July 23, 2024

INDIA TAAZA KHABAR

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Happy days are here again – Beyond Bollywood

7 min read
Happy days are here again – Beyond Bollywood

Season 3 has taken its time to arrive, but Sachiv ji, Pradhan ji, and co. make it worth the wait. Writer-creator Chandan Kumar has succeeded where most series fail – overcoming the curse of subsequent seasons.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 / 5)

Panchayat S3 [2024]

By Mayur Lookhar

Two years and ten days. That’s how long Amazon Prime Video viewers have waited for the third season of Panchayat. Hang on, the wait was longer by a month and a half between the first and second seasons. However, season 2 ended on a grim note with the promise of an epic battle between Pradhan-pati Brijbhushan Dubey [Raghubir Yadav] and the dangerous legislator Chandu Singh [Pankaj Jha].

After all the fun, we thought Panchayat would mean business. However, the opening episode proves to be an anti-climax as the legislator is convicted in an animal cruelty case, revealed via a phone conversation. What just happened here? Has writer-creator Chandan Kumar dumped his antagonist? Is Panchayat season 3 going to take a different path? The curiosity that was built at the end of the final episode of season 2 quickly dissipates.

What then transpires here, we will come to later. Firstly, one is intrigued by the beginning. Contrary to usual practice, there is no recap. Instead, season 3 begins with the arrival of a new sachiv (secretary). Watching this man arrive on a bike and struggle to receive any communication from the Panchayat office is partly reminiscent of Abhishek Tripathi’s [Jitendra Kumar], the preceding sachiv‘s first day in Fulera. Who needs a recap when the best moments from the previous seasons play in your mind? For the record, the new sachiv, who gloated about his local political connections, scoots out of Fulera after overhearing that Chandu Singh has been convicted for animal cruelty – killing and eating a dog. Oh goodness, where did that come from?

This leaves us with the all-important question: what will be the conflict in season 3? The beauty of Panchayat lies in the fact that it is a show without a central storyline. The Panchayat office serves as the hub from which stories germinate. There’s a story when a villager visits the office with a grievance. There are stories when Sachiv ji is with Vikas, Prahlad, or Pradhan-pati in the Panchayat office. Stories emerge from people’s homes. Jeez, there’s even a story when Sachiv ji is alone in the office. For three seasons, Chandan Kumar has created tons of fascinating moments, which is what drives this Panchayat.

Durgesh Kumar.  Source Prime Video

With MLA Chandu Singh losing his position and being jailed, it’s the envious Bhushan (Durgesh Kumar) who looks for ways to question the competency of Pradhan Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), Pradhan-pati, and the other office bearers. His ire is drawn by the alleged favoritism shown towards the poor from West Fulera in granting homes under the PM Garib Nivaas scheme. Not all applicants have a genuine need. An old woman stages a drama to prove that she has been thrown out of her home by her son and daughter-in-law. Sachiv ji quickly busts their plans, but Pradhan-pati decides to still back her candidature.

Durgesh Kumar and Pankaj Jha. Source Prime Video

This subplot gets its fair share of screen time in the early episodes before the focus shifts to the lack of road in Fulera. It’s here that a shanti samjhauta (peace initiative) is mooted by Bhushan, marking the return of the old enemy. A ‘Bird’ man, Bam Bahadur, is summoned, and the tragic yet hilarious events that follow set the stage for the epic battle we yearned for in season 3. And there’s also a brief return to Fulera for the haughty ‘a##hole’ jijaji Ganesh [Aasif Khan].

Sanvikaa and Jitendra Kumar

Between the panchayat politics, Chandan Kumar and director Deepak Kumar Mishra weave in the tender friendship between Sachiv ji and Rinki (Sanvikaa). While it has romantic undertones, this budding relationship is like a bubble. The duo keeps bumping into each other, but just when you think there might be some mushy conversations, the bubble bursts.

Sanvikaa

From Rashmika Mandanna to Tripti Dimri, and now Prajakta Ranta, the ‘national crush’ title keeps changing hands. Though she isn’t seeking it, why isn’t the equally talented and gorgeous Sanvikaa called one?

Panchayat’s beauty lies in the simplicity of its world, its rooted characters, the simple troubleshooting measures, and the humour, which takes on a more slapstick tone in this season. The caste undertone is never explicitly stated, but it subtly exists. It’s a rare series where screen time is methodically divided, thereby not burdening one or two characters. From Pradhan to Pradhan-pati, Sachiv ji to Rinky, or Prahlad (Faisal Malik) to Vikas (Chandan Roy), each of them is a protagonist, with collective as well as individual conflicts. Even the envious Bhushan is fit to be called a protagonist. This is what makes Panchayat a true village drama. One becomes so immersed in the lives, the people, and the politics that you begin to identify the leading characters as Pradhan ji, Pradhan-pati, Sachiv ji, and even Vidhayak ji.

Jitendra Kumar.  Source: Amazon Prime Video

Each actor in this series seems tailor-made for Panchayat. Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav, seasoned masters, continue to inspire. Jitendra Kumar shot to the limelight with Panchayat, and he hasn’t looked back since. While he’s slightly understated in the early episodes, when the crisis hits, Abhishek Tripathi unleashes the lath maar Sachiv ji within him.

Faisal Malik in Panchayat. Source – Prime Video

Midway through the second season, we formed a deep emotional connection with Faisal Malik and his character, Prahlad. For a Muslim man to display such devotion to his devout Hindu character was incredibly heartwarming, a testament to India’s pluralism. Though his faith in the divine is naturally shaken following his son’s martyrdom, Prahlad remains a towering figure, steadfast in defending his fellow Fulerans. It’s truly touching to see Prahlad convince the old lady to change her mind about finding a separate home under the PM Garib Nivaas Yojana. He invites her into his own home, showing her what it’s like to live in loneliness. “Kya koi sona bechke, koi eeth patthar khareedta hai kya?” [Does one sell their gold (family in this context) to buy bricks?]. Need we say more?

Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta. Source – Prime Video

The principal characters stay true to form, and what’s also admirable is how Chandan Kumar doesn’t hide the flaws in Pradhan-pati either. Eventually, the de facto Pradhan ji (Dubey) admits to not being fair in the distribution of homes for the poor under the government scheme.

While men in the village are often at the forefront, the women too make their mark. Manju Devi is not a remote-controlled Pradhan. She has a mind, a voice, and a tongue of her own. One lady who finds her voice is Khushbu (Tripti Sahu), the wife of Vikas. Sahu has a great screen presence and charms us with her innocent yet intense demeanor. Then with a name like Kranti Devi, Sunita Rajwar is never short of hilarious drama.

Pankaj Jha proves to be a worthy antagonist here. We see a few different shades to him, first with his daughter and then the genuine emotional outburst upon losing his pet stallion, Sitara Singh. Purely in terms of intensity and viciousness, Chandrakishore Singh would give Gabbar Singh a run for his money.

Right from season 1, Panchayat has stood out for its quality writing, screenplay, capable cast, and impressive visual storytelling. Among the many memorable scenes in season 3, one that stands out is when Vidhayak Chandu is peeved with Binod (Ashok Pathak) for serving him mutton korma, despite him quitting meat. At first glance, it seems like a gimmick, and one might assume the politician would never eat at a lowborn’s place. However, a volte-face is common for a politician, and the aroma of the mutton curry proves too tempting for Vidhayak ji. That gluttonous look while gazing at the steaming mutton curry is epic, and the scene is finely shot.

An earlier scene also involves food, but it’s not filled with gluttony; instead, it stands out for its visual storytelling. Here we see Prahlad all set to open his lunchbox, but then Vikas arrives. The latter has no qualms about waiting for Prahlad to finish his lunch, but the bulky man closes the lid, with the camera closing in on the lunchbox.

Source: Prime Video

A Panchayat is a reminder why it’s important to stay connected with one’s roots. Mainstream cinema, particularly Bollywood is often slammed for long deviating from it. Rural India can relate to Panchayat closely, but city creatures crave for the beauty, the simplicity of a panchayat. Yes, they have their set of problems, particularly infrastructure, local politics yet many urbanities would happily trade their lucrative careers, the urban rat race, concrete city jungles, the fickle relationships for the free spirit, clean air, the family values, and most importantly, the large hearts of the people of Fulera. Jeez, the Fulerans, this Panchayat feels like a family, a home away from home.

It’s really hard to find critical aspects in season 3. Momentarily, we feared whether the Garib Nivaas Yojana is in any anyway promoting the Prime Minister’s Office.  Panchayat being released a few days before the result of the Lok Sabha election also got us curious since the incumbents are the good guys in the series. Let’s make it clear though that the battlelines are drawn, but one will have to wait for the real contest. Let’s hope though this time it’s not a two-year wait for the next season.

Watch the video review below.

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