TVF's Panchayat is the journey of a government employee-cum-student who hopes to crack the big MBA league. It brings out the rural setting vividly.
Panchayat, an 8-episode web series that airs on TVF, tracks Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) and his move from the city to Phulera, Uttar Pradesh. Tripathi, who is seemingly unhappy with his government posting, is an MBA-aspirant who dreams of earning in six figures.
Unfolding over the next eight episodes is a story many have tried narrating – MBA/engineering aspirants and their dismal attempts at preparing for higher examinations while surviving low-ranking government jobs or prep-colleges in some of the most isolated corners of the country.
Much like Biswa Kalyan Rath’s Laakhon Mein Ek. The coming-of-age trope of men trying to make it big. But before that happens, what’s important is to go over are their humbling experiences, ones that tosses their lives around but forces them to evolve a worldview outside of their comfort zones.
In Panchayat, Phulera, Zilla Fakauli, is that quintessential small village where men have forever enjoyed an upper hand over their better halves. It is here that we meet Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), officially elected gram-pradhan and her husband, Brij Bhushan Dube (Raghuvir Yadav), the pradhan-pati.
Understandably, Dube-ji has taken over most of the duties from his wife and now unofficially presides as the pradhan. Rinkiya ke papa, as she lovingly addresses her husband, Manju Devi has only ever known how to complete household chores and bring up their only daughter Rinki.
For a mini-series, Panchayat deftly addresses the many gender biases that prevail in society. But it begins with the most potent web-space theme of reflecting on the struggles in the life of an Indian student.
Our protagonist, Tripathi joins this rural ecosystem as the panchayat secretary, and has a fairly pessimistic on the time he will spend here. Taking up a government posting in one of the remotest villages of India is the penalty Tripathi pays for practicing a kind of ignorance through his academic years.
With a meagre Rs 20,000 salary, he finally begins to lead a life of simplicity he is clearly not pleased with. The man begins to pity himself, while constantly going through what we popularly call F-O-M-O, or fear of missing out. Missing out on the upscale privileges of the city.
Tripathi works hard work at the panchayat office while preparing for CAT, dedicating the wee hours of the day for it. He is only looking to somehow get out of Phulera.
But while dealing with this bourgeoning misery, over the next couple of months Abhishek gradually warms up to the villagers, the same people he once could not stand the sight of.
Set in a rural backdrop, one would expect the generic green-grassland longshots that Bollywood has often fed us. Spatial representation of the written narrative has often taken precedence over the characters to begin with. Which is why we needed Panchayat to tell audiences that it’s not always important to view characters against their decided societal constructs and hierarchy.
Unavoidably, the glaring flaw that shows up in the series is that the script didn’t give its supporting ensemble enough to work with. But when in frame, the characters’ body language is right where it should be, in coherence with who they are and what they believe in, making it easier for us to believe in the people of Phulera. No exaggerations and most importantly, progressiveness within the believable bounds of an Indian village.
TVF, Filtercopy and the kind have often delivered stories that usually make it tough for us to believe in the characters and their motivations. For a change – this mini-series, one that may have simply brushed over some plot points to save time, managed to weave its cast right in by allowing them enough space to showcase their personal performances.
Credit to the writers for bringing out what’s always been so obviously evident in the society – but has been shadowed by populist representation. In times like these, don’t audiences need more stories that acknowledge the worth of failure, the worth of hard work and the importance of trying even when it’s not working out?
Abhishek Tripathi will teach us how to look at the better from the bad. Manju Devi will tell you that it’s important to step out of your comfort zones. While Dube-ji will tell you about the worth of being humble while exercising power.
Perhaps Panchayat tries to address one too many things over eight episodes. Maybe you’ll feel some of those things still remain unresolved by the time you hit the last episode. Resolution doesn’t offer itself to you when you seek it. The narrative, from where we can see it, purposely leaves some loose ends.
But it does leave one crucial lesson: Time heals everything and patience is the key.
The series offers stellar performances by Raghuvir Yadav and Neena Gupta.
As for TVF’s cover face, Jitendra Kumar, the script wasn’t solely his to begin with. Casting him was the ideal choice because, just like the script, the story wasn’t solely Abhishek’s to begin with.
Credit to him for molding himself into the ‘every-guy-we-know’. That doesn’t allow the transformation of the rest to look like it went from simplicity to stupidity.
First Published: IST