Piyari Bitto ~ Episode 1 Review

That Sania Saeed is fabulous is not something you need me to tell you, but do allow me to tell you how utterly fantabulous she is in Piyari Bitto. Ziyada na dekhen, sirf the first 12 minutes … phir see if you can walk away – yes, she is just that good!

From the very first moment you lay eyes on this woman you want to hug her and hide her somewhere, away from the cruel world outside. She is visibly distraught, clearly lost and unable to remember anything, even her name. Watch out for when she’s eating by the entrance to the dargah and see her flinch when Salma touches her… now here is a story begging to be heard. What happened that turned a once vibrant woman into such blank a slate? What kind of trauma did she undergo that her mind shut down like so? Where is the woman who was Bitto’s loving phuphi and who is this empty shell that stands in her stead?

From the teasers I was expecting Piyari Bitto to be an intense story, but I had not expected it to deliver such an emotional gut punch. Sania Saeed is absolutely riveting as this as yet nameless woman. And it is not just Sania. Saji Gul’s story unfolds in a way that sucks you right into the narrative. I enjoyed Mazhar Moin’s narrative style, there is an authenticity to his storytelling that I find lacking in quite a few of our recent dramas. I liked the girl playing Salma, she and her mother were very real and looked like they actually lived the lives of their characters.

Skillfuly woven alongside the present is the story of the past. For a first episode I appreciated how we got so much of an insight into this woman’s life. Though we don’t know her name we know that somehow somewhere along the line she lost not just a name but also an entire family. Where is her sick but loving brother, where are the two bhabhis and most importantly, where is Bitto? How and when did she lose so much?

Much like we saw in the first episosde of O Rungreza, here too Saji gives a very subtle but indepth introduction to all his characters right from the get go. We meet Salma, a nurse, her shaadi is a problem for her financially strapped mother. From among the characters of the past there was the narcissistic Shakila (Atiqa Odho), her husband (Nayyar Ejaz), once a robust affectionate older brother but now a sick bed-ridden patient, and her daughter Bitto.  There was also Rukhsana (Farah Shah) with her young son. And rounding off the family, Bitto’s widowed(?) phupho who loves colorful bangles and is the calm voice of reason in an otherwise chaotic household.

In terms of writing this opening chapter served as a great introduction to a story waiting to unfold. Acting wise, Sania owned the episode.  Atiqa Odho has Shakila nailed to a Tee. I also liked the girl playing Salma and Saniya Shamshad as Bitto.The scene between her phupho and Bitto was particularly sweet and the only truly happy moment so far. Direction-wise Mazhar Moin impresses. I liked the framing of scenes, the story telling style, editing, cinematography and the authenticity of the sets and locations. I particularly appreciated how all characters looked and dressed in accordance to their parts. I also liked the sound design in places, birds chirping and the apt song playing on the radio.

While all this worked, what did not work was the constant music in the background – why?? Can we please turn that off? Also, did not care for the over loud screaming. All the chaos could’ve been shown just as effectively without the OTT shouting. And this is my biggest concern. I like Mazhar Moin’s plays but eventually end up leaving halfway because the register is always too loud. I don’t know if it can be fixed, but perhaps lower the volume of the shouting – its too much and too jarring.

Finally, because I watch on YouTube, I was very disappointed by the 480p video quality. Could Express please load videos in HD? It is unfair and unjust to watch a well-made play in a less than perfect print. Another complaint: Why does Express cut off videos before final credits? It’s bad enough that previews start showing up in the last minute or so, completely blocking the picture, but to then have it cut off abruptly is super annoying. Please fix. Thank you.

These few peeves aside, I thought the first episode delivered big time and I for one am definitely looking forward to the next episode.

Aap logon ne dekha? Kaisa laga? Looking forward to reading what you have to say!

Written by SZ~

Piyari Bittu ~ Episode 1 

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13 replies

  1. Yes the first scene n Sania Saeeds expressions were more than enough for me to get hooked.. my goodness this lady is chalta phirta art.. you just see her and keep on getting inspired and amazed.. words can be less to praise her spectacular performance.. dargah scene made me cry.. how awesomely natural was Sania.. Wow unbelievable..

    Salma n her mom..they were just too good in living their characters n i was constantly thinking of baaghi if you know what I mean.. salmas house,their clothes every thing was so giving a real touch n actress playing Salma was really nice.. She portrayed that beautiful n decent soul effectively..

    Past came as surprise factor as i thought Bitto is her daughter.. and good to such great cast together.. first episode left with so much intrigueness and also how awesome is that we have actually have to talk on first epi.. normally first epi are just intros and i as commentator dont know what to comment on introductory episdoes.. Saji Gul writing never disappoints and im happy we will get to see quality dramas on weekends now:)

    And i cant finish it off without saying.. you write just so beautifully.. and zyada tareer Orungreza khe thread per karni he 😉

    • @Rehmat: So glad you watched also. Haina! I was totally wowed and what I loved the most was that it was so natural .. nowhere did it seem like she was acting.

      Haha! exactly! I too was thinking of Baaghi as I was watching and comparing Salma’s house – the dirty walls and the old dressing table – to Fauzia’s chamkeela house and her well-dressed family.

      Ab lets hope this one doesn’t drag and the story remains as interesting.

      Thank you 🙂

  2. Great writeup, SZ, as always!

    This was a really good first episode. I’m intrigued by the backstory and the non-linear storytelling, although I’m also a bit confused by it all, lol.

    Sania Saeed is fantastic, both as the woman who has lost herself (Alzheimer’s) and as her niece’s champion. Loved that scene of her with the bangles in the bazaar, and the one of her outside the dargah. Given the state of her memory, I have no idea how Salma is ever going to locate Bitto and the others.

    I thought the editing in this first episode was a bit off, and the sound design left a lot to be desired. I also didn’t warm to Bitto right away. I get that she’s rebellious and unhappy but Saniya Shamshad’s hysterical crying kind of put me off.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

    • RK: yes! The sound design was off big time .. I heard from the director on that issue and I shall post below ..
      Hmm, editing I didn’t seem to find an issue with, maybe it just skipped my attention completely. And yes, that hysteria, not just Saniya but all around, is going to be a problem I feel.
      Re: the Alzheimer’s issue, I too have read abt her memory loss being described as such but I don’t know if that term is being used very loosely and it’s actually trauma based amnesia or some such. We’ll have to wait and find out for ourselves..

      • Great insight from Mazhar Moin. Thanks for sharing, SZ. Please thank him from all of us as well. 🙂

        Recently, I was reading an article about how the film “Lagaan” changed Bollywood sound design forever. It was one of the first movies to use sync sound instead of dubbing in post, and after that movie became a huge success, a lot more big films were willing to try the same thing, although it meant sacrificing clarity for authenticity in sound sometimes.

        Conversely, smaller budget movies stick to the more old-fashioned dubbing, and moreover, most producers and directors still think audiences respond best to obvious musical cues rather than subtle sounds in the background, and because it’s easier to signal emotion with music. Also, they genuinely believe that audiences don’t like silence, so where there’s no dialogue, you need big swelling background music to keep the audience hooked.

        It would be nice if someone tried to buck this trend.

    • It is, at least in the US it is. I have the link at the end of the review as well ..
      Unless you are in a country where this ep is being blocked?

      • Okay, I need to pay attention. I completely overlooked the direct link in your article. And someone here was talking of Alzheimer’s. Yikes!!!!
        Maybe I wasn’t looking to watch it so soon, so wasn’t looking for it. But no, I searched by name on YT and it wasn’t there….trailer yes, complete episode, no.

        Anyhow, I’ve watched it now. From your article link. And re read the review and have come on here to comment.

        First, 12 minutes you said, I was in by the first frame…..clean surroundings, leaves falling, train pulling into the station. Oh yes, time for a story away from city life please. Gut wrenching indeed; should’ve come with a fair water work warning. Keep the tissue box handy. My, oh my!

        Yes, all characters doing justice to their roles. And I liked that the wardrobe was reflective of their living state. Unsure, if I have watched previous work from the director consciously enough to remember the screaming theme, if you will but it is slightly jarring whenever you see/hear it. Jahan bhi ho.
        Music for me, added to the melancholy of the premise – will observe in future if it’s too unnecessary at times.

    • Hmm, so yes – throwing darts in the dark; I am guessing the little exchange which was very loud and jarring to many of us may have some clue as to what the story might be. A case of foreshadowing maybe where Bittu is shown to be so obsessive and violent that she even resorts to killing a cat on mere suspicion.
      And then we saw Sania Saeed’s nameless character (did none of her bhabhis call her by her name, I didn’t notice) react to it in the way she did in that scene. Also she keeps uttering 2 names in her state of trauma induced amnesia(?) – perhaps, it is. I think that is likely the cause of it all too – so the scene resonated in hindsight.
      Maybe it is completely different reason altogether.

      Will have to wait and see.

      And I will.

      One more on my to-watch list.

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