Panchayat is a TVF creation to be release on Amazon Prime Video on 3rd April. Below is a facebook post describing the process and key people of creating this show by its Creative Producer and Associate Director Abhijeet Singh Parmar.
PANCHAYAT trailer released today. The show releases on 3rd APRIL on AMAZON PRIME VIDEO.
And the occasion once again gives me the opportunity to write my mandatory long post.
From the day I joined TVF, I have been working on Panchayat.
I joined when second episode story had to be narrated to Sameer Saxena sir, Amit Golani and Sherry and immediately fell in love with the world of Panchayat and Chandan Kumar’s humour and Golu’s feedback masterclasses. I was new and didn’t have a clue of what I was getting into. But Sameer and Sherry allowed me to take matters in my hand.
Director Deepak Kumar Mishra and Writer Chandan Kumar had been working on the show even before I had joined.
It’s safe to say Panchayat has been years in the making.
So much so that at one time Panchayat was to be shot in a village set in Film City in Mumbai.
And then the leap was taken to shoot it in a real village close to Bhopal.
Easier said than done.
And hence this post is going to be a harsh account of what went on, rather than the sweet BTS’s. If this was on medium, it would have easily been timed as a 10 minute read or would take around 200 tweets on twitter.
Finding the right location for the Panchayat office as written by Chandan in the script was so typical that it took us an intensive recce of more than two weeks and 300 villages. And costed me the respect and friendship of my dear friend Ansar Khan from Zeal entertainment. I think he felt I was personally rejecting locations and trying to find the impossible Panchayat office which was not inside the village but also not too far from it. That was the first person in a series of people I pissed off cause we had to get the location that we wanted.
But we finally found the perfect location. And then we realised that the perfect village was inaccessible for a shooting crew.
So, then we decided to solve that problem.
Solution being – Lets build roads in the village to make the shooting location accessible.
So, we built roads. Till now the villagers were quite happy with us.
Parallel, to this was another challenge that dear Chandan had given us.
Casting nearly 30 earthy North Indian actors other than the five Primary characters. Also, they should pass off as authentic villagers. A job reserved for more than one department.
We went back to Casting bay for this.
Jeetu was always Abhishek for the show while it was being written. He even sat on a few narrations before we pulled him off to star in both Kota Factory and Cheesecake and made him shoot for months non stop. I think he took it well and we still hadn’t pissed him off.
We found our Pradhan Ji in veteran Raghubir Yadav sir. And it paid off like anything. Best left to the show.
The suggestion to cast Neena Gupta ma’am came from Shreyansh Pandey. And Anmol Ahuga fixed it up.
Two stalwarts. Being directed and handled by creators nearly half their age. We were in for a good TEST but didn’t know it yet.
It was a task to pull Producer Faisal Malik for Deputy Pradhan as he wasn’t keen on returning to acting. But the Writer and Director who were a fan of his cameo in ‘Gangs of Wasserypur’ kept at it and convinced him for the role. Thanks they did. Being a producer himself, he could empathise with our situation and we soon became besties.
Chandan Roy who plays the role of Sahayak was earlier selected for a small tertiary character role. And he wasn’t getting confirmed on even that role. Raghubir sir had worked with him earlier on a film and requested us to have a look at his audition. We liked him so much that we decided to cast him as a primary character. This is Chandan’s debut show. And Chandan is by far one of our best decisions in the show. Luck favours the brave type ka Kuch hogaya yahaan pe.
The casting for Panchayat went on for close to NINE MONTHS.
We tested Casting bay’s entire bank of auditions, their patience, exhausted them and got exhausted.
We saw auditions on on recce, on shoot, on break days, after shoot and between schedules.
It’s safe to say that we ended testing Anmol Ahuja to equal measure and got tested by him.
But amidst all the heated conversations trying to get the perfect actor for every single line, rote peet-te dono sides ne milke ye shaandaar cast lock kar li.
VIshwanath Chatterje, Shrikant Verma, Rajesh Jais, Shashie Verma and @Jayashankar Tripathi jaise senior kalakaar have given us some really memorable performances and they grab my attention every time they are on screen for the limited time they are on screen.
Jyoti Dubey and Kusum Shashtri from Bhopal superseded what we had wanted of the characters and ended up driving their parts.
@Ebaabdullah Khan and Pratiek Pachori are two young talents who played such interesting natural desi goons that everyone was amazed it was their very first roles in web shows.
Biswapati Sarkar and Deepesh Sumitra Jagdish, the TVF Veterans, were effortless as always.
And Ankit Motghare saved the day with the very last minute casting.
And @Sandeep Shikhar, who thanks to Anmol Ahuja and Shashie Verma’s insistence had been pulled out of his comfort Bangalore theatre scene to nail his episode along with Jyoti Dubey.
But it’s safe to say that we tested all these wonderful actors by shooting in the peak of summer. Almost every actor lost their temper. And we relented. We could see it in their eyes, as we took retakes after retakes respecting the script Chandan had written and the comic timing Mishraji so instinctively understands.
The primary cast was vocal enough to tell us how much we tortured them. So, the number of people we pissed off increased manifold in just casted actors.
And then comes the name of the most important person whose patience we really tested.
Our cinematographer – Amitabha sir.
With lights going off in the middle of shots. With Costumes and Art not fitting in with his mind’s image, he got down to fix on set propping himself. It took us some immediate steps during the first week of the shoot to adjust to his work ethics. And it was so tough, I often felt in the first week itself that there are more issues to resolve then shots to shoot in a day.
In hindsight I realised what we were dealing with. Amitabha sir is such a clinical master and has worked with so many masters that it is only now that I am able to grasp things that he used to say then. I and Mishraji have often discussed what we didn’t understand at the time while we were on the edit stage.
I remember we had pushed him so much one day that he had lost his excitement to shoot on one of the most important days of shoot. But he still did shoot that day. And it is one of the best sequences of the show. And he went on like this ignoring our follies with his disciplined regiment of:
@Haricharan Kalrathodi, Adwait Singh, Babbu Bhai and @Siddhesh iyer. I think being their age I related more with them and quickly became cricket buddies. It’s by far the fastest, most disciplined camera team I have worked with.
Next in line is the production design team which we had pushed to such an extent that one night they wanted to take the next available flight and leave.
We, rather I, demanded the world of them. Production designer Tarpan Shrivastava sir, had been slyly pushed to promise well before the shoot that we might cook up requirements on set. And he had relented. And he kept his word irrespective and we kept ours by cooking as many immediate requirements as we could.
We made Art directors @Foram Nirmal and Akbar Khan work almost all break days creating sets for us. I pushed Pooja Manian to extreme feedback on the smallest of graphics, something a general audience won’t even notice. But I still wanted what I wanted, because we were, in our heads, making the best show ever.
I’m sure those tortures trickled down to Kennet Lewis, Sanket pawar and Vishal Singh yadav assisting the Art team. Again I think stress level was directly proportional to them coming for cricket. Now I know why Sam plays cricket on set.
If the pressures of my demands were not enough, the production design team had serious fights with the Direction team.
Headed by Chief Hulk, Mudit Malik, who himself got pushed around and tested by the CAST, DOP TEAM, his passionate but still learning AD team, the creative team, the production design team, and the production team, was on the brink. The fact that Mudit didn’t punch anyone is a miracle. I can see he wanted to.
But he survived it. Rather we survived it.
And so did his team. While we called out retakes after retakes from our shed, Preet Layal, Adarsh Mahalley, Mohit Sethi, Shantanu Paliwal, Amar Padwal, Sameer Welekar, Asmita Mishra stood in the sun, became standees for actors, handled our frustration trickling down from the beatings we were getting from other places but still kept us going. Goes without saying almost all of them have become friends came for cricket 🙂
Prashant Peter – continuity and Damini Gupta – DA, became my support system. On break days I used to run away with them to Bhopal malls which felt like the most advanced thing, coming out of the village.
But even though Peter was my punching bag, he irritated actors perfectly by doing his continuity job so perfectly that his perfection crippled them. Imagine doing a retake at a boiler of 50 degrees, for a strand of hair that was different in another take. He frustrated the actors, who then gave us a beating, which we then took out on others we could, mostly people named above. And sometimes gave it back to Peter. Which took a toll on him. Peter really had managed to create cyclic stress.
The combined frustration of temperature and temperament was then taken down on the ladki waalahs of a shooting set.
The Production Team headed by Arun Kumar ji that worked before there was anyone in the village and the team that kept working even after we left.
It didn’t matter if the food that came was good on 49 days. If one day it was bad, then production had fucked up.
I remember the day when Prajesh Mishra’s BP rose. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong on the day.
Actors had come late. Lighting team was late. The crane was too big to fit in the room.
And even the villagers had started acting up.
What I was doing as a bridge between most departments on the Creative end, Mihika Munjal and Mehboob were doing on the production head with worse control.
Mihika took the brunt of the worst frustrations and only came to me in situation like the day when one actor had reached airport instead of the set, to fly the hell out.
Manish Singh Baghel, Prakash Chandra Yadav, Priteesh Chhangani, Karan Wadikar were all tested to their core. And thus they too came for break day Cricket. And the local production team Zeal team, Ansar khan, Zeeshan jafri, became the Bhopal 11 cricket team that we used to play against.
I think the only one who I didn’t piss enough was Richard as he had joined us a little late. Next time we’ll take him along from the start.
What we did with dearest Priya Mujumdar, our costume stylist, needs a separate section.
From changing clothes already sourced after a week cause it wasn’t working well in the frames, sending her to source on break days, from her continuity clothes going missing one day to discover they were being used by art as props, to some cheap clothes shrinking after wash, I think Priya and Mishra Manisha got tested so much that Priya had to go back to her meditation practices. But she fought it out and we became good friends at the end of it all.
Ashish Shinde, our sound recordist stands on a balance. We pissed him enough and he returned the favour every now and then. It was his dancing skills that made us bear him 🙂
Hair and Make up team Vilas bhai and Kavita didi headed by Deepak Pawar might need to present the struggles themselves as they directly dealt with actors in the vanity. We didn’t wanna share any of that.
Amidst all this necessary madness, there was a true professional who got up even on break days, at 5 am and did physical practice.
Steadycam master Krishna Rao and his assistant Deepak Mishra have nailed so many shots in Panchayat, that again they both had become my cricket buddies and go to stress busters. Krishna sir often used to tell me,”Agar aap nahi hote toh pata nahi kitni ladai hoti.” It wasn’t very reassuring but he was so calm to hangout with.
Pranay Gupta took the stills. And was often found chilling with on set Data manager and singer – @Naresh Jagadappa.
Chirag Malhotra nailed most of the shots but his drone malfunctioned on one of the most elaborate shot day, that had to be shot again, so we developed mixed feelings there as well.
Head Spot boy and his entire team @Rohit Kumar saved us from loo and our own angers. Khet ke beech Mein they’ve given us black coffee. BEAT THAT.
SOMEHOW Mishraji, Chandan and I survived this 50 day exodus and vowed never to go back to a village for at least the next five years.
And brought back loads of retakes to Amit Kulkarni. We tested every ounce of Kulkarni and Puneet Mehta as they tried to make sense of our extended improvs. Things which were different from the script and storyboards. Like all the other teams we exhausted Amit Kulkarni to his last drop of excitement.
Gaurav Rungta heading post supervision handled our combined egos and passions and delays. Kashyap dodeja caught in the middle of our firefights.
Rungta got us Rob Lang, who guided by Amitabh Sir gave us the Panchayat look we fell in love with.
This is my third show with Anurag Psychaea. But the first one where I really sat down with him and got creatively involved. Just like the performances he wanted from his actors, Mishra ji was absolutely clear about his music from the script stage. I remember him playing European music pieces during narration. The challenge we threw at Anurag was to do European music instead of the typical desi music. He accepted that challenge and in turn screwed up both our lives for the months to come.
I had managed to keep my cool during most shoot days with most challenges, but the real test was Anurag. We wanted the best live recorded music from him, and Anurag takes his time. And every time we were on the brink, he would just play the latest compositions and we would be recharged. And then again we would wait. And go fuming and again he would play something new. This cycle repeated itself many times. I gave Appu Aurobindo enough beating when Anurag wasn’t available. I ended up telling Anurag I need a change from him and won’t do the next one with him. And then ended up speaking to him for Gullak season 2. So, it’s going to be 4 in a row. Kuch karmic fuck up hai boss.
As deliveries approached faster, we extended our challenges to two dear poets.
Nikhil Sachan and Durgesh Singh to write two songs in record time. Infected by our self destructive passions they relented to these favours and produced Pasa Phenk and Paheli.
Pasa Phenk was beautifully sung in front of us in a recording by Vivek hariharan.
While returning from shoot every day I used to relax to Raghav Chaitanya’s youtube covers. And as if a cyclic conclusion to this colossal struggle, Anurag told me that he recorded the last song Paheli with Raghav. It’s a beautiful light song and comes at the best time in the show. I really feel I gravitated Raghav into the show. Mano ya na Mano.
Like Anurag, this is my third show in a row with the sound team @sudipto and Ateesh Chattopadhyay. By this time we had grown immune to testing people’s patience. Here again Rungta took our side again and fought for the number of days that we wanted for each episode on sound. But still by the end of it we were in such a hurry that one day Sudipto took a flight from Kolkata in the evening just to show us two episodes, take our feedback and go back by the night flight. If there’s anyone that I want to keep working with. It’s them. I think the fact that things always reach sound last minute really resonates with our combined situation. And thus we both have immense mutual respect.
At this stage, I also threw my gossip partner Abhishake Jha, aided by Durin Das, into the dumps of technical and creative and crowd dubs and he once again came out a winner.
So, in this way, pissing off and getting pissed, Mishra ji, Chandan and Me, managed to sail through.
Bhai dhoop mein baal pak jaate hain. Mere is shoot pe pake hain. Not joking, I literary grew a bigger patch of grey hair which I realised when Tarpan sir sent me a before/after pic of my grey patch.
But at the end of this ordeal I was left with the question. Why did we take and give all this trouble?
Because – We got a kickass location, we produced kickass frames, Production Design is authentic as hell, Costumes are real, Edit has managed to balance script and improvs, and Anurag has produced the OST and songs of his life. Because Mishraji, Chandan and I had decided we had to keep at it cause easy wasn’t what we were going for. Rather fights and disagreements are the only proof that every department cared for what they were doing. And that we cared to test all of them and keep them on their toes and got them to deliver their best was the only way for us.
So I am happy that we tested all of you. And even happier that you were all ready to be tested. Cause when you test your boundaries you expand.
Thank you so much Sam for letting me test myself.
I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone like my friend @Pravin Poojari. Maybe we didn’t piss you off enough to make this list, but if we did, I hope you know why.
I could only endure this journey because of three key people:
Mehboob P S. We stood by each other in every sticky situation and fought each other but never a crew member. Together we bore the load of all things beyond control.
Shreyansh Pandey, who brought me to TVF, trusted me with so much so soon, and fought all battles for me that I ain’t motivated to fight.
And Roopal Abhijeet Singh, who nurtured our kid in my physical and mental absence for over a year. How she bears me is beyond me. But thank god she does.
Coming out of it all we’ve delivered PANCHAYAT. And I am really satisfied with what we have achieved.
So now, I am going to sit back and enjoy watching PANCHAYAT with my family on 3rd APRIL. And leave the judgements to you.