Phulera mein aapka swagat hai’, reads a signboard at the entry point of Phulera, a non-descript, fictional village in Uttar Pradesh, where nothing seems to change—ever. But this sign, the village and its inhabitants are etched in the memory of diehard Panchayat fans, who can now catch its second season on Amazon Prime. The first season focused on how Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar), a young man with aspirations in corporate wonderland, bags the barely coveted job of Panchayat ‘Sachiv’ or secretary, which he treats as mere ‘work ex’ for his MBA. As unwilling as he is, the flaky young man finds himself increasingly embroiled in the everyday politics of a boring village and its entertaining residents while trying to adjust to the monotony of rural life.
This time, Panchayat promises an even crisper storyline, more complex character development and an interesting relationship between ‘Sachiv ji’ and his team. This season is a worthy successor of the first one and successfully creates an authentic, almost real image of the simplistic complexities of rural life.
The plot has become more interesting
Panchayat 2 deals with important issues of rural India and governance in a nuanced, light hearted manner, and delves deep into the dynamics of ‘Sachiv ji’s’ relationship with the villagers. Neena Gupta returns as real ‘Pradhan’ Manju Devi, and Raghubir Yadav as her husband, the not-so-real ‘Pradhan ji’ of Phulera.
Making sure no one defecates in the open, trying to get MLA funds for building a road, finding people’s goats through newly installed CCTV cameras—the problems that the main characters deal with are real and hilarious. With this season, director Deepak Kumar Mishra and writer Chandan Kumar have seriously raised the bar.
This time, the makers have brought in the element of serious emotional drama, which gives it a new flavour. The show has evolved in its ability to make viewers laugh and cry with its soft, subtle and tongue-in-cheek humour.
A strong cast elevates the script
The series and its characters are an example of how great acting can elevate a script. Raghubir Yadav (Brij Bhushan Dubey), Neena Gupta (Manju Devi), Chandan Roy (Vikas), Prahlad Pandey (Faisal Malik) –are not main characters, but still don’t make you think that they have a lesser role to play. The moments between Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav are delightful. One could have expected Neena Gupta to play a more important role administratively, after owning up to her responsibilities as ‘Pradhan’ in the last season, but we see her more engaged in her household duties. Saavnika is refreshing as Rinky, the ‘Pradhan’s’ daughter who was introduced last season. Despite not having much to do initially, she makes her mark as the potential love interest of Abhishek. Durgesh Kumar as Bhushan and Sunita Rajwar as Kranti Devi add a hilarious ‘tadka’ to the season despite limited screen time.
Abhishek Tripathi is shown to be the same confused, occasionally courageous, honest and frustrated man who wants out of his less-than-ideal situation. In a scene where he encounters a drunkard, the latter tells him, “Those who earn less (Rs 20,000, to be precise) are guaranteed to end up as drunkards.” Similarly, when his US-return friend tells him that he is earning a whopping Rs 1.5 crore annually, we see him represent many young, 20-something men torn between two lives—one they have to live due to their circumstances, and one that they aspire to. Jitendra does justice to his perplexed and self-righteous character, but is limited in terms of showing the shades of his acting due to how his character is written. While ‘Pradhan ji’ and Vikas can improvise and bring out funnier sides, Abhishek has to be a serious Panchayat ‘Sachiv’ doing his duty as a government officer.
Panchayat 2 refrains from controversial topics
The show isn’t trying to be righteous or diplomatic. There are references to how women are treated in patriarchal, rural households, how the set-up of arranged marriage works – but it abstains from virtue signalling. Abhishek Tripathi, Bhushan Sharma, Brij Bhushan Dubey, Prahlad Pandey are all upper-caste characters, which could be an attempt to show how powerful positions in the administrative set-up of a village are mostly occupied by upper-caste men. But otherwise, there is close to no representation of any caste dynamics or politics. While trying to show important rural and administrative issues, it does not attempt to touch on the sensitive issue of caste-based discrimination in rural India. The makers do not seem to want to touch anything controversial in the series to maintain its light-heartedness.
Panchayat 2’s music has the charm to be remembered, just like Aspirants, another TVF show on UPSC aspirants. ‘Sachiv ji’ and his team are here to win your hearts with the right cocktail of drama, comedy, emotion and nostalgia. You will giggle, laugh and cry, but will most definitely not be bored with Panchayat 2.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)