As a rule I don’t like sad stories, particularly the kind where characters are faced with mushkilat ke pahar and weighed down under dukhon ke anbaar. Phir yeh bhi pata ho ke there is no immediate relief in sight, in fact it is actually going to get worse before, if at all, it gets better. Add to that the fact that there are no scenic locales, no flavor-of-the-month hottie, no attempt at glitz and glamor, and you have to wonder ke bhaiya yeh kis qasam ka drama hai. Bas ek gharelu si kahani jahan ek diwani si phupho apni pagli si bhatiji ke peeche halkan huyi jaa rahi hai aur bas…
How and why then would the makers expect a drama like Piyari Bitto to attract audiences?
Simply put: Piyari Bitto works because of its craftsmanship. This is a serial that does not need bells and whistles because it actually has a well thought out story to tell and a team of artists talented enough to sell said story. Such is the pull of the serial that no matter that this is not my usual chai ki piyali – I am hooked.
When we had last left off it seemed like Shakira’s shaadi was postponed for good, but shukar hai ke fates conspired and our girl got married. It is absolutely lovely to see Shakira enjoying the little moments of halal romance with her very own mehboob. On Sakina and Bittu’s front things took a decided turn for the worse as Shakira’s fears came true. I will refrain from spoilers but suffice it to say that Sakina has turned out to be a real piece of work and haye bechari Bitto!
Piyari Bitto works not due to the what of the story but on account of the how of the story. More so than the actual story – which is compelling enough – I am enjoying how it is being told. It is rare to come across a drama – particularly these days – without clearly defined heroes and villains. I appreciate Saji Gul for not just the grey characters but for enabling us to see the story from various points of view. I love Shakira as much as am I am exasperated by her. Sakina is never going to find a makan in jannat waiting for her, but then you cannot help but feel for her. I do not condone her actions but I find it hard to not criticize the societal set-up which engenders such extreme bitterness and frustrations. Mehboob is probably in line for sainthood but then he has that very human streak which prevents him from telling Shakira what he knows about Bitto. Similarly Mushtaq. He is a well-meaning family man, the kind you would want in your corner, but where he could have found a way to protect Bitto he allows himself to be persuaded otherwise.
Not only are the characters well-etched by they are authentic with an uppercase A. Mazhar Moin deserves a standing ovation for keeping the narrative real and relatable. I don’t remember a recent drama portraying the safaid posh middle class milieu so well. The characters’ dressing, their every day lingo, the places they frequent – that park wali chaat date was superb – the settings, all are so very real. I love the extensive use of outdoor locations and the way the city is shown from a middle class person’s viewpoint – the travel in rickshaws, motor cycles, and taxis, narrow lanes, traffic jams, circa ’70s houses. And all this is then contrasted with the nouveau riche lifestyle of Bittu’s in-laws.
In a story so rife with potential for melodrama, there is actually none of it here. There is tension between Shakira and her mother-in-law but it is never allowed to turn into a typical saas-bahu moment. Bittu’s track has been handled particularly well. If we thought Sakina was bad then Bittu’s saas makes her look like a mere babe in the woods. What a character that woman is – she legit gives me chills! And then there are the new entrants in this story: Namo, the maid, Qamar, and Dr. Haseen. What a fabulous cast of characters, each one unique and individual.
Ever so fluently the narrative moves between the past and present, a brilliant technique to keep the viewers hooked as to what happened in between then and now. Shakira’s unravelling mental state has been very nicely paced and fabulously enacted by Sania Saeed. Every scene here is a testament to Sania’s brilliance. Why hasn’t she been awarded a Pride of Performance as yet is my big question here. Matlab kyon nahin?!?
The way Sania has essayed the various phases of this woman’s life is beyond brilliant. Shakira’s joys, sorrows, stresses, gradual changes in relationships, the onset of mental health issues to her present day breakdown, all are beautifully brought to life. And it’s not just Sania. Fawad Khan has turned in a superlative controlled performance as Mehboob. Atiqa Odho has made a very complex character look ever so easy. Yorguc Tipu is very effective as the resident baddie Shahid. Rashid Farooqi is outstanding as Mushtaq, so real that is hard to believe Mushtaq is fictional. Zaib Rehman is absolutely chilling, seriously seems like she has ice water running through her veins.
Shamim Hilali is my love and here she demonstrates yet again why I love her so. Just check out the way she smells achar here and compare it with a similar scene in Talkhiyan and see the difference. It is these subtle nuances and variations they give to each character that make actors great, not their social media following and the number of VMs they inspire. The little quiet moment between Shakira and her saas – as the bahu’s apology is accepted by her saas in episode 10 – was all kinds of fab.
We often complain of younger actors not being as invested in their performances as the older lot, but here Saniya Shamshad ably demostrates that blame should not only be placed on the actors, but also on the entire team as they all rush to churn out one disaster after another. I am very impressed by Saniya here; more so with her commitment to the character where she is unafraid to look dirty and messed up.
And this then brings me to the issue of casting. A huge roumd of applause to whoever came up with this ensemble cast, where each actor fits their character perfectly. And yes, I do mean actors rather than stars. I have not seen several of these actors – the lady playing the maid Qamar, the nurse helping Shakira in Islamabad, her mother – but they are excellent and oh so real.
There is a lot more that I could write about so many memorable scenes, but that I leave to you all to discuss below. For my part, I would strongly urge those who havent yet tuned in to Piyari Bitto, to give this one a serious shot. If you are a fan of good drama and enjoy a well-told story, the kind which is fluently narrated and brilliantly enacted, then this one should not be missed.
Written by SZ~