panchayat review

A scene from Amazon’s new series “Panchayat.” (photo provided)

MUMBAI — An engineering graduate, Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) wants to move up in life and be like his friend Prateek (Biswapati Sarkar), a very successful businessman. For want of a better option right now, he takes on the job of a Panchayat Secretary in the tiny village of Phulera in Uttar Pradesh, in Amazon’s new series “Panchayat.” 

He does not know what he is getting into, and the picture becomes clear from the very beginning where he cannot enter his own office-cum-home as the acting village Pradhan (chief), Brij Bhushan Dubey (Raghuvir Yadav) has misplaced the (only) key while relieving himself somewhere in the fields! And the lock cannot be broken because it is a precious heirloom for Dubey’s wife Manju Singh (Neena Gupta), the real Pradhan, who has let her husband be the acting Pradhan!

Slowly, Abhishek begins to be exposed to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the villagers and the village traditions. For Abhishek, the troubles are just beginning—he has to deal with a right location for a solar light, a haunted tree that chases the villagers (!!), a health office ad that compares having more than two children with having hemorrhoids, a thief who steals only the monitor of his computer, a chair with castors that he needs for work that is considered a luxurious indulgence, his struggle at night after duty to study for his CAT exam that can take him places, a brawl in which he gets involved and even the dispute between parents over the name of their newborn child.

Each of the 10 episodes is worth watching rather than describing even in brief, and the overall ambience is loads of fun, wit, situational humor and quirky and often cute village insights that come across as either great subtle humor or even hilarity. Mercifully, preaching or sermonizing is totally absent.

The cinematography (by Amitabh Singh) is exceptional especially after dark, and editor Amit Kulkarni and music composer Anurag Saikia keep the pace and the mood so perfect we cannot wait for Season 2, which I hope will be there, for the climax of the 10th episode leaves the field richly open for it.

Deepak Kumar Mishra has created this delightful world and Chandan Kumar’s writing is magnificent indeed. In fact, the script is the true hero of this brilliantly plotted and amazingly simple, no-frills narration, sans a single expletive of a serious nature. It juggles with the audience psyche like nothing else, tightening up areas on which time could have been wasted, leaving zones that can be explored later (like the suggestion that Abhishek see the entire village from the bird’s-eye view above the village’s water tank to fall in love with it, which assumes a cute significance later), and even providing heartwarmingly natural culminations to many seemingly absurd and farcical situations like the monitor theft and the haunted tree.

Mishra’s strength lies as much in the visuals as in the performances he extracts from every single actor and actress. After eons, Raghuvir Yadav delivers a fantastic performance, and his chemistry with Neena Gupta as his wife has to be seen to be…extolled! Jitendra Kumar as the beleaguered protagonist is outstanding, his expressions deliberately similar and Chandan Roy is superb as his assistant.

Faisal Malik as the deputy Pradhan is perfectly earthy and in character. Special mention must be made also of the scared village teacher (did not catch the actor’s name) and the parents of the newborn as well as the father of the girl who is getting married.

These are the kind of shows that Amazon must promote, permit more seasons for, and encourage. We do not mean only rural dramas or comedies: we mean clean, wholesome entertainment across genres  that makes you want more even after completion. Cusswords, violence, sex—everything should have both relevance and a limit in context.

Rating: ****

Created and Directed by: Deepak Kumar Mishra

Written by: Chandan Kumar

Music: Anurag Saikia

Starring: Jitendra Kumar, Raghuvir Yadav, Neena Gupta, Chandan Roy, Faisal Malik, Biswapati Sarkar, Pooja Singh, Rajesh Jais, Kusum Shastri and others

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