Pakistani TV smashes taboos with its answer to succesful series ‘Glee’

Pakistani TV smashes taboos with its answer to succesful series ‘Glee’

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Pakistani TV smashes taboos with its answer to succesful series ‘Glee’

Pakistani artists rehearse a scene before shooting a scene in ‘Taan.’ AFP Photo

Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan’s taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series ‘Glee’. Like its smash hit forerunner, ‘Taan’ follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.

Taan. which is a musical note in Urdu, tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan’s deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the program was not a “political pulpit,” he is determined to take on the tough issues. Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.

 In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace; their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in. Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal. The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.

Struggle with Turkish dramas

Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of “Manahil and Khalil” and “Ishq-e-Mamnu” (Forbidden Love), Turkish serials starring Westernized characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.
Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of “Ishq-e-Mamnu” (Aşk-ı Memnu) has prompted a lively debate about the “Turkish invasion” of the small screen in Pakistan.