Farooq Qaisar, Uncle Sargam, PTV and Putli Tamashas

Posted on January 20, 2007
Filed Under >Darwaish, Culture & Heritage, Education, Humor, People, TV, Movies & Theatre
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By Darwaish

Who doesn’t remember Uncle Sargam, Haiga, and Maasi Museebatay? Like so many others, I grew up with all of them. And what wonderful memories they still are.

Last week, I was looking for Angan Tehra, an old PTV drama serial, in one of the famous Hall Road markets when I saw CDs of ‘KalianÃ¢à ‚¬â„¢. Written and directed by Farooq Qaiser, it used to be a very popular puppet show on PTV during 80’s and 90’s.

During 90’s, Rola (as in Uncle Sargam’s words: small crockery chota panda) and another one who used to start every sentence with ‘Mere Piyare Allah Mian’ also became very popular.

If I am not wrong, puppets were introduced for the very first time in Pakistan by Farooq Qaiser. Yes, I know traditional Putli Tamasha was there already and perhaps still exists in some of the villages of Punjab although I think that is very different from what we saw on PTV with Uncle Sargam and Company.

By the way, some of you will be surprised to know that Pakistan is perhaps the only country after United States that has its own Puppet character or a show – our very own Kalian.

So anyways, when I was growing up everyone around me loved puppets because not only they were fun but they also helped us learn a lot of things. Like Uncle Sargum always had a message to convey.

Kalian was also popular because it was political, it used to make fun of politicians, highlighted social issues and at the same time, it also had a good entertainment value for children and teenagers. Somehow Farooq Qaiser managed to say things using his puppets which were otherwise impossible during Gen. Zia’s rule. He also did another puppet show before Kalian (I think it was Akkar Bakkar?) but it was mainly a children’s education program. It would be appropriate if I call it a local version of Sesame Street.

It’s a pity that most kids I come across these days are addicted to computer games, play stations and other hi-fi stuff. It irritates me the most when I see parents allowing their 7-8 years old kids watch movies (Indian and English both) which is a shame really considering their age and the stuff they are being exposed to. They really miss the little joys of talking puppets. There is a time for everything and kids these days have too much exposure at such a young age.

Coming back to puppets, one of our office cook is very good with both performing and making puppets. I was having a conversation with him yesterday and he told me that there was a time when he used to do a monthly Putli Tamasha in his village. People of all ages from his village and nearby used to come and enjoy the show but not anymore. Slowly during the last decade, everyone seems to have lost interest in Putli Tamasha and they no longer find it interesting.

I guess technology has hit Pakistani villages really hard when they were probably not ready for it and the result is that they have lost simplicity and a lot of good things from their lives. We have dozens of channels now in Pakistan but I don’t think there is a single one showing a puppet show like Kalian at the moment. Correct me if I am wrong. I have seen Sesame Street once or twice on PTV though. Last night I checked almost every channel on cable but seems like Puppet Shows are out of fashion these days.

Rafi Peer Theatre and a few others are trying to keep puppets alive and its only because of them really that we are able to see puppets in action these days. Here in Lahore, we have this wonderful World Performing Arts Festival every year and I am so glad to see that puppets have been and are becoming even more important segment of the festival each year.

A few years ago Faizaan Pirzaada built the Museum of Puppetry in Lahore near Qadaffi stadium. Puppets history and most of our beloved puppet characters can be seen there. Check it out sometime if you haven’t already.

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56 responses to “Farooq Qaisar, Uncle Sargam, PTV and Putli Tamashas”

  1. A.Rahman says:

    When I was in secondary school (Mama Parsi School in Karachi) we had a Riz Theater Puppet Show perform live for us..I must have been ~9-10 around that time. It was Rs. 25(still a slight significant amount in those days) each to fund it..but the show was well worth it.

    Very good introduction to the art of puppet show. Simply beautiful. Thank you for the post.

  2. G.A. says:

    I remember watching a puppet show at the AlHamra Arts centre in Lahore, sometime in the mid 80s. I think they still hold the shows there:

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006 1028story_28-10-2006_pg7_40

  3. Bundagi says:

    i remember these shows…as a kid i use to love watching these programs…i also remember that we were only allowed to watch very select things on TV and moreover, for not more than 30 mins. a day. However, i am ashamed to say my own daughter watches way more than that. What is also sad frankly is that i think the uncle Sargam team did not really get the appreciaiton they should have deserved. Look at the characters here, Elmo, Sesame Street, Barney. These are very old shows as well but they have grown every year and every generation knows them. However, our Pakistani Television has failed to recognize the potential of Uncle Sargam and the likes and have failed to invest in them.

  4. Adil Najam says:

    Thank you Darwaish for doing this post for us. Farooq Qaiser and Kaliyan have been on my very long list of posts-to-do for ATP. For my money, Farooq is amongst the most talented Pakistanis I know. Along with Shoaib Mansoor – who we have written about a few times – he is a person who not only changed teh face of Pakistan Television but left deep and lasting memories for entire generations. Kaliyan was clearly and institution, and so were Uncle Sargam and Maasi Museebate. I am not sure if there are no other countries with puppet shows of their own (sounds a little odd) but I do know that these characters were amongst the first and most successful Pakistani ‘brand’ characters ever… does anyone remember the cut-outs you used to get out of (I think) Barq washing powder. I know of lots of kids who woudl pester their parents to get more of that powder than was ever needed just to collect the full series of cutouts. It was an absolute craze… much like Yu-gi-oH or Pokemon cards in the today…. does anyone remember if it was, in fact, Barq soap or something else….. what an amazing marketing campaign that was.

    But more than that, knowing Farooq, I can say that he (like Shoaib) is amongst the nicest of people you woudl ever meet… I have not met him now for many many years and your post reminds me that I must do so soon.

  5. Mutazalzaluzzaman Tarar says:

    Farooq Qaiser also did another show in the 90s whose name I can’t recall – maybe it was “Sargam, Sargam Aur Phir Sargam”. The legendary Shehnaz Sheikh used to host it with Uncle Sargam. Ismaeel Tara, Irfan Khoosat and Zeba Shehnaz also appeared on the show along with Uncle Sargam’s usual cast. I have to say that it was some of the best comedy I’ve seen along with Anwar Maqsood’s work like Studio Dhai, etc. Irfan Khoosat was brilliant in his skits as a government employee. Ismaeel Tara is Ismaeel Tara – enough said!

    Another highlight of the show was Babar Niazi – Tufail Niazi’s son. He sang some parodies of old songs. Apart from a great voice, he had a gift for impersonations. It was amazing to see how many minute things he’d observed in his subjects and then brought them to life in his own performances.

    Of course, seeing the love of my life i.e., Shehnaz Sheikh on TV after long breaks is always a good thing too. :-)

  6. Though Farooq Qaiser is well known as Uncle Sargam but majority of people is not aware that he’s also a poet. The famous song “Komal Komal Palkain Bojhal” sung by Nazia Hasan was written by Farooq Qaiser.

  7. The Pakistanian says:

    Farooq Qaiser sure was one of the foremost and very few creative geniuses on PTV. His program was watched and loved equally by children and adults. I think his program that came later in mid 80s with Rolla as his sidekick was geared more towards adults for the political and social undertones it used to have. I still remember this little jingle Uncle Sargam once sang in one of his shows:

    Write a letter to my father
    Ask him to send money order
    Us maiN likh do ye reason
    I want to buy a television!!!

    I think it was hillarious!

  8. The Pakistanian says:

    [quote comment=”29894″]Though Farooq Qaiser is well known as Uncle Sargam but majority of people is not aware that he’s also a poet. The famous song “Komal Komal Palkain Bojhal” sung by Nazia Hasan was written by Farooq Qaiser.[/quote]


    I don’t know about origin of the particular Nazia Hassan song you have mentioned, but there was a lyricist in Bollywood by the same name Farooq Qaiser, who wrote lyrics for many hindi movies including Qurbani featuring late Nazia Hasan’s hit Aap jaisa koi. I do not think they are the same person. As far as the Farooq Qaiser under discussion, he did show us his poetic ingenuity through several of his funny jingles as quoted by yours truely above! :)

    BTW what is Qaiser sahab upto these days, is he still in show business or is he retired.

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