Over the past few years, the sphere of Indian streaming services have been greatly shaped by one dominant player churning out great shows one after the other – The Viral Fever, or TVF. With an express focus on the quality of the series they are putting out, be it acting, directing or the plot, TVF has given us some true gems such Pitchers, Kota Factory and Tripling. While being immensely entertaining they are also critically acclaimed and can stand eye to eye with many of the western giants, such as Friends. Panchayat is no different.
Panchayat is the story of a young, fiery engineering graduate Abhishek Tripathi who has to settle for a simple secretarial job in a remote village of Uttar Pradesh. The plot revolves around him adjusting to the completely different lifestyle and displacement, along with striving for a better job amidst all of this. There is a very strong highlight on village life, but in no way is it glorifying or even portraying it in a hyperbolic manner. There are not many plot twists, nor is the plot overtly emotional or overwhelming. You see, Panchayat does not need it. The brilliance of the show comes from its ability to make the banal interesting and captivating enough to be hilarious. It is lightweight, feels good and comedic. Panchayat does not Glorify the rustic lifestyle, nor is it that much of a jibing critique at the way of life – it is the way life works in Rural India in the 21st century. It rather satirizes the social ills that are present in rural India, such as material greed, obsession with power, patriarchy, misuse of power, corruption and so on in a manner that lands softly but still succeeds in exposing the reality. The plot has a well defined pace, with each of the 8 30 minute episodes being independent of each other.
Directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra, Panchayat is full of scenic shots of the village in all its beauty. The colors are bright and colorful, much like the attitudes of the villagers. All of them seemingly ooze a natural warmth and are oddly optimistic, almost to a fault. Urban people often place importance on the individual, but here the focus is on the community. Everyone who is in the village is part of the community, part of the family. A very common phrase used across India is, “All Indians are my brothers and sisters” and it all holds true here. Everyone has to pitch in one way or the other. Abhishek, accustomed to giving priority to individual choices often finds himself at odds with the collectivistic mindset of the villagers. The penetration of technology is present but is still minimal. The electricity frequently cuts off, and paperwork moves at a snail’s pace. Everywhere you go, there is a systemic quagmire replete with elected officials making decisions on arbitrary grounds. Panchayat also does not have much in the way of antagonists – the characters are all flawed, and the worst of them are perhaps too self absorbed and misguided, but none of them are inherently evil. Everyone just wants to feel important, by hook or by crook. Some make up rumors about ghosts, some get chairs with wheels.
One of the highlights still remains the acting. Jitendra Kumar’s acting is remarkable in the sense that he manages to make seemingly banal moments seem intense and convinces the audience of what he is feeling. The character of Abhishek is perfectly real, crushed between the weight of his ambitions and that of his reality. He portrays the character of a hot blooded young man in the most convincing manner so as to familiarise us with the character of Abhishek Tripathi but somehow is still unpredictable and manages to catch us with great surprise with each of his perceptions and expressions. The anger is palpable; almost real and the tension in the air is tangible with the progression of each scene. Excellent implementation of his body to carry the weight of his emotions and, most notably, his anger. However, the character seems almost fixated on his frustration and that marks a slight blot to an otherwise brilliant character. Panchayat has the immense advantage of having a roster of incredible support characters, including Raghuvir Yadav (as Brij Bhushan Dubey), Chandan Roy (Vikas), Faisal Malik(Prahlad Pandey) and Neena Gupta (Manju Devi). Raghuvir Y&adav’s character is funny, yet somehow very endearing despite his many faults. Despite being the patriarch of the household, his wife holds immense power over him and that makes for a very interesting dynamic that is very fun to watch.
Overall, Panchayat is a very hilarious and engaging series that is definitely a treat to watch, without stretching too long or being too intense.