Bombs, guns, Matrix-like codes, and special operations agents with a saviour complex—there is, perhaps, no better definition for Sudhir Mishra and Sachin Mamta Krishn’s Tanaav. Power-packed and gripping on the surface, Mishra’s much-awaited project ends up being a hollow, regurgitated take on Kashmir with no ‘Tanaav’—aka tension—in sight.
Now streaming on SonyLIV, the 12-episode thriller is an official Hindi remake of the 2015 Israeli Netflix show, Fauda. It tells the story of a retired Special Task Group agent, Kabir Farooqui (Manav Vij), who, after supposedly killing much-dreaded terrorist Umar Riaz ‘Panther’ (Sumit Kaul), leads a quiet life with his family as an upscale apple farmer in Kashmir. But Kabir is jolted out of his cocooned existence after discovering that Panther is alive and well. A special operations unit—led by the shifty bureaucrat Malik (Rajat Kapoor) and commander Vikrant Rathore (Arbaaz Khan)—then goes after Panther, a man already dead to the world but protected fiercely by his right hand, Junaid (Shashank Arora). The cat and mouse chase that follows forms the crux of the story.
Recycled Kashmir trope
Tanaav is much like Fauda: West Bank becomes Kashmir, Israeli agents become Indian ones, and Palestinian militants don Kashmiri phirans. While Mishra and co-writer Ishan Trivedi do a great job adapting the screenplay for Indian audiences, they also end up mimicking the original by dismissing detail and carrying forward a biased, one-sided perspective that fails to do justice to Kashmir and its complex history of strife. What it really doesn’t share with its Israeli counterpart—and probably never will—is wild popularity, and I have reasons to make that claim.
From Roja (1995) to Kafir (2019) and The Family Man (2019), Indian directors have been juicing the Kashmir issue since time immemorial. The plots, too, remain virtually the same – brave secret agents busting Pakistani terror networks in the valley while facing staunch opposition from separatists. While some of these films and shows have a cult of their own, it is no hidden fact that this theme has also transitioned into an overused trope. Moreover, Tanaav comes a little too late. With its lack of differentiating elements, it now looks like a watered-down version of Fauda and a repackaged Family Man season one.
Kabir (Vij)’s wooden expressions, and weak screen presence takes away from whatever power the story might have had. Sumit Kaul, too, fails to strike fear as Panther, and the duo’s on-screen chemistry as ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ lacks any punch. Arbaaz Khan as Rathore does what he does best: play dry, authoritarian cop/officer with a heavy sprinkling of painful unoriginality. But this sea of misfit leads is backed by a solid supporting cast. Rajat Kapoor, Shashank Arora, M.K. Raina, and Sheen Dass deserve special mention for playing their respective roles to perfection.
Tanaav has some redeeming qualities
The SonyLIV series does redeem itself in bits and parts. Sachin Mamta Krishn’s cinematography elevates the story to another level. He captures Kashmir’s beauty through his lens—the neighbourhood naan shops, steaming cups of noon chai and Kahwa, cottages in pine-covered nooks, and quirky wedding traditions.
Musicians Karel Antoni and Abhay Rustom Sopori set the base for Tanaav with their haunting background compositions, while writers Adhir Bhat and Gagan Singh Sethi rescue it with authentic Kashmiri dialogues. This is where the praise ends, though.
While meandering subplots don’t weigh down Tanaav, its lack of attention to backstories will bug anyone. It tries to pack action and drama in each episode, but in doing so, it skips over all that’s relevant and important. Tanaav’s breakneck speed is perhaps its worst enemy.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)