Tuesday, May 24, 2022

About Panchayat


I saw Panchayat because I wanted to watch something more boring than my life. Yes, that’s how add zing to my weekend life. Okay, I’m joking but frankly, I’m glad I did.

No, this is not a review. I’m simply wondering what makes a slow burner like Panchayat a winner. Go ahead, roll your eyes if you are thinking, “She writes after so long and this is it?” Can’t help, I love writing about inane stuff.

Come to think of it, a bride in Churu, Rajasthan married someone else because the groom got delayed. In a world of instant gratification, who has the patience for a show set in a village called Phulera? There’s no fun watching grass grow, is there?

Unlike filmy villages we have grown up watching, Phulera does not wake up to dulcet sounds of birds with swaying mustard fields from DDLJ or gurgling streams from Ram Teri Ganga Maili. No frolicking belles or a chatty tangewali from Sholay. It’s more like the village from Swades. But wait. Don’t expect Ye Jo Des Hai Tera to play in the background.

If the backdrop isn’t much to talk about there must be romance, right? No sir. There’s just a promise of it. All you get is a whiff.

Hum theek hai

Aap kaise hai?

Theek hain.

The single chance meeting is limited to having chai-samosa with another friend. The only other intimate encounters that the protagonist has are with Maggi and Lauki (bottle gourd).

So no romance. What about action? In the eight episode long show, the only time my heartbeat raced was when the District Magistrate spotted a villager defecating in the open. So much for action. Don’t eew, it’s the funniest scene from the entire show.

So what is it that makes Panchayat endearing?

As with cooking, the outcome of any show depends on the honesty with which it is prepared. Panchayat is written with an honest and non-preachy pen. The writer has no intention of pleasing you with clich├ęs of music, visual appeal or ‘what next’ syndrome. There are no undertones of religion, caste or social divide.

Acting remains the highlight of this show as actors slip into characters like your favourite old jeans. Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta as Pradhan couple light up the screen with their decades of experience and chemistry. Neena as Manju Devi is feisty and outspoken, she knows she's smarter than her husband but doesn't push beyond a point. 

The protagonist Abhishek, played by Jeetendra Kumar (an IIT K graduate) is itching to get out of Phulera, all the while falling in love with the village and the village Pradhan’s daughter. He’s restrained, yet a man of action. While Abhishek, aka Sachiv ji cannot shoot bullets from his ass like Akshay Kumar, he knows how to deal with the rogue harassing Rinki (Pradhan ji’s daughter). In one episode when Abhishek’s Gurgaon based friend Sidhartha visits Phulera, you realise Abhishek’s ordeals are beyond city slickers. That folks are right when they say, ‘You can only become something if you move out of your comfort zone’.

Personal assistant Vikas played by Chandan Roy and deputy Pradhan Prahlad Dubey played by Faisal Malik are as earthy, simple and honest as you can get. Vikas shines as an adorable village bumpkin who’s alternatively endearing, irritating and annoying. Faisal Malik steals the show in the culminating episode with his vulnerability as a single father. Unlike bumping into friends at a city pub, the merry quartet (Pradhan, PA, Deputy Pradhan and Sachiv) sit under a tree to drown their sorrows in beer and stale chilly paneer. The inherent niceness in the conversations and mutual respect adds to a refreshing change from expletives laden village based shows.

Add to this small yet powerful characters, for instance the dancer girl who says - we all sell different parts of our body, or the lady who spews fire over her lost slippers and the drunk driver who ends up leaving a merry wink. 

Why are people in this village happy when the only life changing moment in their life is defined by installation of a toilet seat and not by likes on their Insta post? I’m sure erratic connectivity and electricity have a role to play in matters of inner peace. How can you remain stress free when you are arguing on Twitter at 2 am? Or playing Wordle at midnight?

In a world of gourmet food, Panchayat Season 2 is like home made daal chawal. It is something to be relished with bare hands on a lazy afternoon. It is not to be binged. Nope, no spoon allowed.

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