings a sense of grandeur to the show that would otherwise have to be achieved with computer-generated images and camera tricks – not that there aren’t plenty of them. The cinematography is competent and generally flawless, but the series fails to create a unique look, and one might make the mistake of watching the Mirzapur spin-off instead.
Director Tigmanshu Dhulia talks about the animation of this episode. As Samar’s father, he minimizes his ambitions while protecting his son. Both concerned and embarrassed, he warns him about the political world, but rejects it more than once. When I saw what director Ali Abbas Zafar does with the other characters, he and Grover stood out for me. Srikanth Verma was another gem, though the character was deemed too conventional by streaming standards in 2021.
Tandav is undeniably political, and several points indicate the real context. Perhaps the biggest is the loosening of ties between the Samar family and the Congress family. Replace Samar with Rahul and Anuradha with Sonia, and you can start to see amazing similarities, even though the real characters and those in the reel are not exact copies of carbon. There are even references to Sanjay and Indira constantly suggesting that this is an alternative and diverse version of what the Congress family could have been or could be in five years time.
Overall, Tandav is entertaining and engaging enough in its first episode to merit a sequel. But by 2021, it could be rapidly approaching its position if it doesn’t do better or stand out in future installments. I will now continue with the next few episodes to see where it takes us.
Tandav Season 1 Episode 1 Rating: 7.0 of 10
I will be doing reviews of individual episodes of season one of Tandav. These reviews will contain spoilers until the episode is reviewed. Read on and let me know what you think of these different reviews in the comments below.
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