Pakkay Dost, a puppet show created by Bilal Maqsood, is perfect for children as it highlights important messages in a lighthearted manner.
Created and produced by
All songs (compositions and lyrics), script and dialogues by Bilal Maqsood
Music Arranged by Ahsan Pervaiz
Directed by Umer Adil
Art Direction by Beenish Adil
Puppet Maker: Allison Ewert (Very Happy Puppets)
fter an eight-track album catering to children’s nursery rhymes followed by a book, Bilal Maqsood has now created Pakkay Dost. Introduced to children and parents at the start of last month, it may be inspired by Uncle Sargam and Sesame Street, but also stands tall on its own.
On the surface, the series is an amalgamation of catchy songs, adorable puppets and their friendships and a chance for children to learn Urdu. But that’s just the show’s structure.
Each episode also has an underlying message, important for children to learn at an early age. And through the show, the songs and conversations between the puppets, those messages become increasingly clear.
Each episode has a runtime of just under 15 minutes, so the streamlined duration makes consumption easy.
Maqsood decided to work with a team that is genuinely interested in children’s content. The proof, as they say, is in the pie. Each episode has heart and carries itself in an original fashion. It reflects in the overall aesthetics, design value, and comes close to answering questions that a child’s vivid imagination tends to carry.
During the four episodes, we meet a variety of puppets such as Mateen, Miraal, Laal Baig, Tufail, Bajjo, Jagga, and Bilal and become a part of their lives.
“I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be/When we were younger and free.” – ‘Hello’ by Adele
For instance, in the first episode, when we are introduced to lovable characters (puppets) like Mateen, he tells Miraal that he is trying to fix his broken umbrella because dark clouds in the skies are a sign that rain is on its way. Mateen is somewhat concerned about his broken umbrella because rain is often seen as a time where bad news arrives as easily as raindrops.
However, Miraal asks Mateen if he has ever gone out in the rain without an umbrella. When he says no, she tells him how the real joy of rain is in experiencing it without an umbrella. She is right. Remember when you were younger and found jumping around in the rain one of life’s greatest pleasures? As adults, we can lose the child within us due to the lessons of lived experience. Children, however, shouldn’t live in such fear. They also have a knack to help us be less cynical, and dream a little more.
As Miraal and Mateen step outside, a cute and catchy song called ‘Baarish‘ starts off where Miraal sings about how rain can be seen through the eyes of a child without saying those exact words. Light clouds mean a light shower but dark clouds mean a lot more rain. The characters are singing as they go out but the voice isn’t about Bilal Maqsood. The songs and the stories of these wonderfully innocent puppets is what we hear.
As the song ends, we meet the red-coloured Laal Baig who asks Miraal what her favorite red thing is and it is this particular scene where the conversation tells you that the series has a larger purpose. It is meant to entertain but it also hopes to educate children in a manner that will appeal to them. A lecture certainly won’t do it.
Miraal and Laal Baig’s discussion within the same episode asks us to not judge anyone based on color. When Laal Baig talks to Mateen, his demeanor is incredibly funny due to his questions, while the sound design and the conversation between the two is enlightening for a child growing up in an increasingly jaded society.
That’s just the start. This is a point where you realize that while each episode is fun and peppered with catchy tunes, there are messages embedded within the conversations and songs that introduce children to important concepts. Pakkay Dost accomplishes this without breaking into a self-righteous or preachy lecture.
Over the course of four episodes, we encounter a number of songs, a handful of puppets and learn real truths of life that can appeal to children, as well as adults.
Miraal, Laal Baig, Tufail, Bajjo, Jagga, Mateen and Bilal are friends who teach each other what kindness truly means.
The puppetry and the architectural design are indications that an effort has been made, whether these friends are indoors or outdoors.
You may be thinking that this is a Bilal Maqsood show but while he is the creative force, the puppets don’t sound like him. Bilal Maqsood assembled a crew who were genuinely interested in children’s content and only because of this collective dedication, Pakkay Dost is entertaining enough to be viewed by adults. But perhaps the one major takeaway is that it is an important series that should be shown to young, impressionable minds.
Most of the characters are voiced by different names, and each puppet has its own puppeteer. Without giving spoilers, as we go into the episodes, the realization of how important this puppet show or children’s series is starts to emerge. It also takes adults back to a time when they, too, were less jaded and cynical about the human condition and the country.
“We used to be so free/We were living for the love we had/Living not for reality/Just my imagination/it was.” - ‘Just my imagination’ by The Cranberries
An album. A book. And now a series called Pakkay Dost.
It is fairly obvious (or should be) to anyone who is paying close attention to Bilal Maqsood that he has two things on his mind.
If the obvious one is his pursuit of a solo career in music, which includes making original songs, accompanying music videos, and playing concerts (where he has taken on the role of frontman), the not-so-obvious but surprisingly compelling pursuit is his interest in creating lasting children’s content.
After an amicable end to the iconic music group, Strings, which he co-founded with Faisal Kapadia, the solo route was somewhat obvious once Velo Sound Station made its debut in 2020 with Bilal Maqsood helming the series. He introduced Pakistan (and fans in other territories) to a pure, pop show (without any agenda such as patriotism, Sufism or identity politics) without Strings cohort Faisal Kapadia as co-creator and hit a sixer out of the ground.
When the solo career arrived, we were not exactly shocked.
On one hand, he was making original music, reviving a jingle for a tea brand, giving interviews, talking to podcasts and even became the subject of a stellar documentary effort. In the documentary, Maqsood stayed truthful about vulnerabilities including personal highs and lows and even how he combated the challenge of a solo musical journey. It certainly showed us the inner and outer world of Bilal Maqsood that we hadn’t seen before. But his dedication to children’s content was not a gimmick either. This series, endorsed by the likes of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, is certainly one of the most promising pieces of content to emerge from the mind of its creator, Bilal Maqsood, and we hope to see others emulate the format and pay attention to the lack of children’s content in an oversaturated TV drama market.
While each episode is fun and peppered with catchy tunes, there are messages embedded within the conversations and songs that introduce children to important concepts. Pakkay Dost accomplishes this without breaking into a self-righteous or preachy lecture.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection