In recent years, what passes for humor in Bollywood has been nothing to write home about. In fact, in most cases, Bollywood has pandered sexist jokes, vulgar situations, and regressive ideologies in the name of humor.
This is one of the main reasons why TVF's Panchayat, available on Amazon Prime Video, felt like a breath of fresh air when it released.
Its current IMDb rating of 8.9 just shows how, through situational humor, powerful performances, and delightful dialogues, Panchayat has firmly taken the place of a family entertainer.
At a time when everyone is constantly streaming content online, and even DD has jumped on the nostalgia train, Panchayat still stands out as a comedy-drama.
Perhaps because it's a web series that reminds us of the innocence, joy, and charm of the shows we watched growing up.
There is no discounting the fact that the show's biggest strength lies in its casting. From Jeetendra K, who plays the protagonist village secretary Abhishek Tripathi, to debutant Chandan Roy, who plays the earnest assistant Vikas, to Raghubir Yadav and Neena Gupta as the Pradhanpati and Pradhan, every actor appears to be tailor-made for his/her role.
And this is definitely a story that shines because of the actors. Unlike most of TVF's shows, this does not immediately strike as the most relatable story. Yet, it works. Because the actors make it believable, relatable, and more importantly, enjoyable.
Another reason why this comedy-drama has managed to worm its way in our hearts is the situational humor and the colloquial dialogues.
Writer Chandan Kumar introduces situations that are humorous despite the absence of sexism, racism, body-shaming, or any of the usual tools employed by Indian comedy. It's a reminder that humor need not be vulgar to be effective.
Rather, he plays on the naivety of villagers without looking down on them and brings alive the eccentricities unique to Indians.
After all, ghost stories, bargaining, and of course, catering to the whims of the 'dulha', are experiences most of us have grown up with.
That's another brilliant aspect of the show. It does not shy away from accepting the flaws in Indian society. But the show remains away from both, spreading social messages and normalizing problematic behavior in the name of humor.
Simply put, the story manages to present our reality in a light-hearted manner without becoming too serious or too crass for consumption.
Panchayat strikes a chord with the audience because it understands human behavior and takes a good-natured dig at that. Much like the shows we grew up on. The shows that had the whole family coming together to enjoy a fictional story playing on-screen.
In some ways, Panchayat truly belongs to the age of Dekh Bhai Dekh, Family No. 1, and Office Office. And in others, it is the story of every millennial stuck at a dead-end job, working hard for a better life.
Perhaps it is this unique, brilliant amalgamation that makes Panchayat a show the whole family is together, eagerly awaiting the second season of.
All images from IMDb, unless specified otherwise.