Naseer then listed a few extroverted performers, Satish Shah, Boman Irani and Johnny Lever among them. “They are extremely skilful, they can change their voice and be funny and mimic and do brilliant things that will blindside you — but vulnerability is not part of their makeup, because that quality requires introversion; you need to be a little unsure of yourself in real life.”
I bring this up because I’m almost sure that Naseer’s list of extroverts had also included Raghubir Yadav. (Can’t verify this because I don’t have the voice recording of the conversation just now, only my incomplete written notes.) And if that was the case, it would be a surprise. Notwithstanding the many ups and downs in Yadav’s career — including a few gaps that were apparently caused by personal problems — he has been one of our finest actors right from the Salaam Bombay and Massey Saheb days. And this post has been a long-winded way of saying that Yadav’s turn as a village “Pradhan-pati” in the new show Panchayat is one of the better things you’ll see this year. Even if there is a touch of what Naseer might call mimicry — in the accent and mannerisms that inform Yadav’s depiction of a provincial man, a biggish frog in a very small well — the performance feels completely authentic and lived-in. He and Neena Gupta (as his wife, who is the actual Pradhan but is made to stay in the background) work wonderfully well together.
This charming show — about a young city-dweller named Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar, who was so appealing in Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan earlier this year) reluctantly taking up a Panchayat secretary post, dealing with ennui and frustration while also studying for an MBA career — may remind some viewers of 1980s Doordarshan serials like Nukkad. Panchayat has a similar languid tone (notwithstanding its occasional use of elaborate drone shots and wide lenses) that fits this setting and works well for a story about an impatient man being forced to adjust to a new pace of life (the way many of us are having to in these Covid-19 days).
There are occasional bits of forced or thinly stretched out humour, and some episodes are more focused/fleshed-out than others (I particularly liked the series midsection, including episodes 4 and 5 — one of which is about a controversial family-planning message that likens a third child to a piles affliction and causes much angst). But on the whole Panchayat is a fluid watch, easy on the senses, full of little wonders (Anurag Saikia's background score, a local cop trying to play Sherlock Holmes), and it’s the sort of show that it’s good to see being made. Give it a try.
P.S. here is an edited version of that Naseer interview, in The Hindu