Who doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“KalianÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢. Written and directed by Farooq Qaiser, it used to be a very popular puppet show on PTV during 80ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s and 90ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s.
During 90ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s, Rola (as in Uncle SargamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s words: small crockery chota panda) and another one who used to start every sentence with ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Mere Piyare Allah MianÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ 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. ZiaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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.
ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢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 havenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t already.