An Amazon Prime Video and TVF Original, Panchayat brings a hue of laughter, concern and happiness with some iconic actors. 

“But you will get a chance to see the real India, the rural India.You will get a chance to become the Mohan Bhargava of Swades, develop roads and install hand-pumps.” Far away in the rural lands of Phulera village, Balia, Uttar Pradesh, Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) finds himself staring at what his life has come up to. 

Panchayat, an eight-episodes web-series written by Chandan Kumar and directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra, for TVF, in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video is a reminder of TVF’s USP- relatability and simplicity. The story of every average Engineering graduate who has throughout their life been ‘just enough’. Abhishek’s failures in life stare right into him every night as his friends decide on the easiest route to Connaught Place and which beer to drink, while he deals with power cuts and lauki. 

The fear of being jobless leads Abhishek taking up a 20,000 job as a Secretary in Gram Panchayat at Phulera Village. Phulera doesn’t grow within him, a part of him lives in denial of his situation, he craves to get back in the corporate world with a 12 Lakh CTC. 

The themes of unemployment is discussed largely, as youths with graduate degrees take up meagre jobs in fear of not taking a drop year. Caste and patriarchy are two other major themes which are largely discussed yet shown subtly. Jibes of ‘same caste’ are hinted at in several instances. The omnipresence of patriarchy is well-evident from the very first episode as the female Pradhan is left to perform household chores while the ‘Pradhan-Pati’ takes over the administration.

 Neena Gupta or Manju Devi as Pradhan is phenomenal! The way she is continually underestimated, reserved to bringing more puris and delving into familial issues instead of administrative or developmental issues is a huge statement in itself. Raghubir Yadav or Brij Bhushan Dubey is charismatic on screen who suits the accent and body language of a village-goer very efficiently. 

Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav in Panchayat, Image Credits: Scroll
Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav in Panchayat, Image Credits: Scroll

Shantanu Srivastava, an Engineer, recommended the show to his parents, he believes it to be a family entertainer. “I loved the setup and the iconic actors. The issues covered are never directly discussed with parents and the show seemed to be the perfect setup for the conversation starter. Moreover, who doesn’t want to see more of Neena Gupta?”

However, two characters and actors take away your heart, Faisal Malik as Prahlad and Chandan Roy as Vikas who have delivered award-winning performances. Chandan Roy is a treat to the eye who remains patient, and steals the show every time. Things take a wild turn when Jeetu aka Abhishek decides to prepare for CAT in aim of a better future (read: more money). Even though the outcome is not desirable, a brilliant act of cinematography, inspires the lead actor to take the next step.

The ending scene leaves viewers on an optimistic note, “gaanv mein kuch doondh jisse tujhe pyaar ho jaye (find something in the village which you fall in love with)The ending ensures that the readers are in for a twist of events in the successive season.

However, Panchayat might start off on a boring note and make you ask yourself “that’s it?” Certain incidents might agitate you on Abhishek’s silence and indifference, his silence at discrimation on the basis of gender, class and caste is problematic owing that he is a sheher ka ladka. The absolute talent of Neena Gupta as Manju Devi is unexplored and confined to domestic boundaries. One hopes to see more of her like the last episode offers, however, the follow-up raises expectations of seeing her in yet another exuberant performance in the subsequent season.

Satviki Sanjay, a student of Miranda House who just began watching the show, says, “It’s a warm show that shows the differences in opinion of a city boy stuck in rural India. It encapsulated a feeling of warmth and togetherness one rarely finds in the urban space, as well as dealt with social issues with humor and relevance. I loved the performance of all the actors in the show.” 

Featured Image Credits: Amazon Prime Video

Anandi Sen

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Ignorance is quite captivating sometimes, its implications often deserve adequate ruminations regardless of whether they happen to be blissful or not. Of all the not so recent news in the North Indian world, what has recently got my goat is the blatant idiocy in the guise of tradition and honour. Now, harmless idiocy is harmless enough but the victimized women in these cases would surely testify it is anything but that. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist but I do agree with their fundamental belief, i.e. all women and men are equal, and their primary cause, to make this true in practise. Call me an idiot but there is no thing as a better sex, just better individuals if you must. For every Medha Patkar there is a Mayawati, and for every Manmohan Singh there is an Advani. Anyhow, lets come back to those two particularly fascinating headlines directly quoted from a couple of priggish village elders. One was regarding what you might now call ancient news, the Noida gang rape case; the geriatric bugger’s view of the grim situation was remarkably simple, “She was just raped, so what?” For a minute, the optimist in me pondered if it could be an error in translation, but then I had to rule out the possibility since the words were too crisp to seem inaccurate; there was no corrigendum over the week. This view was allegedly shared by most of the village; in their opinion, their boys had done no wrong, and they just might be right on this one. The throes of passion notwithstanding are these boys really to blame, having been brought up in such a society where the concept of the modesty of a woman is entirely foreign? Or take the recent Francis Gomes case. Even insanity tends to have a purpose and rationale, however crazy it might be. One could argue that all he did was take the notions of honour and security to an extremely obsessive and somewhat paranoiac level, right?

Then there was the other headline, “Only whores choose their partners”, this one coming from the Chaudhary of a Khap Panchayat. I would hate to contest his wisdom of years, but isn’t it the other way round? Either way, the point is clear, that with such regressive values ingrained in our society we cannot hope to easily overcome these atrocities that are doled out in alarming frequency. Protesting at Jantar Mantar might sound like a noble thing to do but the end result? At the most, you’ll get your picture printed in the next day’s newspaper complete with a profound placard in hand. Condemning such happenings from the comfort of our safe homes is easy, as this article itself might testify. However, if you happen to take it to a further activist level by actually going to these red zones and trying to change things around, may the Gods save your life and might they also punish you for your utter foolishness. These unreasonable and uncivilized practises have been going on and they would go on, and the only plausible way to counter them is, yes, you know it, education! Will Durant said, “Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance”. It is this self-realization, which then leads to the acquisition of a reasonable temperament and consequently an atmosphere of change.

As the most fundamental principle of Economics goes, resources are limited but wants are not; we must make some compromises, particularly for being a developing nation. Instead of specializations and higher education, the focus must be inclined more towards improving quality of basic education for the masses. We are already producing enough engineers, doctors, lawyers and intellectuals; and yet the female half of the population continues to live in jeopardy even in areas that come under the label of ‘National Capital Region’. Come to think of it, we cannot even afford to employ such retrogressive methods on either side, for it would only further dampen our growth. Maybe we don’t need all those bulletproof planes and precision missiles that could pierce a baby’s bottom from three hundred miles away, or wait, maybe we do not need to make these compromises after all! Our netas are supposedly on an austerity drive, they wouldn’t be flying first class except in ‘certain’ cases. I guess austerity like everything else is relative, isn’t it?

“India Shining”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“Incredible India”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“Your ass may belong to Levis, but your soul belongs here”

“Sir, yes, sir!”