ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A ‘Panchayat’ Too Good To Be True

Panchayats insightful portrayal of the quotidian aspects of rurality is marred by its unrealistic portrayal of caste in a Uttar Pradesh village.

The success of the OTT series Panchayat (season 2) has been marred by criticisms over its portrayal of caste. Critics have called it a “Brahmin paradise,” a “savarna fantasy,” and a “majoritarian utopia.” The reproof is telling of the plot: a tale of an idyllic village governed by a simple, well-meaning all-Brahmin male team and their ingenuous manoeuvres in addressing village needs. Panchayat is set in Uttar Pradesh (UP) where a recent engineering graduate, Tripathi, has been appointed panchayat secretary to Phulera village. Manju Devi, the elected pradhan, heads the panchayat but only on paper. In practice, Dubey (her husband, the pradhan-pati) and Pandey (deputy pradhan) conduct panchayati affairs. Vikas (surname-less) is the office assistant. Insightful and charming in its portrayal of the quotidian aspects of rurality, a stellar cast and clean comedy paved the road to success for this workplace drama, albeit not without some gaping p(l)otholes.

While all characters in the plot have first names, a significant minority are without surnames. The majority with surnames, including the political, bureaucratic, and professional rank and file, are almost unfailingly Brahmin. Conversely, the surname-less are seemingly non-Brahmin characters (barring a Gupta here and a Singh there). Their first names are all the viewers have, while their servile language and mannerisms likely serve as inference for their surnames. This is directly contrarian to the actual practice of naming in UP and the neighbouring Bihar. For close to three decades now, a majority of upper castes (especially Brahmins) in these states have been using “Kumar” in place of their original caste-bearing surnames for the fear of “discrimination” at the hands of the empowered lower castes who have grabbed the reins of power. In the show’s Phulera panchayat or Fakauli assembly, Brahmins thankfully have no such concerns, for everyone that matters is “from our caste only.” At a time when the West is increasingly advocating colour-blind casting and narratives, India’s caste-select practices are jarring.

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Updated On : 17th Aug, 2022
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