Panchayat review: Jitendra Kumar takes over from Shah Rukh Khan in this quirky desi drama

Panchayat review: Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta unite after Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan to deliver a compelling village drama that is high on humour.
Panchayat review: Jitendra Kumar plays panchayat secretary Abhishek Tripathi on the show.
Panchayat review: Jitendra Kumar plays panchayat secretary Abhishek Tripathi on the show.
Updated on Apr 03, 2020 12:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRuchi Kaushal

Panchayat
Cast:
Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav,
Director:
Deepak Kumar Mishra

Recall a sharp and suave Shah Rukh Khan leaving his comfortable and rewarding NASA job to come back to his motherland and serve his own people in Swades? 16 years later, Jitendra Kumar lands in a village to take up the government job at a panchayat, but his reasons are far less patriotic, at least in the beginning. He is neither as intelligent as SRK’s Mohan Bhargav nor is he bidding goodbye to a rewarding career. However, this rural drama is as compelling as the Ashutosh Gowariker creation, with a lot of humour thrown in.

 Watch Panchayat trailer here

Say ‘panchayat’ and what comes to the mind is the social science chapter about an evergreen tree and a sarpanch in its shade with the villagers in attendance. It’s time to unlearn those dated lessons and get an updated picture of a modern village where the problems are far quirkier than just land disputes and child marriages. The Amazon Prime Video series created by TVF brings to the urban audience a hardly ever seen picture of a village panchayat run by an unofficial pradhan pati - well, husband of a pradhan is a pradhan himself, not by law but by logic.

Meet Neena Gupta, the elected pradhan of a village in the Balia district of Uttar Pradesh, who is pradhan simply because the seat was made reserved for women, disqualifying her husband due to his gender. While she’s the pradhan on paper, the entire village has happily made its peace with her husband (Raghubir Yadav) being the one in power. Ignorance is bliss for this uneducated homemaker who is only bothered about her daughter’s marriage and prefers to call the shots at home but hands over the reins of the panchayat office to the man of the house.

Neena Gupta as Pradhan Manju Devi in Panchayat.
Neena Gupta as Pradhan Manju Devi in Panchayat.

Enters Jitendra Kumar, a living example of why one should work hard in high school to not end up with a dead-end job like his. As his corporate buddy parties the night away every Friday, he is charging emergency lights and killing mosquitoes. It’s a shame how we see the village from the eyes of Jitendra and burst into laughter during situations which will hardly amuse a common villager. There is no dull moment as the duties of a panchayat secretary -- from making birth certificates to implementation of government policies like MNREGA and family planning -- are shown in the most hilarious manner possible. From addressing grassroot corruption, dowry culture to the birth of a blind belief, the show presents some never seen before aspects of a panchayat in the most light-hearted manner.

The 8-episode series moves at its own pace, just like the mundane life of a village where lights go out soon after sunset. There is no extra effort to carve a hero figure out of the modern-day bachelor (Jitendra) who won’t move an inch to help the needy. One thing that definitely catches the eye is the camera work. The aerial shots and low angles add a magical touch to the cinematography, which could otherwise look dull and faded amid the empty fields and irregular skyline.

Raghubir Yadav as Pradhan Pati in Panchayat.
Raghubir Yadav as Pradhan Pati in Panchayat.

The planning that goes into the making of an original socially relevant comedy is clearly visible. The moment Raghubir Yadav’s phone rings to Rinkiya Ke Papa, you are paying as much attention as the actor himself. These little touches add mood to the series.

The character arc of Neena Gupta’s Manju Devi is worth applause. Jitendra steps into rural space for the first time and looks as bewildered as his character. His resilience is sometimes heartbreaking as he holds back his deep-embedded frustration for the sake of a government job. Raghubir is the life of the party and again re-emphasises that experience and talent will tell.

Also read: Neena Gupta on lockdown: ‘Nothing cheers me but one tries to be cheerful, what else can one do’

Panchayat is a perfect example that what you really need to make a series sing is a solid script. If you are looking for something beyond the good old Ramayan and Mahabharat during lockdown, Panchayat should definitely be on your must-watch list.

Author tweets @ruchik87

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Saturday, December 04, 2021