‘Panchayat S2’ Review: Intuitive Exploration of Rural India Retains Its Humour
'Panchayat' season 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Throughout season 1 of Panchayat, Abhishek Tripathi’s (Jitendra Kumar) motivations were clear– clear CAT and leave his post as the panchayat secretary in Phulera. His motivation persists in Panchayat season 2 but his approach has changed considerably. Abhishek, who earlier represented the clueless city boy stuck in village bureaucracy against his will, now has a light skip in his step.
The way Jitendra performs Abhishek also undergoes a transformation– from the wide-eyed, perpetually frustrated young man ‘stuck’ in Phulera for work experience, Abhishek becomes the more confident and assertive sacheev (panchayat secretary) who delves even deeper into the troubles that plague rural India.
The show, written by Chandan Kumar and directed by Deepak Kumar Mishra, retains its humour and satire in this season. Egos continue to clash and anger reigns supreme in the quaint village of Phulera where anything could be blown out of proportion at a moment’s notice– especially when the cynical Bhushan (Durgesh Kumar) is involved.
Bhushan and his wife Kranti (Sunita Rajwar) are vying for the post of pradhan, dissatisfied by the way Brij Bhushan Dubey (Raghbur Yadav) is running the show, in the stead of the official pradhan Manju Devi (Neena Gupta). From the village’s ODF status to the installation of CCTV cameras, Bhushan crosses the main cast at every point.
Bhushan’s point-of-view is often a valid criticism of the way work happens in Phulera.
While we see progress on one end, there are inadequacies that Bhushan and Kranti point out but their characters are reduced to vindictive masterminds instead and Sunita Rajwar’s excellent physical comedy is underutilised in the role.
There is a silver lining– Neena Gupta gets more screen time and how. Manju Devi played a crucial role in the final episode of the first season and since then, she has become more assertive in her role as pradhan and more commanding on screen, a change that truly allows Neena to shine. Sanvikaa as Manju Devi’s daughter Rinki is impressive as an artist but her role, too, is too surface-level to leave an impact.
Worth a mention are Chandan Roy as Vikas and Faisal Malik as Prahlad Pandey who are inimitable in their roles, especially Malik in a truly heart wrenching scene towards the end. Many of the season’s laughs come from Roy and Malik and the way they interact with their surroundings.
The primary cast aside, one performance that stood out was Ashok Pathak as the demure Vinod in 'Kranti'. Through Vinod, and several other instances across the show, Panchayat explores how power– be it the thirst for it or the determination to keep it in one's grasp– hurts the underprivileged the most often making them scapegoats.
This season is no doubt more emotionally charged than its predecessor.
On their quest to secure funds for the main road, the pradhan and gang meet the callous and demeaning MLA Chandrakishore Singh (Pankaj Jha). Something that seemed like just another episodic plot point for Panchayat results in a poignant scene in the last episode (‘Parivaar’) led by Neena Gupta.
Panchayat seems to have found a comfortable groove that works for it (and it does) but there is an unshakeable feeling that there are topics it seems too shy to discuss.
The first episode ‘Naach’ seems to be setting us up for an astute observation of the concept of gender and female agency but it fizzles out to become a ‘teaching moment’ for the protagonist. While there are nods to the inherent misogyny and casteism in the people of Phulera, there's no follow through.
Like it’s first season, Panchayat season 2 works best when it focuses on the mundane but there’s a deeper (if not bigger) story to tell.
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