In order to understand and appreciate culture, beauty and art one has to study theatre and performing arts. It develops ones personality and teaches you how to critically analyze things. One of the oldest and most important art forms depicting a countries culture is its theatre. The word theatre is derived from the Greek word theatron which means, “Place of seeing”. As a performing art it focuses entirely on live performers creating a self contained drama. There are a number of philosophies, artistic processes, and theatrical approaches while creating plays and dramas.
Some are based on political or spiritual ideologies while others are based on purely artistic concerns. Some focus on a particular story, some on entertainment while others as a catalyst for social change. Theatre is thought to have had its earliest origins in religious ritual where it was used to enact myths or stories central to the belief of a culture or create comedy through parody of such narratives.
It has therefore existed since the advent of man, as a result of the human tendency for storytelling. Forms of Theatre
Since its origin, theatre has taken on many forms, utilizing speech, gesture, music, dance, and spectacle, combining the other performing arts, often as well as the visual arts, into a single artistic form. These components are used in producing theatre which can be done in many ways. Theatre can be performed with no money at all or on a grand scale with multi-million dollar budgets i. e. professional theatre.
Then we have the repertory companies. Most modern theatre companies rehearse one piece of theatre at a time, perform that piece, retire it after sometime, and begin rehearsing a new show.
Repertory companies rehearse multiple shows at one time. These companies perform these various pieces upon request and often perform works for years before retiring them. The other type of theatre is producing theatre or presenting theatre. A performance requires both a theatre company and a theatre venue. When a theatre company is the sole company in residence at a theatre venue, this theatre (and its corresponding theatre company) is called a resident theatre or a producing theatre, because the venue produces its own work. Other theatre companies do not have their own theatre venue.
These companies will therefore perform at rental theatres or at presenting theatres. However many performance groups have challenged the theatre-space and have been thus performing in non-theatrical spaces. These performances take place outside or inside, in a non-traditional performance space, and include street theatre and site specific theatre. Performers are sometimes paid, especially for street festivals, children shows or parades but often street theatre performers are unpaid or gather some income through the dropping of a coin in a hat by the audience.
Commercial Theatres in Pakistan In Pakistan many local and commercial theatres have been working since Partition in 1947. Commercial theatre arrived in Lahore in the early 1980s due to the joint efforts of Naheed Khanum, Amanullah, Mastana and Baboo Baral. While these theatres were functioning in the cities, the rural areas were enjoying the local professionals. The minstrels (bhands) entertained gatherings at wedding ceremonies and rural sports. Heejrras and Behroopias
These along with transvestite artists (heejras) and impersonators (behroopias) still entertain millions of Pakistanis in towns, villages and tribal settlements and are also a part of our indigenous street theatre. Puppetry in Pakistan Puppetry has been an integral part of our street theatre since Partition. Before contemporary puppetry started folk puppets (katputlis) used to entertain the audience of Pakistan. This art was inherited by Pakistan from Rajistan, a part of the Indian Subcontinent. Ancient Art Form Puppetry is a very ancient art form, originating about 30,000 years ago.
It is a form of theatre or performance which involves the handling of puppets. Puppets have been used since the earliest times to animate and communicate the ideas and needs of human societies. They were human’s first means of communication and have been part of ceremonies, rituals and carnivals. According to a puppeteer David Logan, “Puppetry is a highly effective and dynamically creative means of exploring the richness of interpersonal communication. By its very nature, puppetry concentrates on the puppet rather than the puppeteer.
This provides a safety zone for the puppeteer and allows for exploration of unlimited themes through a safe and non-threatening environment for communication”. He further says, “Designing a puppet involves the same processes that a performer uses in building a character. A puppet must always have a valid reason for being. The marvelous thrill of puppetry is that puppets by their very nature do things that are not humanly possible. This allows for the imagination to explore countless different possibilities”. The Earliest Forms of Puppets
The earliest kinds of puppets were in the form of tribal ritual masks with hinged jaws or jointed skulls used in religious ceremonies. Puppets later evolved from these masks into doll like figures with moving limbs. There are five distinct forms of puppets. Each has its own individual characteristics, and certain kinds of dramatic material. Certain types have developed only under specific cultural or geographic conditions. They are classified as hand or glove puppets, rod puppets, Marionette or string puppets, flat figures and shadow figures.
The Hand or Glove Puppets The hand or glove puppets have a hollow cloth body that fits over the manipulator’s hand; his fingers fit into the head and the arms and give them motion. The figure is seen from the waist upward, and there are normally no legs. The head is usually of wood, papier-mache, or rubber material, the hands of wood or felt. The performer normally holds his hands above his head and stands in a narrow booth with an opening just above head height. The manipulators of hand puppets range from 1-4 in person.
The virtue of the hand puppet is its agility and quickness; the limitation is small size and ineffective arm gestures. | | | Glove puppets Rod puppet The Rod Puppets The rod puppets are also manipulated from below, but they are of full-length, supported by a rod running inside the body to the head. Separate thin rods may move the hands and, if necessary, the legs. Figures of this type are traditional on the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. In this figure the hand passes inside the puppet’s body to grasp a short rod to the head, the arms being manipulated by rods in the usual way.
One great advantage of this technique is that it permits bending of the body, the manipulator’s wrist corresponding to the puppet’s waist. The rod puppet is suitable for slow and dignified types of drama. It requires always one person, and sometimes two or three, to manipulate each figure on stage. The Marionette or String Puppets The Marionette or string puppets are full-length figures controlled from above. Normally they are moved by strings or more often threads, leading from the limbs to a control or crutch held by the manipulator.
Movement is provided to a large extent by tilting or rocking the control, but individual strings are plucked when a definite movement is required. A simple marionette may have nine strings—one to each leg, one to each hand, one to each shoulder, one to each ear (for head movements), and one to the base of the spine (for bowing); but special effects will require special strings that may double or treble this number. The manipulation of a many-stringed marionette is a highly skilled operation. Controls are of two main types—horizontal (or aeroplane) and vertical—and the choice is largely a matter of personal preference.
String puppets at Rafi Peer theatre Table-top Puppetry In Table-top, puppetry is performed on top of a table. Mostly these puppets are rod puppets, mainly because rods are the simplest and easiest method of operation. Rods are attached at the elbows, back of feet, back of body and back of head. Like most rod puppets, there’s no real set methodology, style or look of the puppets. They can be anything from aliens to humans to abstract items. Because they are used in combination with a table or bench, it is usual for these puppets to be small in height, usually an average of 30 cm (11. inches). This particular style is best suited to inside performances in small venues; the larger the puppet the harder it is to operate on a table top, but the smaller the puppet, the harder it is to see in a large theatre. Shadow Puppets Shadow puppets are a special type of flat figure, in which the shadow is seen through a translucent screen. They may be cut from leather or some other opaque material or they may be cut from coloured fish skins, as in the traditional theatres of China, India, Turkey, and Greece, and in the recent work of several European theatres.
They may be operated by rods from below, as in the Javanese theatres; by rods held at right angles to the screen, as in the Chinese and Greek theatres; or by threads concealed behind the figure. The shadow theatre is a medium of great delicacy, and the flimsy character of shadow puppets exemplifies all the truest features of puppetry as an art form. Puppetry as seen in Pakistan Like many other societies around the world the Pakistani society also sees puppets as an important tool of communication. With the passage of time this tool undergoes various modifications but the basic technique remains the same.
According to Faizaan Peerzada, the President of Rafi Peer Theatre located in Lahore, “a puppeteer is one who is able to portray his ideas through any object given in his hands”. Famous Puppets and Puppeteers of Pakistan Talking about puppets we have been very fortunate to have had the privilege of enjoying Uncle Sargam, Haiga, and Maasi Museebatay in the puppet show Kalian. We have grown up with these characters and they still remain an integral part of our childhood memories. Kalian was a very popular puppet show on PTV written and directed by Farooq Qaiser during 1980s and 1990s.
Farooq Qaiser was the first to introduce commercial puppetry in the country alongside the traditional Putli Tamasha that was there already and still exists in some villages of Punjab and other provinces. A Unique Honor of Pakistan Pakistan is perhaps the only country after United States that has its own puppet character or show i. e. Kalian like Sesame Street. This show not only entertained us but also made us learn a lot of things. Uncle Sargam always had a message to convey to the audience. It used to ridicule the politicians and also highlighted various social issues. Farooq Qaiser therefore managed o raise certain issues through puppets which otherwise was impossible during Gen. Zia’s rule. While Farooq was running his puppet show on television, Rafi Peer theatre was performing puppet shows on stage. The theatre started from Karachi, where they performed 35 plays in schools in the 80s and in 1992 shifted to Lahore. They built Asia’s largest Puppet Museum on Bedian Road which has puppets from 30 different countries. Puppet history and most of our beloved puppet characters can also be seen there. | | Rafi Peer theatre Apart from Rafi Peer theatre, the other organization that is keeping the puppet theatre alive is Lahore Art Council.
They have a puppet show every Sunday, 12:00 p. m. which focuses on children entertainment and education. It is a half an hour performance of hand puppets that is based on the story telling culture in Pakistan since the script is based on folk tales. The entire act gives a very indigenous feel and takes you back to your childhood days when stories of the cunning wolf and the slow tortoise were told to us by our grandparents. Personal Experience While attending one such puppet show I got to experience the excitement and enjoyment of children around me as well as my own.
The story was about Pauli, a parrot that is seen nurturing and caressing its egg while singing “mein sadkay jaoon, mein wari jaoon apnay piyaray piyaray anday kae ”. While talking to herself she is making plans of inviting the birds Mannah and Fakhta for tea and serving them with cucumber sandwiches and cake. While Pauli goes to make arrangements for the guests, Goga the rat comes along and makes Pauli’s nest its sleeping place. When Pauli returns she is enraged to see the rat in its nest and pokes it with her beak. Goga the rat apologizes for his mistake and is fascinated by Pauli’s whistle.
He asks her what that is and requests Pauli to teach him how to whistle. Pauli tells him to make his mouth round and blow out. She tells the children in the audience to learn and try whistling along with her. She then goes off stage to cut cucumbers for her sandwiches leaving Goga incharge of her egg and to continue trying with his whistle. Goga fails quite a number of times and then asks the children to help him. The audience whistles along with him and hence he succeeds. In the meantime when Pauli is still away Shero, the lion appears onstage and tells Goga that he is repairing his house and needs volunteers.
Goga always ready to help, accepts to volunteer but he first has to prove his strength. Shero tells him to uproot a nearby tree whose wood will be very useful for his house. Goga fails to do so in all his attempts but his enthusiasm and determination impresses Shero who decides to take him along. Goga forgets about the egg and goes along with him. While the egg is lying unprotected in its nest a monkey comes along, steels the egg and places an artificial one instead. He then hides it in a tree trunk and disappears from the scene. When Pauli returns she cuddles the egg but discovers to her horror and surprise that its not her egg.
She cries out loud in despair and calls Shero to help her find it. Pauli looks everywhere frantically and finds it lying safe in a deep hole. She tries to reach it but can’t. Shero tries to pull it out but gets his paw stuck instead. In his strenuous endeavors to pull his paw out we hear Pauli chant “Zor laga kae hiya”. When Shero finally retrieves his trapped paw he calls the very helpful Goga to come and rescue the egg. Goga dives in and emerges with the egg undamaged. Pauli promises never to lose it again and to protect it always. In the end the egg hatches into a baby Pauli and both the mother and child are seen embracing one another.
Pauli and Shero| Monkey who steels the egg| Role of Audience in Puppet Shows Thus we see that the act of puppetry does not only involve the puppet and the puppeteer but the audience also plays a very important role in its progression. For instance when Pauli goes offstage in search of the culprit she tells the audience to call out her name when they see someone with her egg. The children call out “Pauli, Pauli” whenever the monkey comes on stage. When Pauli comes she asks them who it was. The kids tell her that it is the monkey who has stolen her precious egg.
The art of puppetry is therefore not only entertaining but highly didactive since it teaches us some very important lessons of life. For instance, this very act taught the kids to help one another in times of need, to be careful with their precious possessions and never trust anyone but themselves. Problems Faced by the Puppet Industry The puppet show had a lot of cultural traits such as the dialogues were in Urdu language, there were songs and lyrical dialogues, social and moral message, costumes, traditional chants, common names of the characters and the script itself.
Puppets are an important part of out ethnic theatre but the art itself is dying out since only a few people and organizations are working to keep it alive. The team at Alhamra Art Council is facing many problems since the funds provided by the government are not sufficient. The seating arrangement is poor, there are not enough resources and space for the stage and the turn out of audience is small. The government of Pakistan should concentrate more on keeping these traditions alive and should make efforts to bring them to the international standards.