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Tandav Is A Flavourless Goulash That You Wouldn’t Want To Taste

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Spoiler alert!

A farmers’ agitation greets us the moment we tune into Tandav, Amazon Prime’s latest offering. All of it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A couple of minutes into this Amazon Original, we see Gurpal Chauhan (Sunil Grover), a notorious henchman of a powerful political leader, entering the frame. He asks a bunch of policemen to ‘commit a sin’.

Within minutes, the viewers get to see a fake encounter. Directed by Abbas Ali Zafar, the Amazon Original is a political potboiler that gets off to a promising start but ends up falling flat the moment it reaches the halfway mark. Despite having a power-packed star cast at its disposal, Tandav fails to live up to the expectation, all thanks to some flawed writing. Also, the plot is predictable (and bland). Let us take a closer look at Tandav to know what went wrong with Abbas Ali Zafar’s ambitious project.

Tandav Season 1 Review: Engaging but not so sharp take on politics,  betrayal and deceit
‘Tandav’ is directed by Ali Abbas Zafar.

An Overview

Less than 10 minutes into this Amazon Original, we see Devki Nandan, the country’s incumbent Prime Minister, talking to a senior leader. Devki Nandan is talking about his son, Samar Pratap (Saif Ali Khan). Just then, we hear Devki telling his colleague that ‘power in this man’s hand would see the end of democracy as we know it.’ Towards the end of episode 1, Devki is poisoned. What follows is a ruthless power struggle.

Will Samar Pratap inherit his father’s Kursi (seat) or will other sinister forces end up overpowering him? Watch the first season of ‘Tandav’ to get all of the answers. The Storyline is Promising, but Undercooked ‘Tandav follows the political adventures (and misadventures) of Samar Pratap.

There are two parallel storylines in Tandav. The first deals with Samar Pratap Singh, whilst the other deals with Shiva Sekhar, a Vivekananda University student. The two storylines keep moving simultaneously before coming together towards the second half of the series.

Tandav review: Saif Ali Khan's silly Amazon show has the subtlety of a  lathi to the kneecap | Hindustan Times
The Amazon Original is a 9-part series.

Here’s the real problem with Tandav. It ends up poking its nose into just about everything, right from farmer protests to student politics. All of these ingredients were mixed together in a king-sized pot to prepare a spicy little delicacy. However, what we get is a flavourless goulash that lacks salt and spice.

Also, ‘Tandav’ is way too predictable. Ten minutes into the first episode, it became clear that Samar Pratap would end up killing his father in order to seize control. There are various other sinister subplots at play, but most of them appear redundant. 

Moreover, we get a taste of student politics at Vivekananda National University (VNU), a fictitious university that has a lot in common with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Having been part of the JNU, I can tell you that there’s a lot more to student politics than what we get to see in Tandav. Student leaders are jailed just because the director wanted to showcase a few real-life scenarios. However, all of it appears superfluous, to put things simply.

तांडव में अपने किरदार को लेकर सुनील ग्रोवर ने कहा ये sunil grover said  about his character in tandav bollywood Tadka
Sunil Grover as ‘Gurpal’ comes out all guns blazing

The lads from Vivekananda National University, led by an over-ambitious Shiva Sekhar (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub) can be seen recreating a fake encounter in order to prove that a bunch of corrupt policemen ended up murdering innocent youngsters. It all seems to be a bit too easy and there’s nothing natural about it. To top it all, Tandav’s storyline would remind you of a rudderless ship.

The Performances

Saif Ali Khan looks impressive, albeit in patches. It is his sinister smile that ends up snatching the viewers’ breaths away. Saif looks convincing as the power-hungry son of India’s Prime Minister. Clearly, he has had enough and wants his father to vacate the seat. Saif looks at home in this web series, both literally and figuratively. Well, that’s because a major part of Tandav has been shot in the Pataudi Palace.

Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, who plays Shiva Sekhar, a VNU student, is let down by the show’s shoddy storyline. Much like the series, Ayyub’s character, too, looks promising but ends up fading into the depths of the oblivion within no time. The show’s makers forgot to give him a backstory. Ah, no character in this political pandemonium has been supplied with a backstory.

Tandav Review: Saif Ali Khan's and Dimple Kapadia's political drama is as  good as Mahabharat
The Saif Ali Khan starrer is let down by its predictability.

Sunil Grover, who plays the silent but notorious henchman of Samar Pratap Singh, is able to land a few big blows. His presence instils meaning (of some sort) into the narrative. Also, the dialogues escaping his lips sound like poetry to the ears. Here’s a guy whose actions speak louder than his words. It is Sunil Grover’s performance that ends up holding the show together.

Dimple Kapadia looks stunning as Anuradha Kishore, Devki Nandan’s love interest. She succeeds in keeping all the clutter aside whilst giving us something to cherish. Her performance, along with that of Gauhar Khan, is commendable. Hope to see her in the driver’s seat if ‘Tandav’ is renewed for a second season.

The likes of Kumud Mishra, Dino Morea, Kritika Kamra, and Anup Soni haven’t been given ample screen space. Anup Soni, who plays a marginalised politician, could have done wonders had his character been written with intricacy by the makers.

The Direction

Ali Abbas Zafar, this name would sound familiar if you are a fan of the movies made under the YRF banner. Zafar, known for ‘Sultan’ and ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’, starts off well, but all of the show’s potential is overshadowed by its predictability. There are no sharp twists in ‘Tandav’ to keep you hooked. However, the production values have been maintained, but the show comes across as a visual delight with little substance.

Rating: **/5

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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