BOTTOM LINE: A Moderately Appealing Small-Town Tale
|Platform: Amazon Prime||Genre: Comedy/Drama|
What Is the Story About?
Abhishek Tripathi was any other engineer in a cushy metropolis who trusted the placement drive in his college to earn him a job in the corporate sector. Like many of his counterparts, the entrance exam for a government job was merely a backup option. However, what if the backup turns out to be the only career option for the engineer? Abhishek cribs about the offer to take up the role of a Panchayat Secretary initially and is reluctant to accept what destiny has in store for him. The show journeys through the trials and tribulations of the youngster deputed in Phulera, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh.
Panchayat is a wonderful addition to the lead actor Jitendra Kumar’s career – he gets a well-rounded role with a terrific character graph that taps many of his dimensions as an actor, be it humour, vulnerability, dialogue delivery or on-screen composure. It’s wonderful that supporting actors are getting immense scope to shine and finally earning their deserved share of limelight in the digital format – Raghuvir Yadav and Neena Gupta are excellent as an on-screen couple. Despite the oddities in their roles, the actors bring forward the core of the characters with great assurance. Faisal Malik, Chandan Roy, Biswapati Sarkar are cast aptly for their brief yet charming appearances.
Panchayat is the latest among the many web series that are trying to capture the spirit of the heartland of Uttar Pradesh with all its quirks. Though it’s more or less becoming a stereotype for web-series filmmakers to place their stories in a small-town backdrop, the homegrown flavour to the Indian webspace is indeed refreshing. This show, like one of its dialogues say, is an interesting tweak to the Swades universe – where an urban-bred youngster discovers his country’s roots the hard way. It imaginatively casts a light on the struggles of a millennial in coming to terms with rural politics and man-management.
Permanent Roommates filmmaker Deepak Kumar Mishra milks the long-winded storytelling format to discuss the trivialities of our system through a handful of peculiar characters in a village. It’s hard to believe that this hamlet doesn’t even have a hotel – it’s a place where the internet seems a luxury and electricity, a privilege. The protagonist needs to negotiate with the sarpanch to get a half litre’s milk from his buffalo. A bridegroom is asked to share the room with the protagonist for a night at the Panchayat office. Everyone is bothered about each other’s business. They’re too happy to believe that the universe doesn’t extend beyond the village.
The show’s ‘Discovery of India’ approach isn’t great news for its momentum though. Halfway through Panchayat, it’s no rocket science for a viewer to predict what’s to arrive next. Panchayat has its limitations but makes a delicious meal of those little moments – it’s a trademark of every well-done TVF show. It explores the emptiness that a youngster is likely to experience in a village where everyone around him is a stranger and how by the end of the show, the village is almost family. On the flip side, it wants to be raw to a certain extent but doesn’t want to let go of its feel-good flavour either. The balance goes for a toss at a few instances though.
The episodes where the protagonist debunks all the myths associated with a haunted tree and helps the sarpanch learn the national anthem are among the better-written stretches of the series. The sole action block seems more of an afterthought than a necessity. From superstitions to birth-control policies to women empowerment and corruption – the show touches upon a broad spectrum of issues but somehow they don’t come together like a unit. It only feels like an option from a checklist of all stereotypes associated with a small-town being ticked.
The sugarcoated slice-of-life tone becomes an indulgence later into the series. It’s highly likely that you’ll appreciate Panchayat better when you don’t watch all the episodes at a stretch. The show could serve as a good example for many screenwriters who believe a story wouldn’t work without a romantic interest for the protagonist. With no room for vulgarity and playing safe within the feel-good space, Panchayat needed more meat to its story beyond the finely crafted moments.
Music and Other Departments?
It’s not often that you see the music in a show being in complete sync with its writing. The dialogues are full of wit but never try too hard. The music helps us celebrate the silences as much as the cacophony. The visuals are peppy but are also purposefully restrictive – it’s an effective way of communicating with a viewer about how small the village is. The screenwriting is smart – yet, couldn’t the makers have resisted the temptation to end the show with a hint of a possible romance between the protagonist and the sarpanch daughter?
The feel-good vibe
Imaginative ways to address the oddities in a village
Predictable beyond a point
Good story not explored well enough
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur
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