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Pakistani children’s show uses puppetry to teach Urdu

By February 1, 2024 No Comments

Pakkay Dost is a new Pakistani children’s series created to promote the Urdu language.

The series was created by Balil Maqsood, a famous singer-songwriter with the Pakistani rock band Strings. When Strings disbanded in 2021, Balil was inspired to create a musical children’s program out of both a long standing desire to work with puppets, and personal frustration that were no songs in Urdu for children.

Urdu is a South Asian language spoken primarily in Pakistan and India. One of Pakistan’s two official languages (the other is English), Urdu is widely understood throughout Pakistan, but only a small number of people speaks it as their native language. Preserving and promoting the use of Urdu is considered an important cultural priority in Pakistan because English exerts a heavy linguistic influence, due to both the country’s colonial history, as well as the global popularity of Western media.

The Urdu language is not evolving as much as it should have been…The kids these days, my children, are not that well-versed in the language like we used to be, because they’re exposed to the Internet and globalization.”

Pakkay Dost Director / puppeteer Umer Adil (source: CBC NEWS)

To produce Pakkay Dost, Balil initially reached out to Sesame Workshop to gauge their interest in producing a show. While they were reportedly very supportive of the project, a production deal couldn’t be reached. Balil then decided to produce the series himself, recruiting the assistance of Umer Adil, local director who was a fan of the Muppets and loved the idea of producing a Pakistani puppet series in Urdu.

Initially, Pakkay Dost consists of four fifteen minute episodes with 13 original songs. The show’s cast is entirely Pakistani, and includes Usman Sheikh, Ahsan Khan, and Shahzeen Khan, as well as Umer, Balil and Balil’s niece, Alizay Jaffer. The series even has a surprising Canadian connection; all of Pakkay Dost’s puppets were built by Saskcatchewan’s Allison Ewert.

The puppeteer cast of Pakkay Dost (rear, left to right) Umer Adil, Bilal Maqsood, Ahsan Khan, and Usman Sheikh with (front, left to right) Alizay Jaffer and Shahzeen Khan. Photo credit: Umer Adil via CBC News.

To see more of Pakkay Dost, you can subscribe to their YouTube Channel and follow them on X (formerly Twitter, registration required) for behind-the-scenes photos, videos and more.

Via Arab News.