Tanaav is average espionage fare

Manav Vij plays Kabir, the retired soldier who is brought back to track a dreaded terrorist in Tanaav. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

After all, it’s a doubly tall order: One, the writers and filmmakers (one of whom also does the spellbinding cinematography—his core strength over the years) have to adapt an Israeli series on espionage, and who knows enemy neighbor-nations better than them? Two, you have to deliver an Indian espionage series that aspires to the benchmark levels some web dramas as well as films have achieved in this genre.

This very demanding premise is fulfilled by the team with a superbly-adapted beginning, but the euphoria (I avoid binge-watching but was strongly tempted here!) begins to wane and goes on a faltering graph after the fifth (of twelve) episodes. Cliffhangers are designed for each one of them, resulting in uneven lengths (from 20-plus to 40-plus minutes), and the end too has a kind of a route to Season 2.

Now, now, most good Indian espionage series complete their stories in one season, and if there are more to come, we find completely different stories and characters in them as in Avrodh 2, Code M or the all-time benchmark, Special Ops.

Over here, the entire Kashmir populace shown seems to be obsessed with hatred for the Indian government and yet all the Indian forces are equally devoted to weeding out terrorism. Rather improbable that, right?

In the best placatory fashion, Sudhir Mishra and team tries to portray the human side of terrorists and their families, and also show most of the Indian forces as Muslims. Come on, guys, we know that our patriotic Muslims—not just in Kashmir but all over India—vastly outnumber the other kind!

More, we see intelligence top gun, Jagjit Malik (Rajat Kapoor) have friendly, informal chats with his Pakistani counterpart Shabbir Malik (Danish Hussain) in special meetings across the LOC. Counterpart? Yes, we are told that Shabbir runs a counter-terrorism unit for Pakistan that is seemingly not pro-terrorism. Seriously, you read that right!

All these factors pull down the otherwise quite well-twisted saga of counter-terrorism. The soldiers’ dedication to their cause, and that of the opposite side, come tellingly across. Some welcome comments are made on how not just individuals but entire families are brainwashed into thinking that they are serving a noble aim by demanding freedom for Kashmir from India.

Essentially, the story is about Panther a.k.a. Riaz (Sumit Kaul), a dreaded terrorist who is believed dead but has survived. Kabir (Manav Vij), now a jam manufacturer, is called out of retirement to track and kill him. Kabir is supposed to know the psyche of Riaz better than anyone else. Matters escalate when in a gun-fight at Panther’s brother Asif (Manan Chaturvedi)’s wedding, the groom is shot dead accidentally.  Panther swears revenge, to the extent that his agenda becomes personal.

Meanwhile, Kabir is still on his mission and befriends Dr. Farah (Ekta Kaul), who is suspected of being in cahoots with anti-national forces. They fall in love even as trouble is brewing in Kabir’s household, with his wife (Sukhmani Sadana) falling out of love with him. Another man in love with Dr. Farah is Junaid (Shashank Arora), who is now Panther’s right-hand. As matters speed down the expected lane, there are twists galore.

Explosions, deaths, betrayals, intrigue, emotional eruptions—the series naturally goes the whole hog in all these, and some good to great performances raise the levels here. Manv Vij is fabulous as the soldier who is a complex cauldron of emotions, both at work and at home. The sequence where he feels he has betrayed his wife’s trust (in getting back her kidnapped brother alive), only to find that she has an extramarital affair with his colleague is an emotional peak, with Manav’s blank expressions and indifferent tones speaking volumes for his detachment—and these are not to be confused with wooden looks or deadpan delivery of lines—they depict his character and mood.

Sterling work is put in by Sumit Kaul as Panther and Shashank Arora as his lieutenant, whle Rajat Kapur as Malik and Arbaaz Khan as Vikrant Rathore are superb—Rajat getting the advantage of a far-superior role. Ekta Kaul is impressive as Dr. Farah and Sukhmani Sadana excels as Kabir’s distraught and unfaithful wife. Making a solid mark (especially with her eyes) is Waluscha D’Souza as Panther’s helpless wife.

Watch the series as a spy drama that could have gone to great heights but is satisfied with just being above average.

Rating: ***

SonyLIV presents Applause Entertainment’s Tanaav  Produced by: Sameer Nair, Deepak Segal & Siddharth Khaitan  Directed by: Sudhir Mishra & Sachin Mamta Krishn Created by: Avi Issacharoff & Lior Raz (the Israeli Series Fauda), Adhir Bhat & Gagan Singh Sethi  Music: Karel Antonin  Starring: Arbaaz Khan, Rajat Kapoor, Manav Vij, Ekta Kaul, Sukhmani Sadana, Danish Husain, Mir Sarwar, M.K. Raina, Ivana Kaur, Sumit Kaul, Shashank Arora, Rajesh Jais, Mir Salman, Waluscha D’Souza, Zarina Wahab, Amit Gaur, Satyadeep Mishra, Arslan Goni, Rockey Raina, Arryaman Seth, Sahiba Bali, Sheen Dass, Tarun Khem, Mikhail Gandhi, Mushtaq Kamil, Muzaim Nawaz, Barbie Sharma, & others



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