Changes to wayang kulit


PETALING JAYA: A new brand of wayang kulit with traditional folklore characters like Hang Tuah, Pak Pandir and Pak Belalang is set to emerge in Kelantan, where the art form was banned after PAS came into power in 1990. 

The traditional shadow play characters of Sri Rama, Siti Dewi and Rawana – the hero, heroine and villain of Hikayat Sri Rama – would be axed to allow the ban to be lifted in Kelantan. 

Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) director-general Datuk A. Aziz Deraman said the new wayang kulit was an alternative for Kelantan, which banned it for having unIslamic elements such as chanting, spells and a fantasy world in the performance of Hikayat Sri Rama, a Malay adaptation of the Hindu epic Ramayana.  

In the new version, the tok dalang (puppet master) would no longer tell the tale of Hikayat Sri Rama but “new stories” such as local folklore, history, popular comedies and even everyday stories in Kuala Lumpur, Aziz said. 

“DBP regards wayang kulit as a traditional community theatre which can be used as a medium to promote our language, folklore, history, literature and great works just as other performing arts like dondang sayang,” he said. 

Rather then let the art die in Kelantan, he said the new version would allow people to continue enjoying the play.  

Ghosts or toyol would not feature in the new version, said (DBP) Wilayah Timur director Sallehuddin Abang Shokeran as they contravene Islamic beliefs. 

The traditional puppets would also be replaced. DBP was in discussions with tok dalang and puppet makers in Kelantan to come up with new puppets which “can take up any role unlike the original puppets which are fixed characters,” said Aziz. 

“The wayang kulit would be promoted nationwide and as the puppets can take up any role; they can be Iban characters for Sarawak, for example,” he said. 

Sallehuddin said modern elements such as buildings and helicopters could be incorporated in the new shadow play. 

Aziz added that after a recent preview of the new wayang kulit with the Kelantan Mentri Besar, the Kelantan government agreed to lift the ban on wayang kulit as the new version did not incorporate what the government had deemed as unIslamic elements.  

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