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How Prime Video’s critically acclaimed ‘Panchayat’ gave smaller actors a new lease on life


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How Prime Video’s critically acclaimed ‘Panchayat’ gave smaller actors a new lease on life

Amazon Prime Video’s Panchayat came as a saving grace for Indian entertainment, that was in a chokehold because of the pandemic. The series, which really does not have a lot of fanfare about it, has made a home in the hearts of scores of fans. Their patience was tested with a two year wait for its recently dropped third season, and given their due reward for it. Panchayat S3 had already racked up 12 million views in its first week.

The show is special for multiple reasons. It is set right in the rural heartland of North-India, a reality for a considerable share of Indians that Bollywood never championed. Panchayat does not stereotype the Indian village scenario to its viewers – and shows things just as they are. And what helped drive this idea home was the show’s impeccable casting, and has given the actors a new lease of life.

Panchayat’s Bhushan and Binod have a long, troubled history behind them

In Season 2, we meet the show’s antagonist: Bhushan Kumar, aka Banrakas,, played by Durgesh Kumar. He busies himself with manipulating villagers against the Pradhan-pati (played by Raghubir Yadav). He’s not pictured as the devil incarnate or with any other evil identifiers. But it is that drawl and the uncomfortable stare of  Kumar, that has made banrakas an intensly memorable character. And since season 2, he became a part of Gen-Z social media lingo for good. “Dekh raha hai Binod,” is a line that he is most remembered, and famous for. Kumar’ character is now a central one in Panchayat’s latest season.

But fame has come to Kumar after nearly a decade of struggle. He was a part of Imtiaz Ali’s Highway as Aadu, a sidekick to Randeep Hooda’s Mahabir. Since then, Kumar could not find any gigs coming his way, and suffered from depression too. Panchayat’s Bhushan helped turn the actor’s life around, and the country has showered him with loads of appreciation. He also plays a small role as Constable Dubey, in Netflix table-topper Laapata Ladies.

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Like Kumar, Binod too shot to fame. Binod was seen in only one episode in season 2, where the iconic line was delivered. He became so popular in social media that he was promoted to becoming Bhushan’s sidekick throughout season 3. Played by Ashok Pathak, Binod became known for his dim-wittedness and utter simplicity of mind, which made him say some very colourful dialogues. Pathak comes from extremely humble beginnings, and recalls being addicted to tobacco, gutkha and paan. His very short presence in Panchayat S2 and excellent performance in S3 has given him nation-wide fame. He’s also attended the Cannes Film Festival this year, as part of the cast of Sister Midnight.

Non-celebrities have immense talent too

Panchayat is proof that star power is not always necessary for a title to become famous. Save for Neena Gupta, there wasn’t any other A-lister in the series in the beginning. Jitendra Kumar (plays Abhishek Tripathi), previoulsy a part of many The Viral Fever (TVF) productions, is famous for his role as Jeetu Bhaiyya in Kota Factory. He had his Bollywood debut years ago, but very few are aware of the fact. Writer Chandan Kumar tells Digital Commentary that the focus was on casting people who were familiar with the world of Panchayat. TVF has emphasized on minimizing the need to ‘act’ like a villager.  Naturally, the cast delivers the performance of their lives in Panchayat, making it one of India’s most loved shows. It has brought forward actors who are immensly talented, but were pushed back because of the scores of other struggling actors wanting to make their mark.

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