‘Panchayat’ series review: As good as an OTT release can get

Sunny Mahat

Sunny Mahat

‘Panchayat’ series review: As good as an OTT release can get

OTT releases are winning big time compared to what cinema halls have been screening of late. Mainstream Bollywood, take note

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, OTTs were uncharted territory for me. I loved the cinema hall experience with that smell of hot coffee and warm popcorn. But that love is now gone, especially when I think about the whole process of driving to a theater, buying an expensive ticket, sitting with random strangers and then having to pay exorbitant parking fees. No, sir, not happening. 

With OTTs (I have Netflix and Amazon Prime), you get everything for cheap, and the convenience of starting a movie or series whenever and from wherever you want cannot beat anything. The bigger plus are the new releases on the platforms. OTT releases are winning big time compared to what cinema halls have been screening of late.

Recently released on Amazon Prime, “Panchayat 2” is one such winner–and the perfect justification for why I don’t waste any more time in cinema halls. The first season of the comedy-drama web series, created by The Viral Fever, was first aired in April 2020 and went on to win multiple awards in India. 

Banking on the critical and commercial success of the first season, our favorite characters from Panchayat return to the screen with the same lovableness and charisma. Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar), the reluctant Panchayat secretary, is now more adjusted to the life and people of Phulera, Uttar Pradesh. 

He has built synergy with his office team Prahlad (Faisal Malik) and Vikas (Chandan Roy). He has a cordial relationship with Brij Bhushan Dubey aka Pradhan ji (Raghubir Yadav) and Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), the actual Panchayat Pradhan. Abhishek’s proximity to the Pradhan family also brings him close to their daughter Rinki (Sanvikaa). Everything is going well with the Phulera Panchayat group when Bhushan (Durgesh Kumar), dubbed Banraakas by the villagers, starts meddling in their affairs, mainly owing to a past grudge with Pradhan ji. 

Although there is continuity for some plots from the first season, Panchayat Season 2 can be watched and enjoyed as a standalone series. Deepak Kumar Mishra again takes the director’s seat for the eight episodes of the web series written by Chandan Kumar.

Centered in a small rural village, Panchayat’s simple, organic story has the underpinnings of a broader political statement. Instead of complicating the plot with a heavy juxtaposition of the personal and political, it uses narratives to tell the story of most of rural India, which is still far away from the mainstream filmmakers’ lens. 

There is not one name in the lead roles that overpower the others in Panchayat. Yes, sachib ji Abhishek gets to be the center of attention in the series. Still, the rest of the cast, composed of industry veterans Neena Gupta and Raghubir Yadav, is the film’s lifeline. My personal favorite is Vikas, the office assistant. Actor Chandan Roy excellently portrays a dehaati villager who is not one of the most intelligent in the group but still loyal and dependable.

Panchayat’s imagery of a rural UP village is grounded and realistic. The attachment to simplicity and realism is probably what makes this series loved by scores of people watching it. Maybe they can relate more to Abhishek, Pradhan Ji or Vikas than Bachhan Pandey or Chulbul Pandey. We are talking about real people and real lives in a fictional village, and people identifying with everything within. Maybe mainstream Bollywood filmmakers need to be more mindful of the audiences’ changing preferences from some of the latest OTT releases.

The rest of the production seems to be aligned to entertain and not overwhelm the audience–not just the film’s writing, acting, screenplay and direction. The whole package works for Panchayat. 

Who should watch it?

Everyone! No exception. Even if you don’t understand Hindi, the subtitles are good enough to tell you what's going on. Panchayat 2 makes it to my ‘must watch’ list, and I am sure it is on the lists of most of my fellow movie buffs. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Genre: Comedy, drama

Actors: Jitendra Kumar, Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav

Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra

Run time: 4hrs (approx.)