Panchayat is a simple story about an engineering graduate, who goes to a small UP-based village after being recruited as the local panchayat secretary. Every single chapter in this 8-episode-long Amazon Prime series lasts about 30 minutes, and it revolves around the simple things that happen in a village.
One episode is basically about the protagonist Abhishek going to a studio to have his photograph taken for the IIM entrance exam application. Another is about Abhishek busting an age-old village superstition that stood the test of time. And, another is about someone stealing our protagonist’s computer monitor (what happens to the PC component is as funny as anything else in ‘Panchayat’). But the glue that binds the show together is that it shows a city man getting used to living in a village. Each episode is named after the things shown in it, like ‘Bhootha Ped’ in the case of the superstition chapter to name one.
The beauty of ‘Panchayat’ is that some episodes would work even if the milieu is changed. For instance, you could replace the studio in ‘Bahot Hua Samman’ with a saloon, and it would still be just as funny and wisecracking. The show works thanks to the perceptive writing and the terrific cast. ‘Panchayat’ is a fine ensemble piece with an array of strong performances.
Jitendra Kumar easily slips into the shoes of this engineering grad, who has all the flaws and good qualities as any other ordinary man. Sometimes, he is the kind of man who gets easily annoyed over simple matters, like his assistant asking for his advice to help a family find a name for their newborn. Other times, he is this wise-talking graduate who prepares for hours on end for the IIM entrance examination. I have not seen Jitendra’s other works but he reminds me of a younger, leaner Rajkummar Rao.
The show’s other principal characters are Raghubir Yadav as the Panchayat acting ‘Pradhan’ Brij Bhushan; Neena Gupta as Bhushan’s wife Manju Devi; Chandan Roy as Abhishek’s assistant ‘Vikas’; and, Faisal Malik as Prahlad Pandey/ Deputy Pradhan. They all have scene-stealing moments, but it is Jitendra Kumar and Raghubir Yadav who get the maximum screen time.
Brik Bhushan initially comes across as a corrupt villager with a big ego, but he also has good qualities as we quickly discover. Raghubir Yadav is a hoot as Bhushan, owning the role as only he can. Bhushan keeps reminding his wife of Abhishek’s monthly salary, ‘Sirf 20,000’, which can make most engineering graduates and even MBA grads wince.
You wish Panchayat had more of Neena Gupta’s Manju Devi, but it is only late into the show do we even discover why she is there in the first place. The makers limit her screen time only to deliver a sucker punch of a climax, which will have feminists rooting for the character.
But seasoned binge-watchers be warned. Panchayat is not about the big resolutions and grand endings you guys prefer. And, nor is it about the so-called new India. The Amazon Prime show has hardly any build-up that is aimed to prepare binge-watchers for what’s next only the assembly line. There is a Swades reference early on, but all we see in the show is life unfolding itself in a village (in a jovial way, I must add).
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.