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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Village Council ‘Panchayat’ to have second session on Amazon Prime Video from 20 May

Village Council ‘Panchayat’ to have second session on Amazon Prime Video from 20 May

One of the most loved web series, Panchayat, is all set to return on your small screen for its Season 2. Amazon Prime Video launched its long trailer at a packed media gathering at the swanky J.W. Marriott Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai, on May 09.  The village comedy-drama is based on the premise of a city man migrating to a village and the situations he faces there, which are poles apart from city issues. During its first run, Panchayat has created a niche fan-base, which followed the series loyally.

The trailer of Season 2 was launched in the presence of the team of Panchayat: director Deepak Kumar Mishra (Second Seasons of Permanent Roommates, Humorously Yours!) cast Jitendra Kumar, Raghubir Yadav, Faisal Malik, Sunita Rajwar, (Neena Gupta was absent and her absence felt) and the writer, Chandan Kumar. The team made their appearance in casual attire at the event, where the audience was made to sit on bamboo-cane stools and a few bamboo chairs. Prime Video members in India, and across 240 countries and territories, can stream the exclusive première of Panchayat Season 2, starting 20th May.

The series further strengthens the collaboration between Prime Video and the production house, The Viral Fever (TVF), post successful shows like Panchayat S1, and Hostel Daze S1and S2. Its alter ego, TVP, is part of the Contagious Online Media Network, which also produced The Timeliners, Girliyapa, The Screen Patti, and Funda Curry. Started as a group of IIT engineers making funny videos, TVF is a pioneer in entertaining web content.

Panchayat is an ancient Indian tradition of forming a village council of five persons, one of whom used to be elected the Sarpanch (headman). This system was discontinued in 1980 and was replaced by a Panchayat whose strength depends on the number of villagers in that village, on that cluster of villages. They are usually many more than five. Sarpanches are now called Pradhans (leaders). Playing the Sarpanch in the series is veteran actor Raghubir Yadav. Yadav is a multi-faceted personality and this writer asked him whether he got to explore his talent for singing, playing musical instruments and reciting his own poetry. The question landed at Yadav’s heart, and he went on to hold the audience spell-bound with his reply.

“Basically, I am a singer. It was singing that brought me to the entertainment industry. But somehow, I ended-up becoming an actor, on stage and in films. My first ‘guru’ was a papad (pappadum) seller, who used to come to our house, which was the only house on a small hillock, and he used to sell his wares by singing their praise. I used to imitate him after he left. (Yadav then sang like him). I do not inflict myself on any production, but would be delighted to perform music or sing, if asked to do so.” Confirming his great love for music, the cast and the team of Panchayat recalled that all through the shooting, they began the day by listening to Raghubir Yadav’s sonorous flute. Yadav, who had captured our imagination in the TV serial Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne (1989), has come a long way since, but he prefers not to take up too much work. “As it is, I am never satisfied, and after every shot, I feel that I could have done better. Even on the sets of Panchayat, I almost always told director Deepak Kumar Mishra that I could have done better.”

When Mishra was asked what was different about Season 2, in comparison to Season 1, he confessed, “Only the story. The Script. It takes us farther. A few new characters are introduced, but most of them are carried over from S1.” About the success of the show, he was confident of garnering at least as much success as Season 1, if not more. One addition to the cast is Sunita Rajwar. Asked an awkward question, “Who do you like most from among your co-stars?”, she hesitated a bit and then gave the punchline answer, “She is not here. I mean Neena Gupta. We got along great together.” Rajwar admitted that though she has been around for over 15 years, it is only now that she is getting any recognition, and that makes her really happy. Panchayat is one such vehicle. As part of her role, she has two slippers thrown at her, one after another, both landing on her head! What all do actors have to go through!

Playing a central character in Panchayat is Jitendra Kumar. You might remember him as Jeetu Bhaiya in Kota Factory and Aman Tripathi in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. In Panchayat, he is named Abhishek Tripathi, a role that won him Filmfare OTT award in the category of "Best Actor in a Comedy Series (Male). He was rather cagey about revealing any developments in the plot. Veteran Neena Gupta’s character is called Manju Devi, while Raghubir Yadav, cast as her husband, is Brij Bhushan. Faisal Malik plays Prahlad Pandey, the Up-Pradhan (Vice-Leader). Faisal, who is riding on two horses, has been holding on to a job while pursuing his fledgling acting career. He has done a handful of films and not many more series/serials. Since he is also a producer, we can assume that by ‘job’ he means production responsibilities. Rather frank about his approach, Faisal said, “As long as people like me, I will act. When and if they stop liking me, I will call it quits.”

Panchayat follows Abhishek, a fresh college graduate who relocates to a village called Phulera and takes up the role of secretary of the Panchayat. He is preparing for the CAT test, to improve his work prospects. It is reasonable to assume that is Season 2, Abhishek will not desert the village and go away, given the focal position he enjoys in the script. The trailer shows him venting his ire because the concept of having his panchayat office double as his residence, and a toilet for some, does not sit well with him.

Writer Chandan Kumar must have been disappointed when, at the inaugural ceremony of Filmfare OTT Awards, the film won all the nominations under the Comedy Series category, except for Best Actress and Best Original Story, Screenplay, and Dialogues, wherein Chandan Kumar was nominated. Maybe the second time around, he will hit gold. A home-grown TVF product, he was a writer and Web Producer on Faking News, during 2013-15.

The writer and the director were very happy that youngsters recommended the SEason 1 of the series to their parents and grand-parents, which does seem a bit odd, since this rural comedy drama is recommended for adults only.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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