Panchayat 2 review: Jitendra Kumar show is heartwarming ode to India's villages; wish there was more Neena Gupta in it
Panchayat 2 review: The Amazon Prime Video dramedy is a heartwarming show that tugs at your heart and gives a relatable and unsanitised look at India's village life.
If you thought Panchayat 2 was going to be a run-of-the-mill light-hearted comedy, the kind which has existed on Indian television for decades, prepare to be proved wrong. The second season of this Jitendra Kumar-starrer slice-of-life dramedy released on Wednesday, May 18. And this time, apart from delivering the laughs, the show challenges you to think, introspect, and by the end, hold back your tears too. It is by no means a great show, but sure is a good one. Add to it the solid performances of its cast and crisp writing, and Panchayat 2 becomes a must watch. Also read: Neena Gupta says it's ‘maze hi maze’ at home with her and daughter Masaba Gupta's shows releasing back to back
Panchayat’s first season followed Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), who unwillingly accepted the job of a Panchayat secretary in the middle of nowhere--more accurately in Phulera, a remote village in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. The second season shows how Abhishek aka Sachiv Ji--has acclimatised to his role in Phulera and even developed bonds with the locals, chiefly with the village’s former Pradhan (Raghubir Yadav), his wife and the actual Pradhan (Neena Gupta), and the other two office-bearers (played by Faisal Malik and Chandan Roy).
The premise of the show is simple enough--how the city boy who has never spent time in the village, goes about adjusting to a new life and over time realise that some issues are universal. There was a risk of the second season being repetitive but Panchayat deftly avoids that. It shows growth, both in the characters and the story, allowing Abhishek to discover new dimensions of Phulera and its residents. It also avoids a trope that many shows and films set in rural India have been guilty of: showing it as an exotic freak show that is to be laughed at or ridiculed. Panchayat presents the Indian village as a real place with real people. Yes, humour exists but only in the situations people find themselves in and not in the nature of rural life.
Another thing that works in favour of Panchayat is that it is not strictly a comedy. There is no laughter track, no slapstick humour, just some mild situational comedy. It will draw the occasional chuckle and keep you entertained. But like most successful slice-of-life shows over the years (see Wagle Ki Duniya, Ye Jo Hai Zindagi or even Gullak), it’s strength lies in presenting an issue or a problem with simplicity. It deals with local politics, rivalries, and even relatable issues like standing up for your friends. But there is no melodrama. There are no monologues. The show is, by definition, a juicy slice of life.
The show’s strength is its subtlety and that is something that extends to its performances as well. Jitendra Kumar is, of course, the show’s star and he carries it on his back quite ably. The actor has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, evident by his ability to hold his own against the likes of veterans like Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta, who both are--as always--in sublime form. The most striking performances in the show come from two actors who can easily be mischaracterised as the comic relief. Chandan Roy’s Vikas and Faisal Malik’s Prahlad breathe new life into the show with their pitch-perfect acts. And Faisal does steal the show in scenes in the season finale. Won’t spoil it for you but let’s just say, the show gets you close to tears in parts.
Panchayat’s second season is by no means perfect. There are flaws and faults. The biggest one is that it was criminal to give the amazing Neena Gupta such limited screen time. Every time her Manju Devi is on screen, she lords over everyone. And that is why you are left wanting for more. Another complaint is that in trying to infuse drama, it does at times gives in to the temptation of using tired tropes. So you get the egoistic foul-mouthed politician that you have seen a thousand times. And it could do with fewer jokes about fasting women. Patriarchy exists in the villages, we get it. But why further amplify it with needless humour in such a clean show.
Panchayat 2 is a worthy second season of an already good show. To say that it improves upon the first season wouldn’t be an exaggeration. It makes you laugh, it almost makes you cry, and all this while, you can feel you have seen these people and these stories somewhere. That relatability is its USP and what truly keeps the viewer engaged till the end.
The show was originally supposed to release on May 20. It was released, almost without announcement, two days early. Some reports had claimed that the show was leaked online earlier in the day, which may have prompted the streamer to prepone the release. But whatever the reason, viewers are not complaining, I am sure.
Series: Panchayat season 2
Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra
Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Neena Gupta, Faisal Malik, Biswapati Sarkar, Chandan Roy, and Sanvika