Tandav is a confused and confusing, nuance-free rehash of House of Cards that dug deep into the entrails of Washington power games played by a cohort of ambitious sleazeballs, where conscience is the missing word in their vocabulary. When our writers try to adapt an American model to Indian reality, they can only grasp at the superficial — the cunning, conniving, and vicious ploys to climb the political ladder, while pulling down those already perched higher than the grasping, totally amoral ‘protagonist’. The writers were content to pack in surprises at every corner — 15 minutes into the first episode, the corkscrew twists were predictable. The major flaw of the writing is to forget to root their characters, and give them a semblance of psychological credibility.
Forget psychology. Even plot credibility is gossamer thin. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, before the Me Too infamy got him thrown out of the series) is a Democrat, a Congressman from Redder than Red South Carolina who schemes all the way to the White House through murder, blackmail, manipulation, and unbelievable amounts of chutzpah. He and his wife are a modern incarnation of Macbeth, minus the poetry and the redeeming depth of guilt. The writers of Tandav spun the convoluted story around a national party that sounds like a regional variation of the many Dals of the Hindi heartland. It has been in power at the center for two terms, on the cusp of a third term, waiting for the expected sweep predicted by exit polls.
The PM, Devki Nandan Singh (Tigmanshu Dhulia, effective in the few scenes he appears), distrusts his son and thwarts the heir who wants to supplant him. Devki’s wine is poisoned by the son Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan, all suave swagger). The initial plot surprises depend on the untraceable poison, and how it is leaked to the demurely glamorous Anuradha Kishore (Dimple Kapadia). She has been more than a party colleague, and a special friend to Devki. She blackmails Samar to accede the gaddi to her and relegates him to a sort of Marg Darshak Mandal. She has a junkie son who wants to be defense minister; Samar’s protégé for the portfolio is an ex-woman pilot, who is young, and a stunner too. Anuradha does a nice balancing act between various claimants like a seasoned politico.
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