First things first – Though Ali Abbas Zafar directed Tandav may belong primarily to Saif Ali Khan and Dimple Kapadia, the moment that stays with you right through and actually impresses the most is the one where Sunil Grover fondly mentioned about his cat. When asked whether he ever feels guilty about all the bad deeds that he commits on practically daily basis, he says that he repents by taking care of his cat and feeding it daily. That soothes him out.
This is one such tender moment in this largely volatile show that takes a viewer not just into the corridors of politics but also the office spaces and the living rooms where some of the most sinister plans unfold. It is practically the dance of death, what with those in power getting poisoned, the ones who want to get in there scheming plots, the ones who have been sidelined sipping not just ‘khoon ka ghoont’ but also expensive scotch and the others picking and making calls that could well be decisive for the next Prime Minister of India to be chosen.
It is in fact remarkable to see how one character is connected to the other in a jigsaw puzzle put together by writer Gaurav Solanki that is attempted to be solved by the audience with good help from Ali Abbas Zafar. So Saif Ali Khan is a prince (real life meeting reel life) who could well be the rightful owner of the ‘raaj gaddi’ that has been occupied by father Tigmanshu Dhulia. However, the (not as much) lady of the house Dimple Kapadia has other plans with another senior politician (Kumud Mishra) twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the right time.
There are confidantes on both sides. Saif relies upon wife Sarah Jane Dias for professional and personal advice and then hands over all the dirty tasks to safari-suit wearing Sunil Grover for further execution. On the other hand Dimple Kapadia has a very attractive cut-sleeves fashionista Gauahar Khan to not just preside over some really important calls but also handle in crores when there are dirty baggage involved. Pun intended. In the midst of this all, there are cops, media, doctors and even professors involved who are willing to go ‘wrong’ to be with ‘right’.
Even as this game of politics plays within families (and foes) there is a parallel track running at a university campus where idealism (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub) is challenged by circumstances (Dino Morea, Kritika Kamra) even as politics (Anup Soni) and righteousness (Sandhya Mridul) intersect with it all, hence leading to a heady cocktail. It is apparent that campus politics does cross path with mainstream politics, something that not just ties the first episode to the last (amongst nine) but also sets the stage for the upcoming seasons.
This is where one feels that for a more immersive experience, at least the running length of every episode could have been in 40-50 minutes range, instead of wrapping up well within 30 minutes each. Also, had the focus been more on what happens inside the power center, instead of practically half the narrative been focused on the campus politics, Tandav could have been all the more thrilling and exciting, while managing a much tighter stranglehold on the overall narrative.
No wonder, when the focus is on Saif Ali Khan and Dimple Kapadia, you are entertained the most. For those who complained that Saif Ali Khan was a lot subdued in Sacred Games, it is good to see Saif Ali Khan bringing on all-things-evil with his smirk and the play of eyes. The fact that he is a born prince further helps as he comes across as a complete natural. On the other hand Dimple Kapadia only makes one feel that she should be seen far more often on screen. After Tenet, this is an even more engrossing performance from her and worth every minute.
Meanwhile, Sunil Grover is a revelation as the man who has let go of his conscience. As a hit-man, he is quite good whenever he comes on screen and considering he gets good screen time as well, it brings on all the entertainment. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub does well though he had a similar part as seen in Article 15. Kritika Kamra is ordinary and there wasn’t much for Dino Morea to do here, who had a far meatier part to play in the second season of Hostages.
That said, I would like to see more of Kumud Mishra though in the coming season and even Tigmanshu Dhulia in the flashback as the two senior actors are terrific in there even in the smallest of the scenes. As for the women, both Sarah Jane Dias and Gauahar Khan make their present felt. The fact that they are attractive does help, though even as performers they do well with just the slightest of glances.
In a way, the entire first season of Tandav, which has been produced by Himanshu Mehra & Ali Abbas Zafar, is a preamble more than anything else. It could well be just the first act where the character introduction takes place, though it would have been all the more striking to have a definite start and end to the season, so as to relish a more satisfactory experience. Here, the game has just begun since the moment end credits start rolling for the last time, it sets the stage for the next season which may well take at least a year.
Well, we will wait!