Go. Quickly watch the series Tandav on Amazon Prime and then come back and read this article 🙂
Female passion is always portrayed as something which is destructive and uncontrollable. Even though the world is evolving, the politics of suppressing women empowerment has remained the same throughout the centuries. Resistance of women has paved the way to strong female representation in mass media and popular culture, yet the popular culture fails to provide a safe space and viable role to these women characters. I am not talking about separate female oriented movies like Kahaani, Nil Battey Sannata or Lipstick Under My Burkha. Even when I mention these movies, they too have their drawbacks and limitations. Bollywood has narrowed down the scope of “female oriented” movies to just those movies that show women in lead or not in a need of male characters. But I’d like to basically detangle the layers of issues that Amazon Prime’s Tandav unleashes.
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Recent political thriller, Tandav has created a false aura or hinted on this falseness of “female power” in politics. Was it intentional, or was Ali Abbas Zafar unintentionally doing this? As the episodes build up, we see the female characters gaining some inertia. We start to acknowledge that the female voice is strong in this political thriller. The falseness which I am reiterating is necessary to be understood by the viewers of this series. Just the way we see, how any narrative from a certain point of view can affect the mind of a viewer, similarly the certain perspective can make us think in a particular way. If you’ve already watched the series, think about the time when Anuradha Kishore (Dimple Kapadia) becomes the Prime Minister and shatters Samar Pratap Singh (Saif Ali Khan). How many of you felt the PM seat was supposed to go to Samar and not Anurahdha? The direction and the plot line never make us feel comfortable with Anuradha’s victory. Even if nobody is right here, we (at least most of us) feel Samar deserved it more (even after killing his father!). This is how perspectives rule our minds.
Talking about the women characters of Tandav, one can’t deny that they played amazing roles. They indeed do justice to the characters. Samar’s wife Ayesha (Sarah Jane Dias), fellow politicians Aditi Mishra (Shonali Nagrani) and Anuradha Kishore (Dimple Kapadia) along with Sana Mir (Kritika Kamra), Maithili Sharan (Gauhar Khan), and journalist Garima Deswal (Neha Hinge) played important roles in the series. As mentioned earlier, we have this false hope that the series would do justice to these women. However, it all shatters at the end. The false “power structure” falls and disrupts the lives of most of these women. The series reestablishes the patriarchal notion of woman as a weak “nonentity”. No matter how educated and intelligent she is, she would eventually get caught in the web of patriarchy.
Hence, even if Samar has support of his wife, Aditi (fellow politician) and Garima (journalist), he is incharge of them. Garima (whose name means “dignity”) actually fails to do true journalism. She favours Samar and it shows her incapability to stand with the right. Similarly, Aditi looks good all the while, except the scene where she and Samar get intimate. This does not come as a shock, but once again highlights and stereotypes the way people see successful women (of getting the position after that favour). In this whole act, the only bit where Aditi doesn’t fail is when she appreciates Shiv after the News interview and when she spits on Samar during their intimacy. But is it enough? Moreover, I’d just ask you, don’t you think Samar’s wife could’ve been a better Prime Minister?! She is superb yet she just remains a pawn in this chess game.
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Similarly, Anuradha Kishore gets certain favours from Samar’s father and eventually she betrays him. Even if we accept that that’s how one survives in politics and Anuradha does that for her son’s future, she collapses at the end. The one who doesn’t even mourn on the death of her “lover” and enters politics eventually doesn’t even voice out for herself. Maithili too gets caught up in her own life and gets threatened by Gurpal Singh (Sunil Grover). Sana Mir too ends up life. We don’t question Jigar Sampath’s (Dino Morea) illicit affair with his students, but do we sympathise with Sandhya Nigam (Sandhya Mridul)? Her honest request for divorce makes her look like a spoilt working woman. Whereas, Jigar claims to still love Sandhya, he keeps on sleeping with Sana. In this process, he fails both the women.
The rise of women in Tandav does not match with the last two episodes. Is it intentional? Does Zafar willingly portray the real socio-political conditioning of women by subtly criticising it. We cannot say that the series is not giving voice to women. Instead, it’s given a male controlled view of politics and society. The fall of women in the series is perhaps suggestive of the real socio-political truth of India. Even when I say “fall”, I feel weird because there was no rise in the first place. Then fall from where?! This country can never put a woman on a pedestal until and unless she’s a goddess… that too comes with its own terms and conditions.
This article is written by Shahana Khatoon. She is currently pursuing Masters In English from JNU. You can reach out to her at https://www.shapoesy.com/