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Panchayat on Amazon Prime Video is riding high on humour

Panchayat on Amazon Prime Video is riding high on humour
Photo Credit To The Telegraph
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Ever since Ayushmann Khurrana became the poster boy of the real and relatable in mainstream Bollywood, slice-of-life has become a much-used and because of its money-spinning and eyeball-grabbing potential, a much-abused term in the Indian content creation space. Stories set in the hinterland sell, but what was once fresh – rooted stories and quirky characters – is now in danger of becoming a formula.

No such worries in the case of Panchayat, though. The eight-episode series, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a delight, hitting home with both humour and heart, as well as with a message or two, but without hammering it in.

Created by TVF – the fun guys behind recent #winner web content like Kota Factory and Hostel Daze – Panchayat hits a home run with its premise itself, setting its drama – in the era of hashtags and Insta Stories – in a remote Uttar Pradesh village (“rural India, the real India”, as a character says early on in the show). Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) finds himself reluctantly heading to Phulera after landing the job of the village panchayat secretary. “Tujhe Swades ka Mohan Bhargav bann ne ka mauka mil raha hain,” is his friend Prateek’s (Biswapati Sarkar) idea of giving Abhishek a pep talk, but the former’s consistent hangdog demeanour says anything but.

Failing to land a proper placement after college, Abhishek realises this is his only chance to earn a living currently, even as he’s determined to crack the CAT exam and move on to greener pastures. Once at the village, he predictably finds it tough – for starters, the keys to his derelict accommodation, that doubles as the panchayat office, go missing, resulting in a series of hilarious situations (for the audience, not for a frustrated Abhishek) – and he quickly discovers the magic of jugaad (an episode chronicling his ‘manipulative’ methods to get a solar light installed in the office so that he can continue studying even during the daily power outage is a delight). He does warm to Phulera and its inhabitants gradually (that episode of some unlikely male bonding over a couple of beers in the middle of a field in the dead of the night will make you smile), but the show keeps it real in not turning him into a social crusader overnight.

Panchayat touches upon a number of pressing issues that dog India (rural, and otherwise) – from superstition to male entitlement, dowry to patriarchy – but tempers them with a certain lightness of touch. The series can be accused of being superficial about the themes it addresses in each episode but one is willing to overlook that because of the warmth and wit that emanates from its core.

Panchayat is peopled by an ensemble of delightful actors at the top of their game. Jitendra Kumar – or Jeetu, as he is popularly known, and recently seen as the lead in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan alongside Ayushmann – brings his trademark Everyman quality to the role of a man caught in a hopeless situation but trying to make the most of it. His death stares – a result of acute frustration – could provide enough fodder for a barrage of memes.

Raghubir Yadav, as the village’s pradhan, is predictably in fine form, bringing in both emotion and an endearing bullheadedness to his part. His good-natured sparring with his wife Manju (a crackling but underutilised Neena Gupta) give Panchayat its laugh-out-loud moments. A special word for Chandan Roy as Abhishek’s man Friday Vikas and Faisal Malik as the assistant pradhan Prahlad, who lend Panchayat both humour and heft. Chandan, in particular, excels.

Panchayat is recommended viewing for the manner in which it takes a seemingly predictable theme and template and crafts a feel-good story out of it. The final episode sets the series up interestingly for Season 2. This one has “mitti ki khushboo” – as one character aptly puts it – written all over it.

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Post source : The Telegraph

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