Set against a rural backdrop, Panchayat narrates the journey of a city boy Abhishek, played by Jeetu ‘bhaiya’, who for the lack of any better jobs takes up the position of village panchayat secretary. Over the course of 8 brilliant episodes, Abhishek (and most of the audience) get their first taste of rural India. While this idea sounds novel and exotic to his friends, the ordeal proves to be deathly dull for Abhishek himself. He swots for the notoriously hard CAT ‘competition’ in his free time, to escape this boring job. As someone who has undergone the struggle of preparing for CAT before landing myself at an IIM, the struggle felt all too real and very much relatable.
TVF regular Jitendra Kumar (Pitchers, Kota Factory) is perfect for the role. It is hilarious watching him adjust to the various quirks of village life, with incredulity writ all over his face. His duties include ferrying about ghee for a village wedding, babysitting a tantrum-throwing bridegroom, teaching the National Anthem to the Pradhan, recommending “modern” baby names, and settling the ensuing family quarrel between the parents. While the show is laced with the intelligent humor you’d normally associate with a TVF show, it also has some standout funny moments. The Pradhan sending a WhatsApp forward to gauge Abhishek as a prospective son-in-law had me in splits.
While Abhishek is initially disdainful of the village ways and the people around him, they start growing on him as they show in subtle ways how much they care for him. When he is visibly upset in one episode, I loved how all the characters demonstrated concern in their own ways, without any of the over-the-top melodrama common in Indian soap operas. Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav are brilliant as the Pradhan couple and I couldn’t get enough of them. Faisal Malik’s burly deputy Pradhan and Chandan Roy’s naïve office assistant are also delightful in their roles.
The gradually evolving chemistry between the characters is beautiful and heartfelt. With its endearing cast, fascinating storylines, and terrific writing, Panchayat will definitely bring a smile to your face. Easily one of India’s finest webseries in recent times, it’s a must watch!