Panchayat review: Jitendra Kumar leads TVF's hilarious show with crafty dialogues, immersive production design
Jitendra Kumar might suit the lead part but Panchayat gets its soul from effortless performances by Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta.
In a new Amazon Prime Video India Original, creator The Viral Fever (TVF) gently follows Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) from his city life to a bottom-shelf posting as the secretary of a gram panchayat in Phulera village, Uttar Pradesh.
Unable to get the requisite percentile to grab an MBA seat, graduate Tripathi settles for the only job offer he has in hand. He packs his motorcycle, gas cylinder and modest wardrobe, and takes the bus to Phulera in zilla Phakauli.
Over the next eight episodes, we get a fly-on-the-wall view of his new life, complete with quirky local characters and unique homegrown situations — such as a haunted tree and the naming of a newborn in the village. Throughout, Abhishek is troubled by personal frustration and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as he envies his buddy Prateek’s (Biswapati Sarkar) upwardly mobile life.
Each episode of this hilarious, witty, and perceptive series, written by Chandan Kumar and directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra, explores a different predicament – either personal to Abhishek or in the course of the panchayat duty. More than these, what adds frisson to the show are the interpersonal relationships, primarily the one between the elected Pradhan and her proxy, the Pradhan pati (husband).
Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) is the elected representative, winning on a women’s quota ticket but her husband Brij Bhushan Dube (Raghubir Yadav) executes all the duties of the office. The power play between husband and wife, the use of reverse psychology and their understated partnership plays out beautifully, enacted by these two wonderful actors.
Abhishek continues to perform his duties, albeit disinterestedly. While overcoming issues such as power outage and petty crime, he studies for the CAT (Common Admission Test) by night. His ego sometimes sets him on a collision course, over an office chair with wheels and government-mandated slogans related to family planning. His urban upbringing occasionally clashes with the rural ways but he gradually warms to his environment and new support structure.
Kumar might be the lead, and suits the part of the crotchety under-achiever but the show gets its soul from effortless performances by Yadav and Gupta. Besides Pradhan and the sachiv (secretary) Abhishek, the other office-bearers are deputy pradhan Prahlad (Faisal Malik) and the office assistant Vikas. Chandan Roy, who plays Vikas, is the find of the series.
On-target casting, immersive production design, crafty dialogue, and situations handled with a light touch to make Panchayat a satisfying watch. And who would have thought lauki (bottle gourd) could be such an effective peace offering!
Panchayat is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video India.
Ajeeb Daastaans, The Big Bull, Without Remorse: What's streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ Hotstar in April
The April streaming calendar includes Fahadh Faasil's Irul, Karan Johar's anthology Ajeeb Daastaans on Netflix, Abhishek Bachchan's The Big Bull on Disney+Hotstar and Michael B Jordan-starrer Without Remorse on Amazon Prime Video among others.
Apples keeps it light and avoids being overwhelmed by its film-awareness.
"Milestone is an illustration of an individual’s struggle to find relevance," says Ivan Ayr.