Panchayat Season 2: The comfort of familiarity

Panchayat Season 2
Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra
Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav, Faisal Malik, Chandan Roy

What makes a place home? The easiest answer, of course, is that home is where the heart is. What endears a heart enough to convert a stand-alone house with dusty files stacked around and a makeshift kitchen, into a ‘home’ are the people who touch your life with their warmth and become part of your life, extended family.

The first season of Panchayat ended with Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) — who reluctantly moves to Phulera village as the secretary to the local Pradhan Manju Devi (Neena Gupta) — trying to fall in love with the place by taking a top-angle view of it from a water tank, against the setting sun. Just when he thinks there is nothing spectacular about it, he meets Pradhan’s young daughter Rinky (Sanvikaa), sipping tea from a flask as she admires the view. The second season opens with Tripathi following suit.

This time around, Tripathi seems to have settled into the humdrum of village life, even though he still dreams of doing MBA and fat paychecks. But he is more sure-footed as he navigates village politics, rivalries, sticky situations and disgruntled locals. Manju Devi, too, is more assured of her position as the Pradhan even though her husband, Brij Bhusan Dubey (Yadav), still runs the show on her behalf. But she is learning the ropes and taking a stand. As the power couple of this rural setting, Gupta and Yadav, both fine actors, unsurprisingly bring a lived-in vibe to their performance.

Neena Gupta, Panchayat Neena Gupta plays the role of Manju Devi in Panchayat.

What makes Tripathi’s life in Phulera easier and gives the show its emotional core is the friendship that he shares with his assistant Vikas (Roy), the deputy Pradhan Prahlad (Faisal Malik) and Dubey, forming a merry quartet. This lends a certain fuzziness to the show, whose main cast remains unchanged. There is also the promise of a budding romance, as he is caught exchanging furtive glances and smiles with Rinky.

The cast seems to have grown more comfortable with the fictional world they inhabit. Their performance remains the show’s selling point. That apart, the strength of the series lies in the writing, as it vividly captures village life through the eyes of a keen observer.

Panchayat gained popularity with its astute perception of rural life, with all its eccentricities and pitfalls. This season (with eight episodes) digs deeper by adding more details and subtle humour to a narrative that unfolds at a leisurely pace, in keeping with the rustic setting. For instance, before making a public announcement, there is a debate over whether to use ‘priya’ and ‘pyaare’ while addressing the villagers. And they settle for the latter. The newly-installed CCTVs are used for finding a lost goat and a missing pair of flip-flops. The jeep driver hired to spread the de-addiction message in the village turns up in an inebriated state himself. Yet, he drives away winning Tripathi’s sympathies, as it turns out that the driver was heartbroken over his wife leaving him.

The second season has scaled up the show’s concerns. The seemingly idyllic life in Phulera is shaken when a tragedy strikes. This makes the show shed its signature feel-good vibe, unexpectedly, even as it brings the community closer. But there are a few other incidents, such as the local MLA taking umbrage to Tripathi calling his bluff that shakes the village out of its complacent and, at times, naive ways.

Looks like, in the upcoming season, Panchayat’s storyline might veer into some unfamiliar territories. This shouldn’t compromise its positive tenor and spirit.