Piyari Bittu ~ Episode 28 ~ Finale Overview

Now that Piyari Bitto is done and dusted allow me to begin this final review with a standing ovation.

Sab se pehley Sania Saeed. Kya actor hain yeh aur kis paye ki acting ka muzhaira kiya hai inhon ne is serial mein … wah wah!!! Give her a tamgha-e imtiaz already, please!!

Piyari Bitto would not be half the serial it was without the amazing ensemble cast which included seasoned actors like Shamim Hilaly, Rashid Farooqi, Atiqa Odho, and Zeb Rehman. All were brilliant. Fawad Khan, the halal-est mehboob ever, and Kaif Ghaznavi were an absolute joy to watch as they negotiated their complicated relationship. The mother and daughter duo in Islamabad were very good. Saniya Shamshad demonstrated that younger actors are capable of delivering if they show willingness to learn from their seniors and heed the director’s guidance.

Director Mazhar Moin made an impression with his sensitive and artistic treatment of this ostensibly simple, sad story of a woman used and abused by her family. Here was a story rife with potential for melodrama but in its stead we were treated to a moving portrait of a woman gradually losing her grip on reality. Instead of capitalizing on the mazloomiyat + aansoo = high TRPs formula we saw empathy and gentleness, an overall sense of quietude that was much appreciated. Special mention also for the talented DOP, and the rest of the technical crew.

Outdoor shoots are a rarity these days, and within that too going beyond the Defense and Clifton area is almost never done. Here, in sharp contrast we got to see a whole different side of Karachi, and some areas around Islamabad, from a perspective very different from the typical rich/upper-class one that we usually get. Here was a story about the middle class from an authentic middle-class viewpoint. Adding further authenticity were the lines and actors’ body language, all capturing that particular milieu very well. Within indoor shoots too there was plenty of movement which is such a welcome change from the seated talking heads.

Saji Gul deserves a nod for moving away from the done to death pyar –> shaadi –> barbadi triangle and bringing us a story that revolved around richly etched, interesting characters, a welcome change from the simpering heroines and brain-dead heroes that are dime a dozen these days on TV. Starting off  with a very lost Shakira in Islamabad was a great hook and that brilliant begining episode was what piqued my interested in the first place. Keeping the Islamabad track  interspersed throughout was a great idea because it kept viewers like me coming back, particularly when the Karachi track got tedious and monotonous.

So, after all this richly deserved tareef does Piyari Bittu find a permanent home on my must-watch dramas wali list?

After a lot of thought I will have to be honest and say No. Much as I applaud and appreciate all the positives there were a lot of things that caused me to switch off while the serial was on. And here are my reasons why:

The story, interesting enough in and of itself, did not have the bandwidth to last 7 months. Twenty eight weeks is a long time and watching a sick woman get used and abused week after week , no matter how well enacted, does not make for an inviting watch. Moreover, after the first ten or so episodes the characters were pretty well-established and so watching Sakina and Bitto pull one fast one after another lost its appeal early on. And that they continued with their harkats till the very last was too much to take.

When it first started the publicity surrounding the serial underscored that it would highlight mental health issues. After 28 episodes I am not quite sure when where and how the serial highlighted mental health. Yes, the central character suffered from dementia, but apart from that fact there was no sustained engagement. In fact if ever there was a missed opportunity to underscore societal attitudes towards mental health this was it. Rather than positing this story as a simple binary between good and evil or selflessness and selfishness, I wish they had stressed that people like Shakira act this way not because they are “nice” but because they are unwell. Bittu was an obsession, a fixation for Shakira, not her love in the common sense of the word.

The serial ended with Bittu in jail, ostensibly for murdering her mother. Shakira dead and Bittu in jail. What a convenient end, one which allowed all other culprits to carry on with their lives. How is such an ending justified? I get this story is based on real life events, but once fictionalized it could have utilized to serve a larger purpose. Why should Bittu be the only one punished? What about the rest of the extended family that failed both these women? By mid-point of the story everybody knew Shakira was not all there. The signs were obvious and her mother-in-law suggested a therapist but Rukhsana nixed that idea in the bud. And that was the end of that.

Shakira’s miscarriage, postpartum depression, unsupervised use of birth control pills, all issues that needed at least a comment were used merely as plot points. Basically everybody pretended everything was fine because to do otherwise would have meant taking on Bitto’s responsibility, which nobody wanted to handle. So Shakira kept on deteriorating while the rest of her loving family kept up their facade of concern. Later when she kept getting “lost” it was if each time was the first time. Everybody blaming the other person without anyone actually stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility of her health and care. Instead of the continued focus on evil Bittu vs angelic Shakira why not a readjustment and focus instead on the causes that engendered such behavior.

If Shakira was used as a convenient peg to hang Bitto’s problem, she was another one who never really had a chance at a healthy lifestyle right from the get go. First she was caught between feuding parents, later a helpless prisoner of a narcissistic, frustrated mother, then a frightened bride, then back to a family where she was patently unwelcome… when did this girl ever get a fair shot at life? Is it any wonder she turned out the way she did? Why did no one, not even Shakira, with all her education ever think that Bitto would benefit from therapy. Again, I know counselling is as yet a new thing in Pakistan and may never have been an option for the real life Bitto, but that’s precisely where dramas like this can have an impact.

Given her trajectory, to see Bitto make a miraculous 180° turn in the last episode was all kinds of random and pointless. Was she being redeemed only to justify Sakina’s murder? And on that, Bitto being the only one punished was very difficult to stomach. I understand the whole khandan could not have been punished, but a scene or two showing some introspection on the part they played in destroying these two women’s lives would have gone a long way. As it stands now the ending only justifies the need to wrap up the story neatly, with no loose ends.

For a serial that had begun on such a brilliant note I am sorry to see my hopes of an excellent serial dashed. Given the rich potential of this story the brilliant cast and an excellent director I so wish the team had ventured beyond the formulaic good vs evil binaries and looked out for innovative ways to keep viewers’ engaged throughout and to end with a flourish. Also this stretching out of stories beyond their capacity is killing the art of story-telling. What is the point of mounting a 28 episode drama when the majority of viewers have switched channels and moved on.

Bottom line, I enjoyed the first several episodes a lot more than the last 12-15 episodes. From waiting eagerly for the episodes to upload I started watching 5-6 episode together and even then it was a tedious watch. Had it not been for the brilliant acting and the visual narration I would have happily given this one up a while ago.

So yeah this was my take on the good bad and ugly of Piyari Bitto – what about you all? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Looking forward to reading your take!

Written by SZ~

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13 replies

  1. Huh another drama ruined by incessant stretching. I did like the original premise that a nice women is not nice in hwr relationship with her niece but obsessive.as we as a society tebd to put people in black and white boxes. This drama was a over cooked khichri. Too many social iussues. Also rather that highlighting social issues, the writer has a responsibility to show proper solutions to tjese problems or at least give closure.I did like the drama since it showed tge fight between good and evil. While showing that good and evil are expandable and changeable terms.I have observed that saji gul often tries to mix too many ideas together. This lowers the value of her work. Same happened with o rangreza. Oh dear I must go now. Have to study for math test. Can someone tell me what is the use of quadratic equations?😤😤😤

    Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! Lets duke it out over math!

        @mariamirfan2007: As an adult I should be advising and encouraging you to keep an open mind and tell you you’ll grow to love it but afsos, I’m not that kind of an adult. Just suck it up and deal with it is my attitude towards this subject. And yes, even I dont see the value in quadratic equations but then I study dead ppl’s lives for a profession so who am I to even talk!

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        • There is, not surprisingly, a significant intersection in the Venn diagram of “quadratic equations” and “dead ppl’s lives.” For example, Omar Khayyam, he of the Rubāiyāt, was also the one to construct the initial geometry that led to the quadratic equation. See, the universe is just a circle of mathematics, lol.

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    • mariamirfan2007: I think it was written well and began as a complex story addressing issues subtly enough but then Im not quite sure what happened but it kinda turned into a very simplistic black white narrative which was a disappointment. And I dont know if this happens because the stories need to be stretched to fill a 28 ep slot which may not have that much bandwidth.

      Good luck with the math test! ❤

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  2. Thanks for the great summary, SZ! I share most of your positive views and your reservations about this show, so I appreciate you saving me the trouble of having to articulate all my thoughts here.

    I was a major cheerleader for Piyari Bittu early on, when it struck me both as a really well-made drama and also as a really different one. Here I thought was finally an attempt to tell a different sort of family story, one in which women not only have agency but are also strong and willful and refreshingly honest about their own flaws and warts. I enjoyed the romance between Shakira and Mehboob too, because it was nice to see an older woman get her 15 seconds of happiness on screen, and a good reminder to audiences that romance and marriage can exist outside the box of just twentysomethings making coy eyes at each other. I also thought it was sort of brave for the show to at least address the fact that divorce may end a marriage, but it doesn’t always end whatever feelings ex-spouses have for each other.

    That things were going to go horribly wrong for Shakira was signposted pretty clearly all along, but where this drama failed was in the execution of that angle. There were so many fairly serious mental health red flags here. Shakira’s family knew early on that she was depressed, but didn’t do a whole lot about it. Shakira had a perfectly good marriage with a husband understanding enough to deal with her mental health issues after her miscarriage, but instead of having the sort of honest and open discussion that married couples should have about the issue, she lies to him and thwarts the one person probably willing to help her at whatever cost. Nobody, not even Mehboob (who dances very close to the issue without actually settling on it), recognizes that this single-minded obsession with Bittu is itself a manifestation of her illness.

    Early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s are not conditions very well understood in our society, and here was a great opportunity to highlight not only the conditions themselves but the ways in which these are managed, how families cope with treatment, etc. Instead, it was all reduced to paeans sung to Shakira’s selfless erasure of self in the service of the selfish and increasingly greedy Bittu (and her unrepentant mother).

    And poor Bittu! Nobody got her the help she needed either. It was pretty obvious that her brief marriage to Namo was a terrible and scarring experience for her, and I’m sorry, but some things can’t be fixed with bandages of just love and affection. She needed professional help, and nobody saw that. She turned into a monster under everyone’s nose, and nobody–not one person–found this extraordinary enough to bring in a professional? Yeh sab kya hai or aisa kahan hota hai?!

    But credit where it’s due. The first 15 or so episodes of this show were stellar and near perfection. The acting was terrific, the direction was tight and on-point, and even the set decoration and costumes were all so well done. For example, I really appreciated how gradually the costumes suggested both Shakira’s age and her decreasing mental faculties, going from brightly colored to more muted colors and finally just neutrals.

    Sania Saeed needs special recognition for the last few episodes where she had barely any dialogues but still managed to convey both Shakira’s isolation and her desperation for a tiny moment of connection (which ironically enough she manages only with Mehboob and not with Bittu). Saniya Shamshad had to carry much of the back half of the show, and she really came through, so major props to her. Fawad Khan and Kaif Ghaznavi were both terrific, in their scenes together as well as opposite Sania. I hope all these actors get to work together again, because there’s a lot of fun chemistry that might be interesting to see in a different context too.

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  3. huhh i think that sz you will have to skip a lot of dramas, not one good drama is on air right now.i think of so many ways that each drama can improve and the main leads actually learn something. but the drama makers never think like that[sigh] well no worry i will write a drama when i am of age. i often think that i would like to write a drama about school life. until then i will just have to watch talkhiyan over again

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  4. Here’s a great interview with Sania Saeed, where she compliments Saniya Shamshad for her work on this show, but also talks about things that trouble her about the media, women’s rights, etc.:

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  5. Assalamoalaikum…
    agreed whatever you have said..They chose a different story to be shown but stretching it too much made me question that what was the point of killing Shakira at the end when we all knew from the beginning that something terrible happened to her that she has lost her senses and without senses one already has no life.
    over stretching and repeated evil actions of bittu..repetition of scenes of Mehboob and shazia,no matter how well they all acted;did not leave a good taste.
    They did not show the story of a girl (nurse)who took Shakira to her home in the beginning..where did she vanished suddenly while bringing her back…The faje death of Shakira when she actually would have died was an unnecessary addition..
    Halal relation between mehboob And shakira was turned into a weird one..It would have been better if shown that Shakira would have asked for divorce but Mehboob did not issue it but Shakira still leaving him for sake of bittu…That feeling of care and affection from Mehboob would have matter then and shazia’s jealousy would have been better justified then and so bringing her back home.
    (I feel adhi story likh k baqi hum say pooch lya kerain)
    Sakina’s make over ….an un necessary addition
    Rukhsana’s role ….I found her most sane in the beginning but her continous shouts killed her character…Her sanity could have been preserved.
    Shakira’s brother acted very well…a real brother portrayal…but was too weak as a man..
    Dementia if chosen as a topic should have been shown that way.But I think it was just a part of another story.
    But a lesson learnt is to save your own skin before jumping in fire to save other,otherwise both will b burnt and so happened in this case.Plus flexibility is very important to develop in one’s personality, which Shakira did not have and that drowned her.
    Despite that I waited every week for the episode and so for ur review…lol!
    It was the only different and well acted drama on air for me at that time.

    Like

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