Director: Deepak Mishra
Cast: Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta, Jitendra Kumar
Panchayat, a web series created by TVF (The Viral Fever) which just dropped on Amazon Prime Video, is a detour to rustic simplicity from the urbane slickness of their previous shows like Four More Shots Please, Inside Edge or Made In Heaven. But this is no hinterland crime special like Mirzapur. In fact, far from it.
Panchayat is where India meets Bharat and a series of Malgudi-Days-like village adventures start right off the bat. Raghuveer Yadav sets the tone for what's to follow while washing his hands under the village handpump as he makes his introductions to the new Panchayat Secretary Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) with the explanation, "Aisa nahi hai ki ghar mein shauchalay nahin hai. Do do tho hai. Lekin khet mein chale jaate hain to ghoomna ka ghoomna ho jaata hai aur systemo saaf ho jaata hai."
Young Abhishek lands himself a sarkari naukri as the Secretary in the Panchayat of a village named Phulera in Uttar Pradesh. He hates the job profile but encouraged by his buddy (Biswapati Sarkar) takes it up anyway as a filler of sorts while prepping to clear CAT for a brighter future. His friend keeps reminding him that the village job offers him an opportunity to become Mohan Bhargav (Shah Rukh Khan in Swades) instead of joining the corporate rat race, but Abhishek is not entirely convinced.
The first episode introduces us to the main characters, namely Manju Devi the village Pradhan (Neena Gupta), her husband or Pradhan Pati (Raghuveer Yadav), the Sahayak, Vikas (Chandan Roy) and Deputy Pradhan, Prahlad (Faisal Malik). The episode eases us into the rhythm and preoccupations of the village that are entirely different from the city.
As things stand, Abhishek is rather disdainful of the village ways and folks around him. But over time, he, as well as the viewer, begins to get a glimpse of all that lies beneath the surface of the mundane village proceedings.
From adventures concerning spirits that reside in trees to village feuds over a family planning slogan or the freestyle patriarchal way of working, among other things, are all covered meticulously and humorously in the episodes of this slice-of-village-life series. Written by Chandan Kumar and directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra, Panchayat is delightfully simple and yet captures the essence of village life rather well.
The world of Phulera is etched out in all its provincial hues by Amitabh Singh's innovative camerawork with plenty of high angle shots, Anurag Saikia's lively background score, Tarpan Shrivastava's meticulous production design and Priyadarshini Muzumdar's costumes.
However, it is the ensemble of talented actors who really make Panchayat a delightful watch. Raghuveer Yadav, along with Faisal Malik and Chandan Roy have the necessary colloquialism, critical to such slice-of-life series, down pat. Daily rituals like squatting on the ground or speaking deferentially to authority are performed with such accuracy that you can barely tell that these are actors and not actual villagers.
Jitendra Kumar as the well-meaning city slicker is sincere but not half as good as the company he keeps in the show. Raghuveer Yadav, in particular, shines in a role that seems to have been written for him.
City-slickers, small-town audience or country hicks, whichever category you may fall in, Panchayat is a must-watch for those who enjoy India stories.