- Platform: Amazon Prime Video
- Original Air date: 20/05/2022
- Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Faisal Malik, Raghubir Yadav, Chandan Roy
- Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra
I was bowled over by Panchayat Season 1 and was confident that the 2nd season of it would be funnier, more emotionally rewarding, and would deal with a fresh set of problems plaguing rural India. What I didn’t expect was for it to leave me nearly in tears after a final episode that did everything right and yet forced me to hate the makers for taking the story in the direction that they did. I was so much in love with the adorable village folks of the series that I couldn’t bear to see them in any kind of danger or misery. Even one of the perpetual negative characters (if at all you may call him so) of the series is so adorable in his mischievous endeavors that after a while he becomes just as endearing as the other colorful characters of the village. Unfortunately, by the final episode of the season, some of the most loveable characters of the series are faced with a tragedy that looks insurmountable and they nearly get buried under the weight of it. If that was not enough, the makers also hinted at a possibility of one of the major characters of the series parting ways from the rest which would further heap misery on an already languishing lot.
Season 2 of the series starts right after the events of Season 1. Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar) has finally embraced village life and is beginning to enjoy every facet of it. His acquaintance with Rinky (Sanvikaa) is just beginning to bloom into a full-fledged friendship. However, everything is not all right in the village. One of the villagers, Bhushan (Durgesh Kumar), and his wife, Kranti Devi (Sunita Rajwar) are doing everything in their power to create a ruckus in the village that would endanger the position of power that the Pradhan, Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) and Pradhan-Pati Brij Bhushan Dubey (Raghubir Yadav) enjoy. Their final goal is to take over the Panchayat. They have a family feud with the Dubeys and are hell-bent on kicking them out of their positions.
At about the same time, Abhishek lands up in a verbal tussle with the local MLA that forces a difficult choice on Brij Bhushan. He could either support Abhishek in the altercation endangering the developmental activities of the village that need the support of the MLA or support the MLA and invite the wrath of Abhishek who he loves dearly. There are also minor issues like ensuring the availability of toilets in every home under the “Open Defecation Free” village scheme and the lengths that Abhishek and the others have to go to pacify one jilted beneficiary.
There is nothing remarkable about the story or the characters of the series. We see the characters come up against ordinary day-to-day issues and we see them deal with most of these issues but in the solution of each of these issues lies answers to some of the most basic but important problems plaguing humanity as a whole. When to pacify a jilted beneficiary, the Pradhan Pati opens his house to the beneficiary’s family to let them use his toilet every morning until the toilet seat is installed in the his house, he is basically breaking down the walls of conservatism and opening up his house to someone in the village who is as excited for a toilet at his house as a child would be for an expensive toy. By doing this we are not only shown an easy fix to a certain problem but how inclusivity and little kindness can solve major issues and help spread love and oneness.
When we see the Pradhan-pati and his wife donate 20,000 to a Puja that he is conducting with the entire village’s help to prove his control over the masses of the village in front of the MLA, we understand the politics and the noble yet somewhat shady motives behind the donation. But Pradhanji’s masterstroke is undermined by Bhushan and his wife by a swift and cunning move when they decide to sponsor the tent and other logistics of the Puja from their humble business thereby projecting a higher monetary value of contribution than the Pradhan. This not only documents the cunning intellect of Bhushan and his wife but also shows us how easy it is to undermine a move that is born out of selfish desires and motives and not noble inspirations. The series is peppered with numerous such beautiful sequences.
The beating heart of Panchayat is its characters and it is these characters that make us one with the story and everything that the makers of the series are trying to drive at. There is a lesson to learn from every character. Yes! Even from the drunken jeep driver who passes out in the Panchayat office and proves to be a nuisance for everyone.
Jitendra Kumar as Abhishek has metamorphed into someone who can not only conduct himself as any other villager would in the village but is also deft enough at it to help someone else understand the different intricacies of the village life. He has started forging relationships that are ironclad and is also not afraid to take sides. The only person that he is uncomfortable around is the Pradhan’s daughter. It is here that his social skills die on him. As the story progresses, we see him constantly make choices and take decisions that shape his life as a Secretary of the Panchayat and also as an integral part of the village dynamics. I can’t imagine anyone else essaying the role other than him.
Neena Gupta as Manju Devi has a much more pronounced presence this time around and she makes good use of the beefed-up screen time that she has been provided. I loved her expression of outrage in the end when she is seen dealing with the MLA after he had willfully insulted several distinguished members of the village. Raghubir Yadav’s character was wonderfully established in the last season. This time around he is provided more conflicts to deal with and the biggest of them all is his love for Abhishek and his desire to still be in power by doing something that he knows will enrage Abhishek. The last episode of the series gives him a chance to tug at our hearts and just by the way he approaches these scenes and the expression that he brings to his character was alone enough to make his performance stand out in the entire series.
Faisal Malik as the up-Pradhan, Prahlad Pandey is the biggest comic relief after Vikas but he proves to be the most potent tear-jerker in the end with his expressions and masterful dealing of a tragedy that affects everyone related to him. Chandan Roy as Vikas is as sweet as he was in the first season and now that he has forged a stronger bond with Jitendra Kumar’s Abhishek, he takes his outlandish yet simple mannerisms in critical situations to a whole new level that will make one and all roll with laughter. It would be a blasphemy to not mention Durgesh Kumar and Sunita Rajwar who are absolutely delightful in their rendition of the characters that give the protagonists a run for their money. They are funny in such a different way that it will make you question whether to love them or hate for the path that they take to dealing with their issues with the Panchayat.
I tried asking myself why I loved Panchayat so much and the answer was that for the first time in years, we have a rendition of the Indian villages and villagers that is true to how the Indian villages and villagers are. They are not the blood-thirsty patriarchal monsters that Bollywood had us believing with their unrelenting efforts to destroy the credibility and inherent beauty of the Indian villages. I fell in love with the simplicity and loveable ways of the characters that are directly inspired by the knowledgeable and calculated understanding of the Indian villages and Indian village life. We must thank the team of The Viral Fever (TVF) for making a conscious effort to understand the various aspects of India in every series that they make and bring out a true, clean, and consumable rendition of it. One can get entertained and enlightened by their products. That is something rare in these times and for all this and a whole lot more, we need to appreciate their effort. Panchayat Season 2 is a must-watch. The ones who haven’t seen the first season must watch it now so that they can enjoy the 2nd season.