High On Marx, Low On Marks: 'Tandav' Tries To Co-Opt Hindu Icons, Given That Their Mocking Hasn't Worked

High On Marx, Low On Marks: 'Tandav' Tries To Co-Opt Hindu Icons, Given That Their Mocking Hasn't Worked Saif Ali Khan in Tandav.
Snapshot
  • Metaphorically, in Tandav, 'Shiva' (the protagonist symbolising the god) becomes the prophet of the religion of Marx.

    The same Shiva is also compared to Che Guevara, who is a known mass murder and an icon of the left.

In the latest trend of ideologically-oriented 'woke' web shows, Amazon Prime's Tandav is nothing but another cinematic version of the radical hypothesis and stereotypes created by the left.

Tandav is the tale of Shiva who emerges as a student leader in VNU (Vivekananda National University) — the reel life counterpart of JNU, and the political upheavals in a rogue, right-wing political party.

Like with any other clichéd web series Tandav also contains mockery of Hindu gods.

At first sight, it might seem that Tandav is yet another expression of the left's self-perceived intellectual superiority; yet, in reality, there is an absolute lack of understanding of Hindu deities, Indian society and polity.

But, is that all there is to this propaganda? What if the tactics of the propaganda have mutated?

In Tandav, when we observe and assess more carefully, there are two forces at play:

  1. The Marxist force represented by the very ideological foundation of the series, the dialogues between the characters, and the hoardings of Marx and Lenin in the setting of the series.

  2. Hindu figures and symbols like Shiva, Swami Vivekananda, and tandav, which have always had spiritual, moral, cultural, and religious values for Hindus.

In reality, these two forces are often in opposition due to the materialist basis and proselytising nature of Marxist ideology, and its inherent intolerance towards faith systems and indigenous cultures.

This attitude has been reflected when vulgar paintings of the Shivalinga, Maa Durga and trishul go viral on social media.

But, the interplay of these two forces is different in Tandav. Instead of going on the offensive against Hindu culture, the Marxist forces hijack the elements of Hindu culture to meet their ideological ends.

It is not ironic that the university, to which the 'woke' protagonist belongs, is named after Vivekananda and the protagonist himself is shown as symbolic of Shiva.

Shiva also forms his own party named Tandav and its flag has a trident (Lord Shiva's trishul) drawn over it.

The same VNU also has massive graffiti, posters and hoardings of Marx and Lenin.

So, when the protagonist, Shiva, delivers heated speeches inspired by Marx and Lenin, with the statue of Swami Vivekananda in the background, it leads to a psychological association between Marxism and Hindu figures and symbols like Shiva, Swami Vivekananda, trishul, and tandav.

Shiva, who is a staunch supporter of Marx and Lenin, names his party 'Tandav' and raises the party flag which has a trishul on it.

The use of Hindu figures and symbols is not to mock Hindu figures (which the creators of the show invariably did), but to exploit their symbolic value.

In other words, Shiva, Swami Vivekananda, trishul, and tandav have been portrayed as symbols representing Marxist and Leninist ideology.

Metaphorically, in Tandav, 'Shiva' (the protagonist symbolising the god) becomes the prophet of the religion of Marx.

The same Shiva is also compared to Che Guevara, who is a known mass murder and, yet, a woke icon of the left.

But, why did the left suddenly feel the urge of adopting and appropriating Hindu figures?

OTT platforms and the film industry are known to host 'artists' who are infamous for their recurring Hinduphobic frenzy. Tanmay Bhat, who compared Lord Ganesha to faeces, Azeem Banatwalla, who made derogatory remarks about Lord Hanuman and Ramayana, and Aadar Malik, who compared Ganpati Visarjan with a nightclub view, have been provided a platform on Amazon Prime.

Not to forget the colonialist approach and Abrahamic portrayals of Hindu gods in Bollywood films like PK and O My God!

But, why is there a sudden acceptance of Hindu figures and symbols like it happened in the case of Tandav?

Invariably, it indicates that after years of failed attempts to humiliate Hindus for their religion and culture, the left has resorted to 're-narrativise' the very understanding of our cultural and political reality.

The attempts to re-narrativise Hindu figures and symbols are often overlooked when they are done through a mode as alluring as cinema, or as trivial as stand-up comedy.

The desperation behind this acceptance, even if it's tactical, of Hindu figures and symbols shows the alarmed state of the Marxist ecosystem due to its gradually failing ideological proselytising.

Avi Sharma is a knowledge enthusiast with special interest in faith systems, comparative philosophy, literature, and culture.

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