Rihlat Al Hayat – The Journey of Life is a unique display of poetry in motion. This contemporary puppet show was staged at the Gems Modern Academy’s auditorium. The show was produced in collaboration with Padmashri Dadi Pudumjee and Ishara Theatre Trust, along with the children of the Gems Modern Academy. The story is narrated in the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Makhtom, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi, Khalil Gibran and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
It is a mesmerizing show with light and sound effects along with the quintessential narrators, puppeteers, musicians, giant puppets, soul puppets and shadow puppets. We had the opportunity to meet with Padmashri Dadi Pudumjee after the show.
UrCuppaLife : How was your experience directing the children?
Padmashri Dadi Pudumjee: It’s different when you are working with professional artists because performances are more directed. Here it is more like a group work and collective effort. We work with schools and children in India on different themes. This is the first time we have done production like this outside India. Some of the acts are staged for the first time.
We arrived here on 17th Dec and started planning, preparing the puppets and practicing with the children. We started talking to them about movement, dance and the whole performance. Most of the kids you saw on the stage today have never done this type of performance before. The school wanted to give this experience to their kids, it was challenging for them and for us to bring it together.
It was a shaky ground for some in the beginning, but, after the second week we saw the enthusiasm grow. Together we learnt that, it’s the process that is important and not the whole show.
UrCuppaLife: Will Dubai see more performances like this?
Padmashri Dadi Pudumjee: Yes, we are willing to come up with such performances. It will be different than what you saw today. We work in a very creative way, using visual aided performances, lights, objects, physical puppets and shadows more interesting than just simply puppetry.
You can say a lot via puppetry, what we can’t with human actors. Puppetry can be in the form of performance or education and awareness workshops. We have in the past worked in India with issues like HIV awareness, Substance abuse using puppets, objects and masks. These are sensitive issues, but we could easily communicate with puppets without being subjective or touching any cultural aspects.
The Show – Rihlat Al Hayat – The Journey of Life produced in collaboration with Padmashri Dadi Pudumjee and Ishara Theatre Trust
The stage opens with an elderly man and 2 young children dressed in local Arabic costumes (Kandura). The young boys are asking the man about the story of the past, present and beyond.
The music is the script of the whole act. Travelling through the sand of times, there is a beautiful depiction of the creation of UAE, pearl harvesting, seas, flora and fauna. A section of the performance shows Life – speaks about growing up and the three generations using subtle imagery, handcrafted puppets, shadow puppets, dance sequence and narration.
There is a sequence included in the show that beautifully outlines the importance of including the special children and people within the society. Even though they are confined to the wheelchair, they still have their imaginations. They believe that they are the same and they wish to walk and fly. The whole sequence was applauded and proved that puppetry can be successfully used to motivate emotionally and physically handicapped students.
The end is like a celebration of Dubai city and its people and in the background appears a famous quote by Kahlil Gibran
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”