SimSim Humara (roughly The Street, Ours) is an Urdu-language Pakistani-coproduction of Sesame Street, first aired November 26, 2011.
The series is co-produced with Sesame Workshop and the Rafi Peer Cultural Centre. It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID will fund 72 half-hour episodes over four seasons. Of the episodes, 52 will be dubbed for broadcast on regional television channels throughout the country, in Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, and Pashto. Some content will be broadcast on the radio; this program will also directly target mothers.
Previously the country aired Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures on Turner Entertainment Network Asia.
Earlier, the show was to be named Gali, Gali Hamara (roughly Every Street, Ours). Filming was to begin in March 2011, on air on national broadcaster PTV by July; as of April filming is set to begin in the summer, airing in the autumn.
On June 5, 2012, it was announced that the show was cancelled due to financial problems from the USAID.
CharactersThe series will feature 14 characters initially, only two of which aren't Pakistani.
- Rani (alternatively spelled Ranni), a six-year-old girl with braided hair, and a passion for school, she is the captain of her school cricket team and a budding harmonium player,
- Munna, a five-year-old boy, obsessed with numbers and tabla, Pakistani drums,
- Haseen O Jameel, a vain, trouble-making crocodile,
- Elmo, from Sesame Street
- Baaji, a "spirited adult woman"
- Baily, a hard working donkey, who wants to be a pop star; he is said to be an upcoming character on the American series.
- Aiena, Hanseen O Jameel's Mirror ( source http://www.simsimhamara.org/puppets.php)
Among the outreach, there are plans for open-air Hamara-themed festivals in 30 large cities and 150 rural villages. In total,
- 600 live productions
- 600 mobile screenings
- 30 educational school fairs
- an interactive website
In addition, "the project will work to include out-of-school children in various educational activities," according to USAID.
From October 20 to 21, 2010, over 50 education and media experts from Pakistan gathered in Islamabad, to develop content for the "Pakistan Children's Television Project". The sessions, in accordance with the 2009 Pakistan National Education Policy, was for those aged 4 to 9.
After the session, the episode commission was revised from 78 episodes to 72, and the minimum target age from 4 to 5. By late October 2011, the number of episodes had returned to 78, with 52 episodes filmed in alternate languages. There will be 130 radio episodes in 5 languages, as well.
Rafi Peer Cultural Centre
The Rafi Peer Cultural Centre was one of 300 agencies that bid for the contract from USAID, to co-produce with Sesame Workshop. Founded in 1974, and named after Rafi Peerzada, it is the country's oldest performing arts company.
Studying in Rafi England, Peerzada went against his family's wishes, studying theatre and going to Germany. There he worked alongside legendary stage directory Max Reinhardt, and knowing era luminaries including Fritz Lang, Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weil.
During the rise of the Nazis, he return home in 1930 to Pakistan, joining efforts for independence and trying to create a theatre world in the country. At the time, even watching a theatre production was scorned by the conservative culture. The radio production of his play Akhian is considered among the most important early theatrical works in the Urdu language. His film Neecha Nagar won a Grand Prix award at the first Cannes Film Festival, is the very first Indian film to gain outside recognition, and is considered a pioneering effort in social realism in Indian film. The Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop was founded in the final year of his life.
In 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1998, the Pakistan International Puppet Festival was organized by the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. They were also influential in setting up the Union International de la Marionnette in Pakistan in 1993. At one point, the organization was working towards a Museum of Puppetry in Lahore. Co-founder Faizaan Peerzada has personally built over 1500 puppets in his career.
The organization has seen its share of trouble. Their events have been attacked in the past, including a 2008 world arts festival; a half-dozen died in three small bomb blasts.
FOX News pundits claimed that the series would be useless, and instead schools with "Made in the USA" should be built. They also suggested that it would be a long time until viewers would grow up and think "I like America".
Another pundit suggested that the series would be "cost effective," compared to buying drones, to help "anti-brainwash" Islamists. Another asked "if we're subsidizing Sesame Street, why not Zoobilee Zoo? Why not Great Space Coaster? Why not Fraggle Rock? I mean, there's other deserving shows here, if we're going to start spending money on Elmo and the gang."
According to FOX News, the series has been aired "in 20 different countries."
- Galli Galli Sim Sim, the phonetically similar Indian co-production
- "Pakistan's Teachers Working with Sesame Workshop-USA and USAID to Create New Programs for Children", USAID Pakistan press release, October 21, 2010.
- Rick Westhead, "Washington funds Pakistani Sesame Street", The Toronto Star, January 28, 2011.
- "Pakistani Sesame Street preaches tolerance", CBS News, October 31, 2011.
- Sebastian Abbot, "US ends funding for Pakistan's 'Sesame Street'", Yahoo! News, June 5, 2012.