The worst part of film making in India these days is that it is devoid of the subtlety it was once known for, much in sync with the air of jingoism being inhaled by all alike. With Corona pandemic forcing almost the entire nation to spend more hours within the four walls, web series is the ‘In’ thing now. Two categories are mostly minting money in the present scenario on the OTT platforms. First, those so-called ‘Patriotic’ high voltage thrillers where definitely something big is planned against India and a gang of spies with high octane of deshbhakti are the ones to save the nation from the catastrophe. They are armored with their patent ‘gaalis’, Chacha Chowdhury like brains, and Avengers like superpowers. ‘The Family Man’ is perhaps the only series of this category which has a soul, an ardent desire of storytelling and in the process, it keeps the audience with some grey matter hooked to their seats. The second category is the erotic thrillers. I at times wonder how miserably Indian directors have failed at this genre. Mostly they make poor adaptations from Hollywood, Spanish, or southeast Asian movies. But looks like they have not yet learnt even copying and end up making things which cannot be viewed not because those have viewers’ restrictions, but they are simply pieces of cr*p.
So, when I first heard of ‘Panchayat’, I instantly developed a craving for watching it. I mean who is this director man! How could he even dare to go against the tide? New India no longer watches the old classics of Basu Chatterjee, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, or Sai Paranjape. We are now obsessed with cheaply made biopics, the sickening ‘Special Ops’ or the torturous ‘Sacred Games’. But five minutes into the series, I started forgetting all that I was missing in recent years. My yearning started getting answers, finally. Within a couple of nights, I could finish season one and as I am writing this review, I must say, I am still inebriated by its simplicity, honesty, and earthen flavors. Deepak Kumar Mishra ji has directed one masterpiece which takes us back to the golden days of television series, the days of ‘Circus’, ‘Malgudi Days’, ‘Wagle Ki Duniya’, ‘Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne’ or ‘Fauji’.
An engineer ends up getting a low paid job of a Panchayat Secretary and what he goes through for the next year, is the theme of this brilliantly crafted series. Each episode has a story of its own alongside the protagonist’s struggle to cope with the intricacies or even over simplicities of rural India. I was a BDO nearly eight years back and I could find myself in every frame of the character of Abhishek Tripathy, so brilliantly portrayed by Jitendra Kumar. The sets, the scenes, the rural people, and their mannerisms everything is so very real! In fact, the panchayat office shown is actually a panchayat office in UP and that definitely adds more vibrancy to the natural look of the story. From dowry to early marriage, from women empowerment to superstitions- ‘Panchayat’ deals with a plethora of social evils without ever being too preachy. As already told, Jitendra Kumar does a brilliant job in the role of a confused urban educated who dreams big but ends up complaining about the mundane life offered in his platter. What makes the series transcend every barrier of commonness is the casting. Ragubir Yadav as the Pradhan Pati or the husband of the sarpanch is the real showstopper. He is just too good. The way he talks, the way he walks, the way he picks up the phone, the way he smiles, everything freshens up my memories of the pradhans I had to deal with during my tenures as a Block Development Officer. Chandan Roy as the ever-loyal, simpleton assistant, Faisal Malik as the amiable Deputy Pradhan Prahlad Pandey keep you entertained throughout the journey. Neena Gupta initially appeared a bit disenchanted but gradually gets back her Midas touch and towards the end, delivers a balanced performance. Every other character- the bridegroom, the police inspector, the photographer, Abhishek’s friend, and so on has been handpicked with perfection.
The director through this heartwarming tale proves a point that if you have the desire to tell a story, you can be the winner even if your budget is limited. It is this intent that makes Panchayat so great, so different and so lovable. It is like a time travel taking you to those times which used to be simple yet different, austere yet full of hope. A must watch for every section of the society, Panchayat is here to withstand the test of time and remain a cult classic in the years to come.
My rating- 9.5 out of 10
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