Panchayat S2 Review: Neena Gupta thrives as Jitendra Kumar’s Sachiv Ji settles in Phulera


Panchayat S2 Review: Neena Gupta thrives as Jitendra Kumar's Sachiv Ji settles in Phulera

It has only been almost two months since the Mishras of TVF show Gullak took us into the heart of small town India and its bittersweet struggles and victories. Relatable and real, the show managed to walk a fine line between the personal and the universal for its fourth straight season. Now, in another masterful presentation from TVF, Panchayat Season Two, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, offers plenty of lived-in moments and a heartwarming experience that audiences will remember long after watching.

Same village, same actors and same theme music, but nothing that feels monotonous – that’s the beauty of it Panchayat 2. They become just as emotionally invested in the lives of the residents of Phulera Village as they were in the first season. And there are enough laughs along the way.

The first season of Panchayat, eight episodes long, focused on fresh out of college Abhishek Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar). His government job takes him to a small village in Uttar Pradesh, Phulera as Panchayat Sachiv. The city boy struggles to adjust to a village with drastic speed changes, power outages and a different socio-economic reality. He focuses his attention on passing the CAT exam so he can escape from Phulera. He is accompanied on his journey by Pradhanji (Raghubir Yadav), his wife Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), who is the real Pradhan. grams sevak Vikas (Chandan Roy) and up-pradhan Prahlad (Faisal Malik). All of them together make his life easier and in the eighth episode Abhishek finally settles down in Phulera.

Cut to Season 2 where Abhishek grins in the early scenes as he lets the workers in Phulera do the work, clearly indicating that he is adjusting to village life. Writer Chandan Kumar and director Deepak Kumar Mishra’s subtle handling of the lives of the residents of Phulera enhances the show’s lively feel through an exquisite grasp of the story.

In one instance, when his guests insist that Pradhan Ji (Yadav) also eat dessert at his daughter Rinky’s birthday party, he replies: “Abhi toh bohot bachaa hai, hum toh subah bhi ye hi khayenge (there’s a lot left, I’ll have to eat it in the morning too)”. This reminded me of times when I had to eat the leftovers from a party at home until they were over or stale. Another hilarious and relatable moment is when one of the characters sits on his scooter, only to jump up immediately as the scorching sun has turned him into a pot. How could you not relate to that while living in Delhi’s 49 degree temperature?

Panchayat 2 Faisal Malik, Raghuvir Yadav and Chandan Roy in Panchayat 2.

The creators of Panchayat 2 projected the Indian hinterland in a way we are not used to seeing on screen. It is not Mirzapur with its arms and gangs, nor are you greeted by our hero and heroine to dance into sarso ke khet. Instead, it’s a village that deals with relevant issues such as open defecation, alcohol addiction and the installation of video cameras, but with a touch of humor.

The one leading these problems is Abhishek, who has no intention of making big changes in the village but is only bound by his duty and doesn’t want to be reprimanded by his superior. He only addresses the issue of open defecation when informed of a “surprise” inspection. This typical government employee’s approach to administration is not new to Indians. Jitendra Kumar as Abhishek is brilliant. It portrays the frustration of an aspiring youth stuck in the wrong place and the worries of a kind-hearted person in equal measure. Kudos to the makers who gave us no’aadarshwaadi‘ Government official as we are not used to having one.

Aside from Jitendra, the entire cast including actors Chandan Roy, Faisal Malik, Sunita Rajwar, Durgesh Kumar and Shrikant Verma has a well-written, clear and simple yet charming script that takes it up a notch with their superb performances.

Among them all, Manju Devi, played by the perfectly cast Neena Gupta, is the real eye-catcher. Although she is the village pradhan, as a housewife she likes to fulfill her to-do list. Her husband Brij Bhushan Dubey (Yadav, another actor par excellence) is the de-factor Pradhan here. That doesn’t mean, however, that she isn’t up to her official duties or that she happily follows all of her husband’s commands.

Neena Gupta Panchayat 2 Neena Gupta in Panchayat 2. (Photo: Amazon Prime Video)

It’s fascinating how she does what she sees fit, whether it’s finding a bridegroom for her daughter or negotiating the price of mud as a village pradhan. Once she even asks Brij Bhushan’s friend, who has come home, to pick up the plate he ate on and put it away. She’s not even afraid of the callous MLA, who will insult her husband and others close to her, showing him his place in her inimitable style. It’s good to see Gupta getting more screen time this season as she brings so much rawness and nuance to her performance.

The only hiccup comes when the narrative meanders to a tragedy-ridden Prahlad in the final episode. But it can be overlooked given the nurturing experiences the show gives us to appreciate. Panchayat 2’s strength lies in the fact that it never takes itself too seriously and effortlessly slides into situation comedy.

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