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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET


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Bangladesh

Green Sesame Street sign with yellow trim and white lettering reading “Sisimpur” in Bangla 

Quote reads:
Most children don’t really have a childhood. By the time you’re five you end up working and supporting your family.
—Shaila Rahman, researcher, Nayantara Productions, Bangladesh



The Characters

A purple Muppet with two braids wearing a green dress smiles and waves

Tuktuki
Tuktuki is the main girl character in Sisimpur, and was created to show that girls can have the same opportunities as boys. She is five years old, creative, loves to sing and is always very busy.

An orange tiger Muppet smiles and waves

Halum
A royal Bengal tiger, Halum is very emotional and sentimental. He loves nature and the environment. He doesn't take himself too seriously.

A blue Muppet with pink and red hair holds a small white doll and looks down at it

Ikri
Ikri is is a three-year-old monster, and is funny and full of questions. She is very curious about the world and about how things work. Cute and cuddly, she is loved by all.

L-R: 
 
Green, pink and orange Muppets stand with a young boy on a pink platform with floral print and yellow-orange trim

A young Bengali girl peeks out from a door with a picture of a purple Muppet

In Bangladesh, the need for pre-school education and children’s programming is crucial. With only one television station airing to the country’s 130 million residents, a Bangladeshi Sesame Street has the potential to have a profound impact on its young viewers. But the path to getting such a show on the air is a bumpy one: new programming must first be approved by the government, which controls Bangladeshi television, and the show’s producers must learn how to navigate local politics. Meanwhile, all work is put on hold when the country goes on a national strike following the assassination of a political leader.

Producer Nadine Zylstra also faces other challenges, working with advisors to develop characters that are uniquely Bangladeshi and continue the country’s artistic tradition of puppet making. As Chief Creative Advisor Mustafa Manwar explains, “This a poor country, a developing country. But one thing we are very, very proud of is our literature, culture and song. So we want to keep those things. And in this world, the modern world, the internationalism doesn’t mean that you must copy each country. Internationalism means your best thing, your own country’s best thing, when you can give it to the world, they will appreciate it.”

Sisimpur Update from Producer Nadine Zyltra:

We are currently completing post-production on the second series of Sisimpur. The show has been incredibly well received both within and beyond Bangladesh. Within Bangladesh it continues to be the highest rated children’s television show and was recently rated the eighth most popular show in the country, behind news, feature films and the like. Beyond Bangladesh, Sisimpur was nominated for the prestigious Japan Prize, received a CINE Golden Eagle award, and was acknowledged by the York Festivals TV programming and promotions awards and the World Media Festival.

Season two went on air in June 2006 and has been greeted with the same delight as season one. We are hopeful that there will be at least another four seasons of the show.

The outreach component of the show continues to be one of the most exciting elements of the series. Using parent/teacher training and awareness workshops, a dynamic team of education experts use Sisimpur to extend the messages articulated in the show. They touch the lives of thousands of Bangladeshis who may not have access to television and bring Halum, Tuktuki, Ikri Mikri and Shiku into the lives and homes of the children who need it most.

Producer's Statement

It’s a place where everybody is equal.
—Nadine Zylstra, producer, Sisimpur

When I started work on Sisimpur, I could never have guessed the impact that this small but powerful production would have on my life, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, I could not have contemplated how challenging it would be to work in a country where external elements influence the day-to-day of production so drastically. I have worked in television for a number of years and feel confident that I can overcome the ordinary challenges that face a project, but when the problems you face are power outages, floods, political turmoil and the like, you need to develop a new set of coping skills. Probably the one that seemed to help the most was a good sense of humor!

While I was struck by the creativity and professionalism I encountered among my Bangladeshi colleagues, what inspired me the most was that they were motivated by something far more profound than making a television show. For them, the show was a way of instilling pride in Bangladeshi children and their ultimate goal was to create a show that showed the world the best of what Bangladesh had to offer. With ideals such as this, I knew there was no way the show could fail.

Personally, I feel like I have been a part of creating a very unique family that is connected in a very unique way. Recently I visited an outreach site where parents and children were talking about Halum and Tuktuki as if they were their dearest friends. It is incredibly touching to know that until our Sisimpur production family started working together, these characters that now touch so many people never existed.

Over the course of the last two years, the Sisimpur team has experienced many marriages, one significant death and many, many births—including the birth of our street and the people who live there. I feel so privileged to have shared these and many other milestones with this wonderful community and I look forward to many years of equally significant milestones.
—Nadine Zylstra

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Photographs and graphics provided courtesy of Sesame Workshop.
Sesame Street® and associated characters, trademarks and design elements are owned and licensed by Sesame Workshop. ©2006 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.

Top right photo of Bangladeshi girl courtesy of Nadine Zylstra


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