To experience and fall in love with the real side of our country. That is what Abhishek Tripathi is forced to think about when he unwillingly takes up a low paying job as a village ‘Panchayat’ secretary.
Amazon Prime Video and The Viral Fever bring forth the trials and tribulations of a regular guy who unlike Shah Rukh Khan from Swades, will do anything to escape his life in rural India.
Enter Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), a fresh graduate travelling to Phulera village in Uttar Pradesh for his new job. He is confused about his choice which soon turns into regret when he experiences village life and meets the other members of the Panchayat.
There is the jolly village Pradhan Pati, Brij Bhushan Dubey (Raghuvir Yadav), Deputy Pradhan, Prahlad Pandey (Faisal Malik) and the office helper, Vikas (Chandan Roy). The official Pradhan is Dubey’s wife, Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) but she refuses to step into the ‘work of men’ and lets her husband fill in for her.
Abhishek soon realises that his job, salary or life is not even remotely close to what he hopes for. He takes his friend Prateek’s (Biswapati Sarkar) advice and starts preparing for the Common Admission Test (CAT) to pursue his MBA.
He’s dedicated but his environment is not kind. Living in a remote village he has to deal with petty problems like charging emergency lights to study due to power cuts, solving haunted rumours, helping in weddings and the like.
Does his life takes a turn for the better and is he able to crack the exam to escape his misery remains to be seen.
There is not a single bad performance in this web series. Jitendra Kumar does what he does best and plays the dissatisfied and irritable Abhishek with ease. He’s always so convincing with the way he expresses his emotions that it is very hard not to feel bad for his character who just cannot catch a break.
The rest of the cast is brilliant too. Chandan Roy as Vikas is absolutely lovable. His portrayal of the simple village youngster who has nothing but respect for his seniors is on point. Faisal Malik as Prahlad Pandey is hilarious. He is the gentle giant who despite his huge stature is effortlessly funny and harmless.
Yadav and Gupta play the perfect village couple and their performances are very real. Neena Gupta is fierce as the housewife and is always on a mocking spree which is a delight to watch. Yadav as the pseudo Panchayat Pradhan is gullible yet stern when he is required to be. There is also a caring fatherly side to him which comes out at the right moments.
Panchayat’s concept may seem similar to Swades but the narratives and the protagonists are not alike at all. Abhishek Tripathi is not in Phulera to solve issues and do good for the society. He hates it there and wants to do anything to escape.
This feels very believable as he never ends up falling in love with the place or people but still manages to find himself.
Every episode brings forth a new problem for the characters to deal with. This is great as there are no lingering plot points which get lost. The only thing constant throughout is Abhishek’s exam preparation which he finds a way to do despite everything.
The various issues are also very simple yet manage to create an impact. It is easy to understand how they could be a problem for a Panchayat and the villagers to deal with on any given day.
However, director Deepak Kumar Mishra still manages to touch upon sensitive topics still prevalent in rural India without over-blowing them out of proportion. Furthermore, Anurag Saikia’s music and Amitabha Singh’s cinematography is the icing on the cake.
The main problem with Panchayat is its screenplay. Despite everything good about the web series, the average 30 minute episodes sometimes feel too dragged and boring. This is not just the case with a few of them but in almost all of them.
Throughout the 8 episodes, there are recurring moments when you wish for something interesting to happen. It is easy to lose interest in the plot if you’re not paying full attention and are not determined to learn about Abhishek’s story.
A bit more attention to the editing and a tighter narrative would have made Panchayat so much better.
Panchayat is raw and feels authentic. That is the brilliance of this web series which is for sure worthy of a watch. Abhishek’s isolated and frustrating life is even somewhat relatable to what the world is going through at the moment.
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